15 Clever Ways to Start Seeds

Get growing with these fun, inexpensive seed-starting projects.

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©2010, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2010, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2010, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2010, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2010, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Start Seeds From Practically Anything

From eggshells to pots to paper towels, you can start your seasonal veggies, herbs and flowers in containers you have lying around the house. These sunflower “people” turn old paint cans into delightful characters that greet your family throughout the summer.

Funny Seed-Starters

After the kids finish reading the Sunday comics, help them create newspaper seed pots that can be planted directly into the ground. Fold the comic strips up and around the outside of a small glass to make a miniature pot, then remove the glass, add soil and seeds. Keep the paper pots in a tray near a sunny window until it's warm enough to plant outside.

Reuse Seed Trays

Recycle last year's seedling trays and flats to start seeds. Just starting out? Most garden centers and stores sell trays for low prices—but don't be afraid to ask your garden-savvy neighbors if they have extras lying around.

Use Small Pots

Small pots are great for large seeds, like beans, peas and squash, that require fewer plants in your garden. Make sure to turn pots sitting in windowsills so the seedlings grow evenly.

Try Cardboard Tubes

Try using old toilet paper or paper towel tubes for a budget seed-starting option. Gayla Trail, HGTV contributor and garden authority, recommends using old cardboard tubes for starting finicky plants that don't transplant well like beans, sunflower and dill.

Start Seeds in Old Food Containers

Use recycled drink cartons or plastic tubs filled with potting soil to grow a variety of spring salad crops. Just make sure the cartons have drainage holes in the bottom.

Don't Throw Out Your Lunch Container

Poke holes in freshly-washed plastic containers and fill with soil to start leafy greens, herbs and veggies. If you have the proper conditions—a warm, sunny windowsill—you can even continue to grow herbs and salad greens indoors.

A Milk Jug Living Wall

Old milk and juice jugs can be used to start seeds, and even create a mini-greenhouse by cutting into the jug to fashion a vessel with a hinged lid. Here, mixed greens are planted in recycled containers attached to the wall for a cool vertical salad garden.

Make a Homemade Propagator

A propagator creates a humid environment that seeds need to germinate. Instead of buying one, make one at home with an old 2-liter bottle.

Start Seeds in Eggshells

Clean eggshells are another useful, biodegradable seed-starting container for small herbs and flowers. Use a needle or a pin to poke holes in the bottom of the egg for drainage before sowing the seeds. Water carefully and closely, as the eggshell "pots" can dry out quickly if left unattended. During late winter, try forcing daffodil bulbs in eggshells for a fun display that blooms just in time for Easter.

Use Dollar Store Finds

A deep, plastic tub from the toy aisle is great for starting root vegetables like beets. Make sure to thin out the seedlings to allow enough room for the roots to grow properly.

Don't Forget About Tubers!

Early and maincrop potatoes can be sprouted inside before planting in the garden—this process is known as chitting. Arrange undamaged potatoes, with eyes uppermost, in egg boxes or seed trays in light in a cool, but frost-free room.

Sow Seeds on a Paper Towel

Damp paper towels, napkins and coffee filters can all be used to germinate seeds, or even test if seeds are viable—just place seeds on a damp paper towel, place in a plastic bag and store in a cool, dark place to encourage rapid growth. Once the seedlings sprout, transfer them into loose potting soil. Here, watercress seeds—which grow effortlessly from seed—are poured onto a wet paper towel in a terracotta pot to create a cress salad garden.

Junk Mail Seed Bombs

Get rid of that stack of old mail and newspapers with this easy seed bomb project. Paper pulp filled with wildflower seeds are easy for young gardeners to make and are also great gifts. Get the steps >>

Make Seed Paper

Making your own seed paper takes the fuss out of spacing. Simply glue seeds onto strips of toilet paper or a paper towel and roll it up on the leftover cardboard tube until it's time to plant. Click here for the full instructions.