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Starting & Saving Seeds w/ Recyclable MaterialsJuly 11, 2013
by Joshua Fietz, TBG Horticulturist
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Gardening with recyclables is much more than merely saving money or reusing materials, instead it is the combination of these coupled with creativity and contentment to work with what you have. The diversity of materials that can be used to make one structure is endless, and with so many people and their preferences this can only create an endless list of possibilities which enhance the creative process. I am only offering a simple list of things that I have tried, mixed with things that other people have done.
Heat, moisture, and medium are the most important factors to remember when starting seeds.
Heat can be trapped in a car, as I found on a sunny day in the cold of winter and spring. If you don’t like going back and forth from your car then rest assured that there are some very common things found around the house that can emulate a poly structure which keeps heat from the sun enabling you to get a head start on growing plants.
Moisture helps the seed become active and some of the materials listed will help to not only keep the seeds moist but also distribute the moisture evenly. Anything used to grow seedlings will need drainage, needles to say holes may need to be punched or cut into the material.
Mediums that seeds are sowed in are extremely diverse from organic to being full of unnatural chemically added fertilizers and fungicides. There is the option to construct your own soil medium as most contain a combination of fine peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. I add some pine chips fines and compost in my transplant mix.
- Egg cartons (they don’t provide a whole lot of room for roots, so seedlings will need to be transplanted before they get too big)
- Cereal boxes, tissue boxes (will break down after getting wet continuously)
- Plastic cartons/ bottles (not only make good containers, but do well as miniature heat holders because they are transparent, they can also be cut and made into labels)
- Cardboard cartons (such as ½ gallon cartons are great for containers and making labels)
- Toilet paper rolls (great as a small pot that can be directly planted into the ground as they will decompose)
- Newspaper (can be molded as a plant-able pot, they will fall apart much quicker than the toilet paper rolls, newspaper also works as a good material to evenly disperse water on the bottom of the carton or container through capillary action- this helps with reducing damping-off which kills seedlings, newspaper is a great material to add to the compost pile as it adds carbon to the high amount of nitrogen found in table scraps providing a better balance)
- Plastic cereal sleeves (can be used as a heat holder similarly to a poly hut, the sleeves can also be used to catch the water draining from the trays)
There is usually enough seed in one pack to provide plants for 2-7 years, depending of course on the type of seed and how much you plan to grow. Take an average pack of pepper plants which might have 25 seeds in it, while an average pack of carrots might contain 300-800 seeds. Instead of wasting them all on the ground and then proceeding to thin the tiny plants to allow space for the crops to grow, or improper storage which causes poor germination of the seeds the following year, why not make your money go further and save them well?
Temperature, humidity, and light are the biggest factors when saving seed- the temperature combined with humidity should not exceed 100. It would be ideal to store the seeds in a cool, dry, dark place. A small drawer in you refrigerator would be perfect; however placed in a shoe box, coffee can, plastic container (like the ones containing lunch meat or cottage cheese, etc), or an unused cooler located on a closet floor or in a crawl-space would suffice.
- Jars (by far are the best as they provide a good seal keeping unwanted moisture out)
- Plastic freezer bags (they are good at keeping out moisture and saving space)
- Tape the pack closed (this will work well if seeds are to be used within a year but isn’t the best at keeping moisture out, and germination can be erratic when kept in this fashion)
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