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Start Seedlings In Recycled Trays

In getting ready for spring seedings for the garden, I realized just how well my curry herb has done with the 1 liter plastic bottomless bottle over it, secured with a stick. After sifting the soil through an old window screen for planting the seedlings, a way I can frugally protect my seedlings the best is to finally put my larger collection of clear plastic cookie, taco and various sized trays to use.


Since seedlings would likely "dampen off", or be too wet for the trays to just be inverted as they came from the original cookie packages, I heated the end of an old ice pick on the stove, not red hot, but very near, and poked holes through the bottoms of each tray while stacked, making the poking easier, not destroying any tray. I will cut strips of coffee filters to fit over the holes so the sand/soil will not fall out, along with the seeds, and to discourage any tiny pests from entering through the holes. This will allow the moisture to escape and the seedlings to grow to just the right height WITH protection from slugs/insects/wind and other weather.

Another interesting fact is that these clear tray/containers often come in different shapes and sizes, allowing for the planting of various seedlings' identification and for the use of unused left-over sticky labels/or taped paper, to be strategically placed on the outside of each one, along with any other dates/information necessary to keep track of. Place all containers of seedlings in part shade or indirect light, slowly moving towards full sun as they mature, testing several times a day to see how they react, and watching water level.

I will also toothpick each seedling for support as it grows bigger and for when I need to transplant it, although not all seedlings will transplant, such as carrots, because the label says it will cause distorted roots to grow IF it survives the transplanting.

I'm recycling my grandson's sandbox sand, which he no longer uses, into the bottom of each seedling's tray, on top of the coffee filter strips, for good drainage beneath the sifted soil/compost/sand layer.

I'm using the throwaway tray bottoms from birthday cakes and store-bought pastries, poking holes in the deepest parts of each trays' unique design, from the bottom, with the same hot ice pick. I don't have too many cake/pastry trays, but I will recycle the ones I've saved over several years from other folks' tossing them, even stacking/using two that match and mate up, so that one tray can collect drainage water and the other allow for drainage to the other lower tray.


As the seedlings get taller than the cookie trays' height, I will remove the cookie trays and place the higher original plastic cake covers over the taller seedling plants, AFTER punching evaporation holes into the top highest parts of the cover, and likely over several "sets" of seedlings because of the cake covers sizes being longer/wider.

The little "seedling kits" sold nowadays are really expensive, and don't work that well, I'm told. It feels really good to finally recycle the clear plastic trays more fully and productively.

Note: I'm going to put all "questionable" soil from previous pots in the alley area to fill potholes, rather than to take the chance that fungus and any disease will be transferred to my next plants. Also, I've sifted my compost, now "made" again (a year in the making), to mix a little with the sifted soil over the sand layer, to give the seedlings a gentle organic boost as they mature. The containers of any diseased plants from the previous season I will attempt to clean and bleach, inside and out, hoping they will still be useable for non-food crops, because I grow only organic things in my organic zeriscaped yard/garden. I will also be placing the seedling when transplanting on a flat bed using a single small hot NEEDLE hole at N, E, S, and W. directions in the bottom sides of various small clear plastic capped bottles, for water to keep the soil moderately moist. I'll place the lid on the bottles, locating them at evenly spaced intervals with a sharp eye/inspection as to any dry spots that might need a bottle moved closer, or wet spots that might need a bottle moved away slightly, or a NEW bottle with fewer holes. BEST YET, it's all free to the frugal gardener/recycler.

By Lynda from Texas

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