How to Start Your Own Seedlings (Veg, Fruit, Flowers) and Save a Bundle
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How to Start Your Own Seedlings (Veg, Fruit, Flowers) and Save a Bundle
Starting your own plants from seeds is a great way to save money (quite a lot) and have the exact varieties you want, as local nurseries and big box stores often have a limited selection and few heirloom varieties of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, cucumbers, melons and other vegetables and flowers. So, you may think you have a black thumb and can’t succeed, but, if you follow the simple directions below, I can assure you that you will have great results.
How much money can you save?
Ypou can save at least 90% of the cost. The math is simple. I’ll use 100 plants as a figure, even though you may only want a dozen,because the math is simpler.
Buying the plants
In December 2020, most stores (Home Depot, Lowe’s Wal-Mart, etc.) are selling Bonnies plants for $3.68 (plus tax) , if the tax rate is 7 or 85, that means $4 per 3″ or 4″ peat pot.
And to grow your own?
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Plastic 16 ounce cups (ccommonly called “Solo cups”) – about $10 for 240 at BJ’s warehouse.
- Potting soil: Miracle-Grow – 40lb bag: $10 at Costco, BJ’s or Sam’s Club.
- Tray to hold the cups – free, just ask for the empties at HomeDepot, Lowe’s etc.
- Seeds – anywhere from $1.5 to $3 for a packet, for 100 plants, you’d need 2 or 3 packs, so let’s say average total of $5.
That”s it. To raise 100 plants, it would cost $10 for cups, $10 for potting soil, and $5 for seeds.
That is a total of $25, just 25 cents per plant. to get exactly what you want. Compared with $4 per plant at the store. Can you say “Obsecene profit ,margins”?
Here’s how to do it
Step 1 – Gather your supplies.
Here’s what you will need and some common places to get them:
- 18 ounce size Solo cups (or any other sturdy large plastic cup at least 16 oz size)
- A tray to hold the cups to prevent them from falling over. The empt plant trays at Home Depot or Lowes work great. You could also use dish pans, or even cardboard boxes from Costco.
- Potting soil – the 50 Qt size bag of Miracle Gro potting soil will fill 100 cups. Why buy the soil? It is sterile, so there are no weed seeds in it. It is light and designed to have the best denisty for starting seeds. It has the nutrients the seeds need to get started. Is all of that true of the soil in your back yard?
- Seeds. Whatever you want to grow. This method works with almost anything. I’ve used this to raise hundrerds of tomatoes, eggplants, canteloupes, watermelons, peppers, lettuce, kale, swiss chard, artichokes, etc.
- Tools: a scoop, hand trowel, etc. and a sharp knife or sizzors and a sharpie pen or other permanent marker.
- A spray bottle filled with water
Step 2 – Label the cups.
You can be as OCD or casual as you like. I just abbreviate, like C for canteloupes, BK for Black Krim tomatoes, etc.
Step 3 – Fill the cups
Fill each cup 2/3 full with the potting soil. Do not tamp it down.
Step 4 – Add water
Add about 4 ounces of water to each cup. That will take sometime to fully obsorb, so although it shouldn’t be soupy, it may have some free water. We add the water now to mpoisten it and it avoids uncovering the seeds if we did this after planting the seeds in the cups.
Step 5 – Add the seeds to each cup
Carefully place 3 seeds in each cup, spread apart (like at the points of a triangle). Why 3 seeds? Not every seed germinates! See the table farther down this page for typic al gernmination rates, it varies from one plant to another, typically from 55% to 80%. SO, 3 seeds, pretty much ensures you will have at least one sprout. You can plant 4 or 5 seeds per cup if you have enough. And the converse is true, with larger seeds that have higher germination rates, like canteloupes, you can put only 2 seeds in each cup.
Step 6 – Cover with more potting soil
Add more potting soil to cover the seeds. Typically, we cover seeds with enough soil to make 4 times the diameter of the seeds, but more most seeds, simply covering them with 1/2 inch of potting soil is fin e.
Step 7 – Spray more water into the cups
I set the spray onto a wide spray patter, so it won’t wash away the seeds, then give each cup 10 squirts. This ensures that the soil above the seeds is moist, too.
