From the Blog

Sustainable Seed Starting

Barb Danielson March 28

April is a good time to start warm crops like pepper and tomato seeds indoors, but it's easy to see just how much plastic waste can be found by walking the aisles of the garden center. Luckily, there are some great plastic-free alternatives to seed starting so you can make an impact on a healthier Earth in your little corner of the world.

Check out our Sustainable Seed Starting tips below:




The simplest way to not resort to purchasing a plastic seed tray is to simply save the containers you use throughout the year. Think yogurt, cottage cheese, or even produce clamshell packages. Not plastic-free, but does at least give the single-use plastic you are using a longer life.

If you would prefer avoiding plastic altogether you can save your cardboard egg cartons for the perfect small seed cells. You can also make your own biodegradable starter containers out of the cardboard tubes in your toilet paper or paper towel rolls, or even from newspaper. 

The old fashioned way is to use small clay or terra cotta pots. This is a great alternative if you want to invest in something that can be used over and over for years to come. Plus, they are adorable!

Lids and Trays

How do you avoid the plastic lids that are necessary for heat and moisture retention for germination? Take empty mason jars and turn them upside down over your small containers. Even better, save your jars when you buy pasta sauce or salsa. The glass allows light to enter, but holds in the moisture and creates a mini greenhouse. 




Trays are important for containing excess water and also great for bottom watering (which promotes strong root development!). Casserole dishes or even cookie sheets work great for holding your repurposed or handmade containers, and give a sturdy base for the jars you are using to cover your baby plants. Second hand stores are a great resource if you don't have any extra on hand.


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Once again, repurpose what you have. Plastic utensils from takeout? Snap off the handle and you've got a great label. For plastic-free alternatives, hang onto your popsicle sticks or collect some small sticks in your yard. Clothespins are also a great option, and help hold your newspaper pots together.

Soil Mediums

Most seed starting soil mixes contain peat, which is wrongly touted as renewable. For example, the peat bogs of Canada formed 10,000 years ago. Peat bogs are lush ecosystems that are carbon sinks for 1/3 of the world's carbon. Harvesting inevitably destroys the habitat, while releasing huge amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere.

Look for peat-free soils, or consider making your own from compost, sterilized garden soil and coir. Coir is a great renewable alternative made from coconut shells and fibers. Rehydrating the compressed bricks results in a fluffy, moist seed starting medium.

Barb Danielson About the Author

Barb Danielson Marketing Specialist

Barb is a passionate advocate for local food economies, spending much of her free time in the growing season out in her own garden. She is a professional photographer and artist, now using her varied skills on the marketing team here at the Co-op.