An alternative solution to starting hold over plants.

By Chelle (chelle) on March 16, 2010

Starting bulbs, rhizomes & seeds. I often start these items very early as some of them take a while to get going. For plants that will possibly be held over for up to 8 weeks I have devised a one step process of "seeding" once and then straight to planting out in the garden.

Materials needed for this project:
One large plastic storage container, approx. 5 inches high, and whatever width and length you feel comfortable carrying, to place your cups in. One for each type of plant you wish to start. This way is usually best as you don't have to individually tag each cup as to what it is.
A supply of 12oz. or 16oz. styrofoam cups.
Soil from your garden/yard.
Earthworm castings.
Sterile seed starting mix.
Piece of masking tape that you can label your tray with.

I buy from a dollar store type of place 12oz. and 16oz. styrofoam cups.
Then I make slits, (usually 4 it depends on cup size and strength) approx. 2" long in the bottom and up the sides of the cup for drainage and watering. Like in this photo viewed from below.



I then break up pieces of another cup and place them in the bottom of my planting cup for drainage.



Prepare as many cups as will completely fill your plastic tray. If you don't they will tip over when you move your container!
Once your tray is full you are ready to fill your cups.
I like to use soil from my garden in the bottom, that way my babies will already be accustomed to it when I plant them out.
Mix in some earthworm castings to your soil bucket before beginning.
Then fill the cups halfway full of this mix.
If you are starting bulbs or rhizomes you can go ahead and set them on top of this mix in your cups.
Then fill with your sterile seed starting mix.
If you are starting seeds fill the cups to within 2" of the top with sterile seed starting mix. Then place your seeds and cover, (or not as the case may be) to the recommended depth for that type of seed.
Last step:
Gently add water to your tray, not the cups, a bit at a time over the course of a few hours until you see that your soil has become saturated all the way to the top, (it'll change to a darker color). If there is a lot of standing water, (over 2" deep) left in your tray after you notice the color change, sop some of it out with a towel.
Then set your tray in a warm area, or on a heat mat and wait for your babies to emerge!
With this method I bypass several transplantings before being able to plant them out.
Plus the risk of my over or under watering are minimized.

When it is time to plant your seedlings out in the garden they will have an amazingly healthy and well developed root system.  Just peel away the bottom two-thirds of the cup and anything above the soil line, and plant. You will be amazed at how much time and effort you can save with this method! Happy planting!




Author's Notes ~

All images included in this article are my own.

The ideas expressed in this article were born in my imagination and after several seasons of eperimentation culminated in positive results. You may, of course, conduct a web search and obtain the results of others by typing in seed starting in styrofoam cups.



[Edit] 08, January, 2011. (credits)

Related articles:
bulb sprouting, Early start on plants, rhizome starting, seeding without transplanting, starting bulbs indoors

About Chelle
Chelle lives on ten acres comprised of gardens, woodland, native meadows and a small S shaped lake. She is a lifelong gardener and an unfailing optimist. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience of gardening with others, and adores a good story.
Chelle is the cubits owner of Good News! and Plant Haven.

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