Starting Seeds the Cheap Way – Frugal Gardening Tips

I want to share with you how I start seeds.  See, I can’t afford to spend a lot on plants and gardening supplies, so I’ve learned how to supply my garden the inexpensive way.

I learned this method from a very old gardener who used to sell plants at a small nursery that he owned.   It saves a lot of money.

Before I knew there were alternatives, I bought these:

Now I buy just the plain, flat garden trays at Home Depot- they run about $1.26 each. I fill them full of good potting soil – I have used seed starter, and it’s great, but I find that just plain old Miracle Grow Potting Soil, or Jungle Grow potting soil, are fine for starting most vegetables and flowers.

plain planter

Just fill the trays with dirt:


Depending on the size of your plants, poke holes with your finger to the depth specified on the seed pack. Some seeds will just be sprinkled on top and pressed down into the soil.

poking holes in dirt




Put ONE seed per hole. Save the rest of your seeds. Even though seeds will say “Packed for 2014” I have found that MOST will come up the following year if they are kept dry. If you don’t want to save them, maybe offer them to a friend.

If you should get two seeds in one hole, and 2 plants come up, go ahead and pull one gently up, and you can move it so it has its own space.

Mark your seeds!  It really helps if you start multiple trays to mark your seeds so you can monitor their progress.  I have found that if I use a complete pack of seeds, I just use the seed pack itself, but if I’m planting from saved seeds, or for whatever reason don’t have a good pack, I use Popsicle sticks.  I get them at the dollar store for about $1 for 100.  Simply record the plant name on one side of the stick, and your date of planting on the other.  This will help you monitor germination, and if you have seeds that are non-viable, you can replant that tray.  This happens occasionally, especially if you use older seeds or seeds that you’ve collected yourself.



Water well, daily or as needed, with gentle water pressure. I use a hose nozzle with a mist feature. Don’t let the soil get too wet, or the seeds could rot before they sprout. I like one good soaking when I first plant, then after that, I aim to just keep the soil a bit damp. Remember, these trays have NO drainage. so keep them protected from the rain. I keep mine in my greenhouse and/or cold frame, but I have started them in sunny inside windows too.

Once the plants have a few sets of leaves, you can transplant them into larger pots, or to the ground. Simply be gently and scoop wide, starting from the edges, leaving the roots intact, and get them into their new home quickly, with some water.


Trays can be re-used. I find that if you keep them out of the sun and weather most trays will last 2 years, but I have had some for 3 years. It’s very important if you are going to give-away, sell, or if you have trouble with any sort of rot or wilt disease that you either replace the trays between reuse, or you wash them out with a disinfecting solution. This keeps any plant disease from spreading to different locations. Use 1 part bleach to 9 parts water and soak the trays for 10 minutes at least. (I put the mix in a garbage can and just soak my planters and trays.)

Comments are closed.