Plant Life

How to Start and Grow Seedlings in Recycled Containers

Even though summer’s winding down it’s not too late to start growing vegetables for fall and winter for harvesting into next year!

These autumn vegetables prefer cooler temperatures and any of these plants can be grown in containers. In fact some seed companies sell seeds meant to plant in your container gardens.

My instructions work for any plant you want to start from seed, but today we’re focusing on vegetables that grow best in late summer and fall.

What’s the best way to get started growing vegetables for the first time?

Buying seed packets is more economical than buying seedlings – the seeds that another grower has already started for you. Starting with seedlings may be a good way to jump start your gardening though. You might want to start experimenting with growing from seed and by planting seedlings.

Growing your own vegetables from seeds or seedlings isn’t always less expensive than buying them in the grocery store. But the satisfaction of growing your own fresh food makes it worth it. You’ll be able to grow varieties hard to find in a typical grocery store produce section too!

Some vegetables grow best by planting the seeds right into the ground such as carrots and beans. They don’t transplant well so it’s best to always start them from seed.

Seeds on tape – no sowing needed 😉

Vegetables that Grow Best from Seed

  • Carrots

  • Beans

  • Spinach

  • Arugula

  • Kale

  • Beets

Benefits of Buying Seeds

  • economical

  • many unique varieties

  • easy to transport

  • buy online or locally

  • start indoors and control conditions

  • fun to watch grow!

how to grow vegetables from seed

What You Need to Start Growing Seeds in Containers

  • seeds

  • containers

  • soil

  • light

  • water source

Start with fresh seeds you buy from your local garden center or online. Some varieties of seeds are perfect for container gardening.

Containers to Plant Your Seeds

Use recycled containers if possible, and make sure anything you recycle is well cleaned. Poke a hole in the bottom and fill with your soil mixture

  • Egg cartons either cardboard or styro-foam.

  • Paper cups

  • Grocery store plastic cupcake or muffin trays

  • Mini yogurt containers

  • Cardboard toilet rolls – make vertical cuts on one end, fold up inwards to create a cup

start and grow vegetables from seed

Soil Mixture to Plant Seeds

Potting medium or soil mix meant for seed germination is ideal. Ordinary potting soil doesn’t have the right combination of ingredients to help seeds get started.

Soil mixes for seeds should have a fine texture. If you make your own or add to a commercial mix make sure to screen any compost to break down chunky pieces.

Buy a Seed Starter Soil Mixture

Soil mixtures made for seed-starting; Scott’s Miracle Grow, Schulz or Hyponex brands, can be bought at garden or big box store garden centers. It should have peat moss, Perlite, coconut coir fiber and vermiculite. In other words a very light soil mix that will retain moisture. Most pre-mixed soils have fertilizer built in.

You can stretch a bag of soil by adding 50% screened compost.

image of seed starting mix

Here’s a ready mixed seed starting mix you can buy at Home Depot.

Make Your Own Seed Starter Soil Mixture

Mix together 1/3 sphagnum peat moss or coconut coir fibre, 1/3 finely screened compost , 1/3 vermiculite. Coconut coir is sustainable and comes from coconut husks. If it comes in a block, re-hydrate it by soaking first in a bucket of water until it breaks up. Use your hands or a small trowel or spade to mix all the ingredients together in a 5 gallon bucket.

coconut coir block

Buy coconut coir from Home Depot in a block and mix your own seed starting mix.

How to Plant Seeds in Containers

  1. Add your soil mixture to your recycled containers by gently pressing it into corners and tamping it down as you fill. Don’t worry about pressing it in too tight.
  2. Gently press seeds into each container section. Refer to the instructions on the packet. Sprinkle 2-3 seeds per pot. You’ll thin them out later as they grow.
  3. Once the seeds are pressed in, gently water. Using a spray bottle filled with water will allow the mix to get moisture without the seeds getting washed away. Once your seeds start to sprout it’s time to water from below underneath the leaves.
  4. Set your seeds in containers in a bright spot that gets up to 12 hours of sunlight per day. If you start your seeds indoors and you don’t have a sunny or south facing window, consider supplementing with artificial lighting.
  5. Leave your lights on for up to 15 hours per day about 6-8” from the seed trays.

Lighting Sources for Seedlings

Lights should be full spectrum to replicate daylight if daylight isn’t available.

  • Fluorescent

  • LED

  • Plasma

  • Any grow lights intended for plants

Once Your Seeds Have Started Sprouting

As your seeds sprout you’ll need to thin out some of the sprouts to allow one sprout room to grow. To avoid disturbing roots, it’s better to snip leaves from the unwanted seedlings  at soil level instead of pulling them.

Once your seedlings have sprouted – at least two “true” leaves – you’ll want to transplant them into larger containers as their permanent home.

Transplanting Seedlings into Permanent Containers

Make a rich soil mix of 2/3 peat moss/garden compost with 1/3 coconut coir mixture for these larger containers. Add a few handfuls of perlite (those little round white balls) for drainage. Supplement with worm compost or a slow releasing fertilizer so your container plants get plenty of nutrients.

This is your seedlings new home, so make sure it’s in a sunny spot where it’s easy to water.

Choosing these types of containers to grow your fall vegetables or flowers in is easy.  Just be sure it drains well and is easy to move if necessary.