Starting Seeds Indoors on a Shoestring

I’m pretty excited about my new greenhouse.  I can start seedlings indoors and keep them warm and snug while the weather is still cool and then plant them outside after the danger of frost has passed.

But what if you don’t have any space for a greenhouse?  Say you live in an apartment with just a patio or a balcony and you just need a few plants to liven up your outdoor space.  Well the truth is, if you have a sunny window and an empty 16-ounce plastic salad mix container, you can still start seedlings indoors.

This little budget-friendly and earth-friendly project is so simple that I’m almost embarrassed to share it.  But if you’ve never tried starting seedlings indoors, it’s an inexpensive way of finding out if you enjoy it.   It’s also a fun project for kids.

The Materials

  • A clean, empty 16-oz rectangular clear plastic salad mix container.
  • Three clean, empty plastic pony pack containers.
  • A packet of seeds.
  • Seedling starter mix.
  • Water.

It’s a good idea to remove the top label of the salad container so nothing is shading the seedlings.  But  that will be the most difficult part of this project.

starging seeds indoors with empty salad container

The salad container in the photo measures about 12 X 8 inches.  That is the perfect size to fit three 5 X 3.5-inch pony pack containers.

If you’re wondering, pony packs are the small four-pack containers that starter annuals are sold in.  If you don’t have any, ask a friend who is into gardening.  He or she will know immediately what you’re talking about and is sure to have a few empties around.

Make sure the pony packs are clean so that no tiny cooties are onboard to harm your seedlings. Three pony packs gives you a dozen chambers for planting seeds.

ingredients - starting seeds indoors

Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing Seeds

Make sure the seeds you choose are right for your garden space.  How big will the plants get?  What kind of sun exposure do they need?

Also check the packet to make sure the seeds are for starting indoors and not for direct seeding into the garden (although sometimes you can get away with starting those indoors too, but it’s hit and miss).

Be sure to follow the instructions on the seed packet if they conflict with my instructions below.

Let’s Get Started

This won’t take long.  First, fill the pony packs with moistened seedling starter mix and set the seeds on top.

starting seeds indoors - pony packs

For this example, I’m using sweet pepper seeds.  I used two seeds per chamber in case one of them fails.  You should also plant multiple seeds per chamber.  Once the seedlings sprout, you can thin them to one plant per chamber.

Now cover the seeds with a light dusting of the seedling starter soil and then moisten them thoroughly.  I used a spray bottle for this so the seeds wouldn’t be disrupted.

starting seeds indoors

Then put the pony packs inside the salad container and set the plastic cover on top.  Voila! You have a homemade propagation tray.

Put it inside near a window that gets a lot of light.

starting seeds indoors - homemade propagation tray

Okay, I admit that I put my container in my greenhouse.  But if you make sure your container gets enough light, you will probably have success.

Keep the soil moist at all times and keep the lid set on top, but not clamped down.  Once the seedlings have sprouted, prop the lid open so they get some air circulation.  A week or two after they have sprouted, you can do away with the lid entirely.

Once the danger of frost has passed in your area, or whenever the seed packet says you can, you will be able to plant your seedlings outside.  If you are planting tomatoes or peppers, you might want to research when in your area they can be safely put outside.

If you try this project, I would love to know what you planted how it turned out for you, so please come back, post a comment and let me know.


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