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13 Free DIY Seed Starting Containers

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It’s finally time to start seeds. I feel like I’ve been waiting forever! The weather certainly isn’t showing any signs of breaking any time soon. But, I have faith that I need to get these seeds started or we won’t have much of a garden this year!

This year we will be starting well over 200 plants and I don’t really want to buy 200 peat pots in order to start them. And I know some of you start much more than that!

So, to be a bit more on the frugal side, I’ve compiled a list of FREE seed starting containers. All you need is a little creativity and some potting soil and you’re good to go.

13 Free DIY Seed Starting Containers

1. Eggshells

Springtime usually equates an abundance of eggs. While you can definitely feed those eggshells back to your flock, you can also use them to start your seeds! These are probably not the best option for things like tomato plants (you’ll want something larger in my experience) but they’re great for other, smaller seedlings! Just add some soil to the open shell and plant your seed accordingly! You can just plop the whole thing in the ground when the time comes! Awesome.

2. Egg Cartons

If you have any cartons left, that is. Egg cartons are a great, biodegradable seed starting container. These also aren’t the best for larger plants (like tomatoes), but do great for most other things. You can put the soil in the carton, add your seed and watch it grow. They’re biodegradable (unless you’re stuck with foam ones in which case… yuck) and can be broken apart and placed right into the ground.

3. Citrus Peels or Avocado Skins

I personally can’t stand avocados, but their skins are great for starting seeds! So are citrus peels (like oranges). These are large enough to start your larger plants, like tomatoes, in. Just hollow them out, add soil, start your seed, plant.

4. Yogurt Cups

Yogurt cups are the perfect size to start seeds in. Just wash them out and punch some holes in the bottom and you have the perfect sized container. When you’re ready to transplant, just squeeze it like you would a flat to remove the soil ball. Rinse, disinfect, and you can use them year after year. Just have to buy yogurt and you can reuse them year after year.

5. Old Potting Trays

Did you buy a flat of flowers or the like? Don’t throw those containers out! You can disinfect them and use them again. No need to create waste and they’re the perfect size to start your plants!

6. Toilet Paper Rolls

These things add up quickly and don’t serve many purposes unless you’re crafty. They’re a great size for starting seeds, readily available, and biodegradable. There’s a great tutorial here on how to make them.

7. Newspaper Pots

You can make nifty little pots out of newspaper, too. A great, biodegradable way to start seeds. They’re quick to put together as well. There’s a tutorial here on how to make your own newspaper pots.

8. Old Water or Soda Bottles (with the top cut off)

I’m not a fan of plastic, especially water bottles. But, if you find yourself searching for a container and have empty water or soda bottles sitting around, put them to good use! They’re a great size for starting larger plants, like tomatoes in. Just clean well, poke a few holes in the bottom and viola. You can also save them and reuse them year after year after you disinfect them.

9. DIY Soil Blocks

Do away with containers all together with these neat, DIY soil blocks! I don’t have any experience with these, but this post makes me want to try for sure! Just a couple of repurposed tubing and such and you can make your own soil blocks. My only concern is whether or not they’ll stay together. I’ll report back after I’ve made some of my own!

10. Takeout Containers

We don’t eat out much, but I know restaurants tend to put your to-go in plastic containers with lids. Perfect, mini greenhouse! Just poke a few holes in the bottom, add soil, start seeds. These are perfect for starting things like onions or things you can transplant to larger pots as soon as they have their true leaves (or transplant outdoors).

11. To-Go Cups

Have paper (or even plastic) cups from the local Starbucks? Use them to start your seeds in and throw the paper ones in the compost when you’re finished. Just poke a few holes in the bottom, add soil, start seeds. Remove the soil block when you’re ready to transplant and you can compost up the cup if it’s paper! Yay!

12. Ice Cube Trays

These are usually in abundance because most people have ice makers anymore. They’re the perfect size for starting seeds. You’ll have to poke (read drill) a hole in the bottom of each compartment, but they’ll definitely work!

13. Clamshell Containers

Things like apples, tomatoes, strawberries, and other berries are often packed in clamshell containers. These are perfect. They already have drainage holes (except the apple and tomato ones) and they have a top so they’re already like little greenhouses. They’re perfect for starting large mounts of seeds that you’ll transplant later into larger containers. Or things like onions!

Starting seeds doesn’t have to be expensive, at all. You can often start your seeds with things you already have laying around your house, which is awesome. No need to purchase fancy peat pots (though, they work and I do use a few each year). There are much more frugal, creative ways to start your seeds. What do you use to start your seeds?

Other Seed Starting Posts You’ll Love:

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Friday 3rd of April 2020

Use to go cup trays those cardboard ones from Dunkin’ or the like for avocado skins. I keep my avocados in them too keeps them from getting bruised


Sunday 25th of March 2018

Love the eggshell and avocado peel ideas - hadn't even thought of those! Any recommendations on how to keep them upright when starting seeds (Tray? Free standing in the cold frame?) without using any precious egg cartons?


Thursday 25th of January 2024


The egg shells work great ! The larger the better and we just used the egg cartons to hold them up. there was a beautiful root structure on all our tomatoes, peppers & eggplant.

Danielle McCoy

Monday 26th of March 2018

Hi Carol, You could probably set them in a tray or set them in an inch or so of seed starting mix to keep them upright.

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