Recycled containers for seed starting and gardening

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

bucket_garden1Spring is the time of year when gardeners everywhere look to getting their seeds started and to get going with gardening. And every year the same question as to the cost for such container creeps into the minds of all of us gardeners. How much will the seed trays and seed starting pots cost us, etc.

More and more people who have little real space for gardening also want to get into growing their own and for them the question of costs for containers in which to do their growing. Buying containers for container gardening does not come cheap.

Recycled containers come into the game here, whether for seed starting or general gardening, and most of them, if not indeed all, can be has for free.

Seed starting

You do not have to to get special seed starting pots, containers and kits. You can use many items of waste, especially plastic waste, for the purpose, from yoghurt pots and such like to the bottoms of plastic (milk) bottles/jugs. Use the bottoms of the latter for seed starting “trays” and the top as cloches.

Do not bother with using the cardboard tubes from toilet- or kitchen rolls – or bother making newspaper pots. While many say that it works I have found that in most cases it leads to dampening off of seedlings and/or to fungal growth.

For small pots for more or less single seedlings empty yoghurts pots are ideal. Just don't forget to put a hole or two for drainage and the same goes for any container that you recycle. The bottom half of small plastic bottles also will make useful seed starting pots. In the same way you can use the tubs that contained fresh cream, sour cream, and such like. While they are, in general, bigger and deeper than yoghurt pots, they work just the same and may be best used for any seedling that required a lot of room for their roots to grow.

You can, obviously, also use the bottoms of other plastic bottles that you may be using in the home, such as those that may have contained cleaning fluids – as long as they have been cleaned out properly – as many of them are a relatively hard plastic though not as hard as those of yoghurt and cream pots.

Container gardening

For gardening in small spaces or for those that are reliant on using patios or balconies, or those that have mostly hard standing in the yard, containers are the way to go. Also for those of us who do not want to do the digging. OK, you can go no dig gardening, which is the best anyway, but you will still first of all have to create the beds, which you lather do not dig again, thus using containers is a good alternative.

I know of one market gardener, in the USA, who grows all his produce for sale (and for his family's needs) in those one to five gallon buckets. But you can use smaller ones as well and also many other different kinds of containers, most of which can be had for free.

Gallon buckets: The buckets I am referring to here are those in which catering establishments, for instance, get their mayonnaise, cooking oils, etc. they are great for container gardening and especially as you can, generally, get as many as you want for the price of asking from places that use them.

When it comes to using recycled containers for seed starting and gardening per se, especially food growing, many people are concerned that there could be harmful chemicals leaching from the plastic through the soil into the food plants. However, plastic plants pots and other planters that are bought in the stores are, well, also plastic. Whether they are food grade, as many of those containers that you would be using when recycling in this way is rather questionable. Thus the question is as to whether we really should be worried?

If, however, the containers may have had some chemicals, pesticides, oils, or whatever else, then using them for growing food crops and produce should be a definite no. The other thing never to use for growing food crops are car tires and that despite the fact that many advocate just doing that, such as for growing potatoes. While in years gone by those tires would have been fine as they would have been natural rubber and not have been containing anything iffy modern tires are first of all more often than not no longer natural rubber but other substances and secondly most, nowadays, are steel radial belted tubeless which are known top leach cadmium into the soil. You certainly do not want that, being a heavy metal, in your potatoes or other vegetables. In general, however, recycling all manner of plastic (and other) containers in the garden should be fine.

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