How to start seeds cheaply

Lots of people are looking to start a garden this year! I can totally understand that, especially with the way food prices are. Unfortunately because food prices are up people don't have a lot of extra money to spend on a garden. It's a real catch 22 isn't it? Don't worry, you're in the right place! I love to talk about frugal gardening and seed starting is no different. 

Starting seeds cheaply

Over the years I've come up with lots if ways to save money on seed starting supplies and today I'd like to talk about them. I'm going to do a mini round up here with a bunch of the posts that I've already written on parts of this topic and I'm going to round it out with some new ideas, so let's get started on how to start seeds cheaply!

Cheap seed starting supplies

First thing you're going to need is seed starting soil mix. You want to look somewhere like a big box store, you don't want a cheap dollar store potting soil mix because your seedlings will not be able to break through it and establish roots as easily. So that is one thing you're going to have to splurge on but definitely check around for prices because seed starting mix comes in all different price points. I like the Miracle-Gro seed starting mix

Once your seeds are growing well you can transplant them to larger containers. At that point you can add more potting soil and using the cheaper stuff is ok now! However, I like to buy the giant bags of Miracle Grow garden soil. You're going to get the most soil for the least $$ with those big bags. 

The Busy Beaver hardware store near me puts it on sale pretty cheaply a few times a year. Other hardware stores also sell it rather cheaply. Watch the ads at Lowes, I believe they have a great sale each spring too.

Of course if you have access to free compost, you can use that instead. Don't use compost until the first set of true leaves appears on the seedlings though. You can start your own compost bin and it should be ready in just a few months!

Cheap seed starting containers

You'll need lots of seed starting containers! You can use empty eggshells to start your seeds in, of course the way eggs are priced right now that might not be as affordable as it sounds. Lol You'll have to transplant them fairly quickly though, as eggshells are pretty small.

If you have a Keurig you can clean out and use the used pods to start seeds. You can also cut toilet paper and paper towel tubes into small sections, fill with your seed starting mix and start seeds in there.

I also like to recycle single use plastic containers and use those to start seeds. The ones you get for takeout food or grocery store prepared foods work great! Yogurt cups are a decent size too. Most of these generally have a top that goes with them or is actually attached which is great because then you don't have to top them with plastic wrap or something else keep the moisture in as they're germinating. 

If you buy some of your plant starts from the nursery or big box store hold on to the containers for next year. I have some I've been using for years! If you don't have containers with lids, you can use dollar store shower caps to cover your seeds while they germinate. There's usually five or six shower caps in a package. 

Cheap plastic covers for seed starting containers, bulk

They also sell these plastic covers for food bowls that can be used. I buy them at the Dollar tree and there are three different sizes in the container of 20 covers. They are basically multi sized shower caps! Like shower caps, these little plastic wrap lids have elasticized bands to keep them in place. Just put them over top of whatever container you're using for seed starting!

Buying seeds cheaply

There are lots of places to purchase seeds cheaply, so don't feel like you need to pay full price at the first place you see! Lots of dollar stores sell seeds for extremely reasonable prices. Make sure you check the seed packets though to make sure there is enough in them. Some types of seeds will have more in a packet than others and you may need several packets for the amount of plants you want to grow.

Compare prices! I like I find their prices are affordable and they often have sales going on. Sign up for their newsletter as they sometimes send coupons out.

Look for sales! Tractor Supply Co always has different seeds on sale, so keep an eye on the ones you want and buy them when the price is right! Off season clearance sales are another great way to buy seeds cheaply

You'll need to keep your seeds warm when germinating, but it doesn't have to be an expensive! I picked this seed starting mat up on Amazon for less than $20, but if your refrigerator gets warm on top (from the mirror running) then you can put your seed starting trays on top of that and the heat will help them germinate. 

Related reading: How to read and understand a seed packet.

Other frugal seed starting equipment

Don't feel like you need to buy all the things! You could use popsicle sticks and a sharpie to label seedlings instead of the plastic plant tags they sell in stores. They sell craft sticks in every dollar store and craft store for just a few dollars for a whole bag!

Seedlings need lots of light to grow strong and a lack of light can cause them to grow tall and leggy. You can pick up grow lights rather cheaply online. I have this one I bought on Amazon and another three bulb grow light that I actually got from Aldi food store that's been going strong for a few years now. I think I paid $10 for it.

If you have a south facing window you can also place a table in front of it and put your seedlings on it to get plenty of light!  

You wont need fancy garden tools for seed starting. I find a large kitchen spoon is great for shoveling soil into seed starting containers. You can pick up a spray bottle at the dollar store for misting seedlings and you certainly don't need a special watering can! Any cup will do. 

You don't need the seedling trays like I have in the top picture. I actually didn't pay for those, most garden center's will give you one when you buy some plant starts. Just save them and reuse from year to year. Until you get some trays though, you can just cut a box down close to the tops of the containers you'll be using. You'll want to be able to transport a lot of them easily when you need to start taking the seedlings outside to harden them off

You can usually find lots of free or cheap pots and other garden supplies on local Facebook groups. The dollar stores sell lots of cheap gardening equipment, though I would stay away from things like pruners as they tend to break easily. 

Starting a garden doesn't have to be expensive for it to be productive! You can get bushels of food for very small investment!

Related reading: Want to learn more about growing food cheaply? Check out all my frugal gardening posts!


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