How recycling can save you money when sowing seeds

Eggshells can be used to grow seedlings. 

Eggshells can be used to grow seedlings. - Credit: iStock/PA

It’s all very well buying a few packets of seeds with good intentions – but you could easily find yourself forking out on dibbers, plant trays, pots and markers, which can all eat into your budget if you’re not careful.

Savvy savers can often find substitutes in everyday items that will make seed sowing easy, and you don’t need special tools to prick out seedlings, or fancy labels to identify what you’re growing.

So, what might you have in your home that could substitute the cost of gardening ephemera?

1. Pencils

A pencil can be used to make holes in the soil for seeds. 

A pencil can be used to make holes in the soil for seeds. - Credit: iStock/PA

If you’re sowing seeds in individual pots such as large sunflowers or French beans, don’t waste money on a dibber. An old pencil will do just as well to make the hole you need in which to place the seed.


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2. Lolly sticks

Lolly sticks make perfect plant markers. 

Lolly sticks make perfect plant markers. - Credit: Hannah Stephenson/PA

Don’t chuck away lolly sticks. Keep them to act as plant markers, which will be invaluable when you have sown a multitude of seeds in trays in your greenhouse or on your windowsill, but can’t remember what you’ve planted.

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3. Teaspoon or fork

Teaspoons are ideal for transplanting seedlings. 

Teaspoons are ideal for transplanting seedlings. - Credit: iStock/PA

Often, a teaspoon or fork is all you’ll need when you are carefully teasing out a seedling that needs transplanting to a different pot. Just gently spoon around and under the seedling and you’ll easily be able to tease it out, barely touching it, as you move it to a bigger pot, or to its final position.

4. Toilet roll inner tubes

Toilet roll tubes can be turned into seed pots.

Toilet roll tubes can be turned into seed pots. - Credit: iStock/PA

These are perfect, readymade, biodegradable plant pots, again ideal for singular seeds or seedlings. Just make four vertical cuts at one end of the cardboard tube and fold the flaps inwards so they overlap, making the base of the ‘pot’. Keep them on a saucer while the seedlings are in their infancy, so the water doesn’t seep out the bottom of the tubes when you water.

5. Eggshells

Save eggshells from your morning boiled eggs to make into seedling pots, but make sure to wash them gently but thoroughly first, to ensure all the egg is out. Eggshells will hold seed compost and one seed will sit comfortably in the egg carton while you wait for germination. Once the seedling has emerged and it’s warm enough to place in the garden, pop it in its final position in the eggshell pot, squeezing it so it will be cracked and broken enough for the roots to escape into the ground.

6. Plastic milk cartons or bottles

A plastic bottle is the perfect place to grow a seedling.

A plastic bottle is the perfect place to grow a seedling. - Credit: iStock/PA

These are such an easy seed tray starter kit – just cut the bottoms off a 2 litre or 4 litre container and you have an instant seed tray. Drill small holes in the base to allow for drainage and once you’ve added compost and planted your seeds, you can re-attach the top of the bottle back to the bottom to make an instant lid for plants that need it.

7. Fruit and vegetable punnets

Vegetable punnets can be used to grow seedlings. 

Vegetable punnets can be used to grow seedlings. - Credit: iStock/PA

How often do you dispose of a punnet that once held grapes or other fruit and veg? These are ideal to use as starter seed trays as some punnets, such as grapes, already have holes in the base.

Just remove any stickers from the packaging, wash them out, add seed compost and then seeds. If the punnet has a solid plastic lid, rather than a sheet, keep that too as you can further protect your seeds with it and use it to keep the contents warmer and give them more chance of germination.

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