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5 Quick Fixes: Plastic-Free Ways to Start Seeds

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5 Quick Fixes: Plastic-Free Ways to Start Seeds

March 8, 2024

Buying plastic starter pots and trays certainly isn’t going to tip the world into a climate disaster, but when there are so many plastic-free options these days, you have every reason to choose sustainable over synthetic. Below, five Gardenista-approved, Earth-friendly options for starting seeds. (Note: If you already have plastic starter pots, go ahead and reuse. The most eco option is to use what you already own.)

1. CowPots

Contributor Melissa Ozawa swears by CowPots. They&#8\2\17;re made from composted cow manure, a very renewable resource, and can be planted—pot and all—directly into the soil. Photograph courtesy of CowPots, from Letter of Recommendation: CowPots, My Seed-Starting Secret Weapon.
Above: Contributor Melissa Ozawa swears by CowPots. They’re made from composted cow manure, a very renewable resource, and can be planted—pot and all—directly into the soil. Photograph courtesy of CowPots, from Letter of Recommendation: CowPots, My Seed-Starting Secret Weapon.

2. Metal Cultivation Trays

Above: This product is for the gardener who cares about design. Made in Europe of heavy, galvanized steel, it’s a seed-starting kit that includes a tray and dozens of tiny, removable, bottomless steel pots specially designed to make it easy to transplant seedlings. The Cultivation Tray comes in two sizes, the smaller one sized to fit a windowsill; from €49.90 at Manufactum.

3. Soil Blockers

We featured Sarah Elliott&#8\2\17;s raised vegetable beds as a model of organic, eco-conscious gardening in Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home. One of her tips for sustainable methods is to use a soil blocker, which compresses the growing medium into blocks for seed starting. Her 4-cell soil blocker (pictured) is currently sold out, but the Hand-Held 5 Soil-Blocker is available at Johnny&#8\2\17;s Selected Seeds for \$46.95. Photograph by Sarah Elliott, from Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home.
Above: We featured Sarah Elliott’s raised vegetable beds as a model of organic, eco-conscious gardening in Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home. One of her tips for sustainable methods is to use a soil blocker, which compresses the growing medium into blocks for seed starting. Her 4-cell soil blocker (pictured) is currently sold out, but the Hand-Held 5 Soil-Blocker is available at Johnny’s Selected Seeds for $46.95. Photograph by Sarah Elliott, from Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home.

4. Newspaper Pots

Above: For step-by-step directions on how to make newspaper pots using a wooden paper pot press, go to  Zero-Waste DIY: How to Grow Seedlings Using Newsprint. Photograph courtesy of Annie Selke.

5. Eggshell Pots

Contributor Justine Hand writes, &#8\2\20;Because they are biodegradable, eggshells make excellent, no-waste seed starters. For this, reserve some of your deeper shell halves. Sterilize the shelves by boiling them or by placing them in a \200°F oven for 30 minutes. (If you put them in a cooling oven after, say, you baked a roast chicken, you can sterilize eggs without using excess energy.) Photograph by Justine Hand, from Gardening \10\1: How to Use Eggshells in the Garden.
Above: Contributor Justine Hand writes, “Because they are biodegradable, eggshells make excellent, no-waste seed starters. For this, reserve some of your deeper shell halves. Sterilize the shelves by boiling them or by placing them in a 200°F oven for 30 minutes. (If you put them in a cooling oven after, say, you baked a roast chicken, you can sterilize eggs without using excess energy.) Photograph by Justine Hand, from Gardening 101: How to Use Eggshells in the Garden.

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Frequently asked questions

What are CowPots?

CowPots are pots made from composted cow manure, a renewable resource, that can be planted directly into the soil.

What are Metal Cultivation Trays?

Metal Cultivation Trays are seed-starting kits made in Europe of heavy, galvanized steel, with removable, bottomless steel pots for easy transplanting of seedlings.

What are Soil Blockers?

Soil Blockers compress the growing medium into blocks for seed starting, offering a sustainable method for starting seeds.

What are Newspaper Pots?

Newspaper Pots are eco-friendly pots made from newspaper using a wooden paper pot press, offering a zero-waste solution for seed starting.

What are Eggshell Pots?

Eggshell Pots are seed starters made from reserved eggshell halves, sterilized and bio-degradable, offering a no-waste option for starting seeds.

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