Are you looking for a new way to save money on gardening? Here are some frugal seed starting containers to help reduce costs on starting seeds at home.

If you have a large garden, starting seeds at home can start to look like an expensive venture. Just think of all those peat pots, peat pellets or seed flats you will have to buy! But it doesn’t have to be that way.

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Every year I start over 100 tomato seeds, plus pepper, eggplant, herbs, brassicas, etc. All totaled I probably have close to 500 seedlings inside during the late winter and early spring, and I don’t buy a single pot for them! (Be sure to check out 9 Gardening Supplies You Can Get for Free for more ideas on how to garden frugally!)

So gather your seeds, mix up your soil, and extend your imagination and get planting.


soil blocks are the most frugal seed starting container


What Makes a Good Seed Starting Container

Before I get to my list of 20 items you can re-purpose for starting seeds, let’s talk a little about what makes a good seed starting container in the first place.

First, you need to pay attention to drainage. The ideal seed starting container will offer some kind of drainage, usually via holes in the base.

If your chosen container doesn’t have drainage holes, make some using a drill or nail. If you are using something that you can’t poke holes in, try adding a layer of gravel or pebbles at the bottom to offer some drainage.

Second, size. Be sure to choose a seed starting container that fits the seeds you are starting. Cucurbits like squash, cucumbers, and melons grow fast and will outgrow a small container much more quickly. Things like tomatoes usually need to be potted up at some point between starting the seed and planting, so smaller can work for the first container.

Here’s a list of 20 items you can re-purpose for your seed-starting adventures! Click the links to see how other gardeners used the ideas!


20 Frugal Seed Starting Containers

First, let me tell you about one of my favorite soil starting containers: soil blocks. They are easy to make using a soil blocker and a one time investment means you can make your own soil containers for life!

But if you prefer physical containers, here are some frugal options:


20 frugal seed starting containers with picture of seedlings in a plastic egg carton and plastic cups


Recycled Food and Drink Containers

Think of all those containers that come through your house from the grocery store on the way to the recycling. All it takes is a little cleaning out and you are all set to start your seeds.

Here are just a few of the food and drink containers you can use for seed starting!


egg cartons

yogurt cups– and anything else in a tub!

wooden boxes from clementine oranges

cut off milk jugs

cut off 2-liter or water bottles

strawberry boxes

salad containers– if they have lids you have an instant mini-greenhouse!

baby food jars

frozen food trays




Recycled Household Items for Seed Starting

Household items that are past their prime are also an easy way to collect seed starting containers. Here are just a few of the items you can use.

ice cube trays

muffin tray– or other old cake pans

canning jars of all sizes

Be sure to pay attention to drainage and not over water your seedlings if you are using these containers since they don’t have holes for water to drain.


seedling sprouting in a dirt filled plastic egg carton


Recycled Items for Seed Starting

Tired of throwing out the toilet paper rolls? Keep some of your recyclables for your gardening efforts! Here are some other items you can recycle and reuse for seed starting containers.

toilet paper tubes

newspaper pots

reused nursery flats, pots and trays- just ask your local nursery if they  have any extra.

cardboard boxes- simply fill and plant!

take out containers and cups


frugal seed containers out of toilet paper tubes


Use Food Scraps as Seed Starting Containers

Food shells and peels make excellent containers for seeds because they are compostable themselves.

You can plant most of them in the ground with the seedling and it will help to give a boost of nutrients!


frugal seed containers out of used egg shells


egg shells

citrus peels

scooped out avocado shells


So, skip the expensive peat pots and pellets and raid your recycling bin instead! Spend the money you save on more seeds instead!


Tips on Reusing Items for Seed Starting

Not all containers are created equal, and in order to keep your seedlings healthy you should take some precautions when using these items for seed starting. Such as:

  • Wash your seed starting containers with soap and water before planting in them
  • If you are reusing a pot that previously had plants in it, use bleach to clean the containers to prevent the possible spread of disease
  • Make sure your containers have proper drainage- drill holes when possible to allow the excess water to drain
  • If you are using a container that doesn’t have drainage (ie. glass) be sure not to over water your plants
  • If you’re using a container that can be planted in the ground, break up the outside a bit to help the roots extend past the container more easily


Check out these other seed starting tips:

5 Tips for Starting Seeds Indoors

4 Seed Starting Problems and How Fix Them