Step 8 – Put in a warm place, sunny or not
Most seeds have an optimal germination temperature. For most vegetable seeds it is between 75 F and 85 F. SO, a sunny location is fine, as long as you do not let the cups dry out. I check them every morning and every evening and use the spray bottle or gently pour in water with a cup, taking care not to uncover the seeds.
How long to wait? Most seeds germinat (sproutP) within 7 to 10 days. Artichokes are a notable exception and can take 2 or 3 weeks!
|Vegetable or Fruit
|Days to Germinate|
|New Zealand Spinach||40||6|
Step 9 – Punch a hole in the cup
With a sharp knife or one side of a pair of sizzors, I punch a hole about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch in each cup, NOT in the bottom, but rather about 1/3 up from the bottom, on the side, as shown in the photo. Why? This keeps the seeds from becoming waterlogged by overwatering (or a heavy rain), yet retains enough water to allow it to be asborbed by the entire container. I’ve been doing this for many years and found this placement works best.
Step 10 – Watering, Sun and Thinning
Keep the the soil moist but not soggy. Don’t let them dry out. If you see mold or fungus growing on the plants or soil, you are overwatering. Keep the plants in the sun. When they reach about 3 inches tall, thin them by using your sizzors to carefully cut off the stems of all but one or 2 plants per cup. Then when they reach 4 or 5 inches tall, thin agin to 1 plant per container. Always leave the strogest looking plants.
Planting out – Transplanting into the Garden
When the weather conditions in your garden are right and the plants are sturdy enough (usually 5 inches tall or higher), you are ready to plamnt them by simply gently sliding them out of the cups! That’s it!
STARTING PLANTS FROM SEEDS, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE & LIFE SCIENCES, Erv Evans, Extension Associate, Horticultural Science, Frank A. Blazich, Professor, Horticultural Science, see Table 1. Germination information for selected plants: approximate time to seed before last frost, days for
germination, optimum temperature for germination, and light requirements
The Presto Pressure
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You can easily start your own tomatoes, peppers, flowers, cucumbers, melons, etc. from seeds and save over 90%. This page shows you how, in simple steps with photos.
potting in clear plastic cups
I’ve rooted wax begonias.Would 9oz clear plastic tumblers be suitable for growing on? I wonder about the transparency. Would the sun damage the roots. I’ve never used clear pots before. Iris
I have used them, the only problem i really had was algae growing in and around the cups. I poked holes in the bottoms of them. Worked OK for me.
I use clear pots indoors for seed starting and cuttings. I do it so I can see the roots before transplanting. Once I put them outside, they go into opaque containers. Everything I have read indicates that roots do not like light.
Do pot lights give a bright enough light for a kitchen, or do I need a flourescent also?
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Like token28001 I use clear plastic because I like to see the roots. I usually, howbeit not always, sit the clear plastic in some other opaque container.
I have decided to use the clear cups because they are such a suitable size for wax begonias.I will set them in a cake pan to obscure the sides.
Root response to light varies widely by plant species from unfavorable to favorable. What part of the spectrum is included in the irradience (mostly a factor with artificial lighting) also has a bearing, so there is no way to offer a ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer.
Clear containers are prolly going to be inappropriate if they are ever to see the sun, because of heat build-up in media due to passive solar gain. Opaque containers absorb light at their surface, turn it to heat, and dissipate it into the air. Clear containers allow light to pass to the soil, where it is turned to heat and trapped there by the container walls. There can easily be >50* differences between soil temps in a white container vs a clear container in summer sun.
“I have decided to use the clear cups because they are such a suitable size for wax begonias. I will set them in a cake pan to obscure the sides.”
That sounds like a good plan. Don’t forget to put drainage holes in the cups. How you do that might be kind of a challenge. I once used a soldering iron to melt holes in plastic, but that was messy and smelly. I guess I would try an electric drill or Dremel tool first.
The clear pots could be an advantage, because it will let you see the roots as soon as they reach the sides of the pots and you can visually determine if your cutting plants are starting to get root-bound. Some plants, like Orchids, actually like clear pots. Aircone pots are clear and have a special design to get more aeration for the growing medium.
I've rooted wax begonias.Would 9oz clear plastic tumblers be suitable for growing on? I wonder about the transparency. Would the sun damage the roots. I've never used clear pots before. Iris