Home Remedies for Starting Seeds

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Before you can enjoy the beauty of colorful blooms or juicy fruits and vegetables, you need to cultivate the seeds that bring life to your garden. Seeds require the right soil conditions, warmth, and water in order to grow into the seedlings that you can transfer to a garden or flowerpot. To get you started, home remedies for starting seeds can offer a handful of cost-effective approaches.

Why Start Seeds Indoors?

There are many benefits to starting your seeds indoors before you actually relocate plants to where you want them to grow. Many plants have a long growing season and won’t flower or fruit unless they have been given a head start inside. When started early, other plants will bloom longer and grow larger. Plants with fine seeds stay protects from harsh weather conditions when started inside. Also, you hold more control over weeds, insects and disease when starting your seeds indoors.

Seed Home Remedies

Taking the time to nurture your seeds in the beginning stages of their life can produce results that are truly rewarding. When using one of the following home remedies for starting seeds, make sure to punch holes in the bottoms of containers to allow drainage. Suggestions include:

a) Aluminum Foil:

To jumpstart a healthy path for your seedlings, line a shoe box with aluminum foil – with the shiny side up. Allow about two inches of foil to extend out over the sides. At the bottom, poke several drainage holes through the foil. Fill the box with potting soil that reaches slightly more than halfway in the box, and then plant your seeds. The foil inside the box will absorb heat to keep the seeds warm as they germinate. The foil outside of the box will reflect light when the young sprouts emerge. Put the box close to a window that offers a lot of sun. Make sure to keep the soil moist.

b) Pestle:

Seeds need to make firm contact with a moist surface in order to start the germination process. Use a pestle to gently tamp down the surface after planting seeds.

c) Cardboard Tubes:

Cardboard tubes from empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls can help you start seedlings. Use a pair of scissors to cut each toilet paper tube into two “pots.” A paper towel roll will make four. Fill a tray with the cut cylinders – packing them against one another so that they don’t tip when you water the seedlings. This will also prevent the plants from drying out too quickly. Fill each pot with a seed-starting mix. Gently pack it down, and then break down the side of the roll – making sure all the cardboard is completely buried underneath.

d) Screwdriver:

When you need to poke holes into containers (like plastic tubs), a screwdriver can prove a rather helpful tool.

e) Seed Water Test:

One way to test the viability of a seed is to soak in water for a couple of hours. The seeds that are still living will sink to the bottom, while ones that will not grow will float to the surface. This test typically works best when using larger seeds.

f) Kitchen Sieve:

To spread seed-starting mix evenly over the top of seeds, use a kitchen sieve. This method especially comes in handy when planting very small seeds or those that need light to germinate and lie directly on the surface.

g) Collect Seeds:

To avoid making a trip to the store for vegetable seeds, collect the ones that come out of the previous harvest. If you follow proper procedures, then you will have a nice crop next year without spending extra money. Use this remedy for heirloom vegetables, as this tip will not work with hybrid seeds – you never know what you will get the next year. Also, the vegetable that the seeds come from must have been ripe or slightly overripe. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place. They will keep for up to three years if stored well. Some people place them in sealed jars or plastic containers in the refrigerator.

h) Yogurt Container:

Fill small, empty yogurt containers halfway with potting soil, and then add seeds before covering with extra soil. Place the containers by a sunny window and water until sprouts start to appear. A couple taps on the side of the container will release the seedlings when you are ready to transfer to your garden.

i) Ziploc Snack Baggies:

There are some seeds that can actually survive thousands of years, and if you are an avid collector – you may want to set up some sort of labeling system. The snack-size baggies that Ziploc and other companies make are a convenient way to store seeds. The reclosable bag seals in the seeds and helps you keep them separate. The plastic is also easy to mark – just identify your seeds by writing the name, date, and other details with permanent marker. You can also use larger baggies for more extensive number of seeds.

j) Old Film Canisters:

When you’re looking to stack your collection of seeds in a small storage space – use used film containers with labels that indicate the seed name, source and year.

k) Plastic Wrap:

When planting seeds, keep in mind that they are sensitive to having too much water, as well as not getting enough. If you position plastic wrap over the surface of a freshly sown seed pot, you can better control the moisture level, and keep it constant. Don’t forget to check the pot for moisture and germination on a daily basis. As soon as the seeds germinate – remove the plastic wrap.

l) Egg Cartons:

After all of the scrambled eggs and omelets are long gone, the leftover egg carton (the cardboard kind only) can be used to start seedlings. Fill each compartment of the carton with soil and plant a few seeds in the individual spaces. After the seeds have sprouted, you can divide the carton into single units, and plant the cardboard-surrounded seedlings right in the ground – no need to remove [1].

m) Eggshells:

Planting seeds in empty eggshells not only gets seedlings off to a right start, but also helps create an environment for the soil before they are transferred outside. Place eggshell halves in the carton and fill with soil. Press the seeds inside. The seeds absorb extra nutrients from the eggshells. When the seedlings reach about three inches tall, they are ready to be transplanted into your garden. Remove the seedlings from the shell before placing into the ground.

n) Germination Test:

To see if old seeds are still able to produce plants, dampen two paper towels and lay down a few seeds. Cover with two more dampened paper towels. Over the next two weeks, keep the towels damp and keep checking on the seeds. If most of the seeds sprout, you can plant the rest in your garden.

o) Margarine Tub:

Poke a few holes in the bottom of an empty margarine tub. Add seed-starting mix that has already been moistened. Sow your seeds according to packet directions. Write down the kind of seeds you have planted on the side of container using a permanent marker. The lid can be used as a drip saucer. Use smaller tub sizes to test out seeds that you only want a few plants to grow.

p) Milk Cartons:

Remove the top half of a milk carton using a pair of scissors, and then punch holes into the bottom to create a container to start plant seeds. Fill with potting mix and sow the seeds according to the package instructions.

q) Sandpaper and Apple Cider Vinegar:

You can enhance and speed up the germination process of woody flower seeds (such as passionflower, moonflower, morning glory and gourds) by lightly rubbing them between a couple sheets of fine sandpaper and soaking overnight in a solution of 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar and one pint of warm water. In the following morning, remove the seeds from the solution and rinse off. You can use this remedy for herb and vegetable seeds without using the sandpaper treatment.


[1] Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things by Reader’s Digest; pg. 162.