Making Plant Containers Using Household Items

Updated on May 8, 2020
PegCole17 profile image

Peg lives on ten acres in the North Dallas area. She's a garden enthusiast and author of 2 books who likes to share economical ideas online.

Plant Starter Sets

You could pay $2.95 each for these starter plants or grow them yourself for pennies.
You could pay $2.95 each for these starter plants or grow them yourself for pennies. | Source

Fun Project for the Family or Just For You

Starting an indoor garden can lift your spirits and get you ready for the beauty of spring. Using your own containers and harvested seeds, starting a vegetable garden is easy. Begin indoors at winter's end by raiding your trash for sturdy plastic bottles, milk jugs, egg cartons, yogurt cups, small glass jars and any usable container.

Using quality potting soil from the dollar store, fill each container about 3/4 full, poke in a few seeds, add some water and place the containers in a drip pan. Empty Swiffer pans fit nicely in a sunny window sill or use a cardboard box bottom from canned goods. Be sure to mark the date and type of seed planted in each container. Within days you should see sprouts.

Using Egg Cartons to Start Seeds

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Start by setting aside egg cartons for seed starting pots.Cut the lid off an egg carton and use it for a drip tray underneath.Poke a hole in the bottom of each compartment for drainage.Use a pencil to poke the seeds into the  soil at the proper depth.Marking the seed type on the container is important.A kitty litter tray also works as a drip pan for plants.When sprouts grow to 1 inch thin them out and transfer them  to a larger container.Styrofoam cartons work, too.Starter sets fit nicely in a plastic Swiffer container.
Start by setting aside egg cartons for seed starting pots.
Start by setting aside egg cartons for seed starting pots. | Source
Cut the lid off an egg carton and use it for a drip tray underneath.
Cut the lid off an egg carton and use it for a drip tray underneath. | Source
Poke a hole in the bottom of each compartment for drainage.
Poke a hole in the bottom of each compartment for drainage. | Source
Use a pencil to poke the seeds into the  soil at the proper depth.
Use a pencil to poke the seeds into the soil at the proper depth. | Source
Marking the seed type on the container is important.
Marking the seed type on the container is important. | Source
A kitty litter tray also works as a drip pan for plants.
A kitty litter tray also works as a drip pan for plants. | Source
When sprouts grow to 1 inch thin them out and transfer them  to a larger container.
When sprouts grow to 1 inch thin them out and transfer them to a larger container. | Source
Styrofoam cartons work, too.
Styrofoam cartons work, too. | Source
Starter sets fit nicely in a plastic Swiffer container.
Starter sets fit nicely in a plastic Swiffer container. | Source

Tips for Containers

  1. Cardboard egg cartons, plastic sports drink bottles and empty yogurt containers are great for starting seedlings.
  2. Cut off the lid of the egg carton and use it underneath as a drain tray.
  3. Poke a hole in the bottom of each compartment for proper drainage.
  4. Mark the date and type of seed on the flap.
  5. Fill each compartment with potting soil removing any debris like bark or sticks.
  6. Use the end of a pencil or a chopstick to push the seeds into the soil to the recommended depth for that particular seed.

Tips for Using Plastic Bottles for Containers

Click thumbnail to view full-size
On a firm surface with a serrated knife, cut off the top of the bottle.Trim the rough edges with scissors.Gently press a warm iron to the cut edge. In a few seconds the edge will bend under. Allow to cool.The rounded edge protects the young plants from damage in the wind.These were planted before rounding off the tops of the containers.
On a firm surface with a serrated knife, cut off the top of the bottle.
On a firm surface with a serrated knife, cut off the top of the bottle. | Source
Trim the rough edges with scissors.
Trim the rough edges with scissors. | Source
Gently press a warm iron to the cut edge. In a few seconds the edge will bend under. Allow to cool.
Gently press a warm iron to the cut edge. In a few seconds the edge will bend under. Allow to cool. | Source
The rounded edge protects the young plants from damage in the wind.
The rounded edge protects the young plants from damage in the wind. | Source
These were planted before rounding off the tops of the containers.
These were planted before rounding off the tops of the containers. | Source

Making Containers from Plastic Bottles

Plastic sports drink bottles make great containers.

  1. Rinse out any residue from the bottles
  2. On a firm surface like a cutting board, cut off the upper portion of the bottle with a serrated knife. Trim off any rough edges with scissors.
  3. To soften the top edge of the container, use an old steam iron on medium heat.
  4. Set the iron on the rim of the separated lower half of the bottle.
  5. Gentle pressure will round off any sharp edges and prevent damage if plants rub against the edge.
  6. Careful. The rim needs to cool down before use.

Sports bottles after cutting and ironing the rim.
Sports bottles after cutting and ironing the rim. | Source

Thinning Out the Sprouts

Seedlings need to be thinned out before planting outdoors. Clip off the extra sprouts with scissors at the ground line or if you're careful, you can separate the seedlings into individual plants. Transfer each seedling into a larger container when they're about an inch tall and they start growing secondary leaves.

Seedlings Transplanted to Plastic Bottles

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Carefully remove the sprouts from the egg carton using a plastic spoon.Gently place each seedling into a larger container adding more soil as needed.Add a small amount of water and more soil as needed to stand up the sprout.Place in a draft free place under a light if possible until the seedlings take hold.Once the plants grow secondary leaves, move them to a place in the sun. Bring them inside if temperatures drop at night.An empty Swiffer pan works well in a windowsill.
Carefully remove the sprouts from the egg carton using a plastic spoon.
Carefully remove the sprouts from the egg carton using a plastic spoon. | Source
Gently place each seedling into a larger container adding more soil as needed.
Gently place each seedling into a larger container adding more soil as needed. | Source
Add a small amount of water and more soil as needed to stand up the sprout.
Add a small amount of water and more soil as needed to stand up the sprout. | Source
Place in a draft free place under a light if possible until the seedlings take hold.
Place in a draft free place under a light if possible until the seedlings take hold. | Source
Once the plants grow secondary leaves, move them to a place in the sun. Bring them inside if temperatures drop at night.
Once the plants grow secondary leaves, move them to a place in the sun. Bring them inside if temperatures drop at night. | Source
An empty Swiffer pan works well in a windowsill.
An empty Swiffer pan works well in a windowsill. | Source

Separating the Sprouts

  1. Carefully remove the sprouts from the egg carton using a plastic spoon.
  2. Fill a larger container about 3/4 full of soil and make a deep hole using a pencil or a chopstick.
  3. Gently glide each seedling into the hole adding more soil to cover the roots.
  4. Add a small amount of water and more soil as needed to stand up the sprout.
  5. Place in a draft free place under a light if possible until the seedlings take hold.
  6. Once the plants grow secondary leaves, move them outside in the sun. Bring them inside if temperatures drop at night.

Dried Seeds from Favorite Vegetables

Use glass jars with tight fitting lids to help preserve the life of your seeds.
Use glass jars with tight fitting lids to help preserve the life of your seeds. | Source

Seed Saving from Ordinary Vegetables

You'd be surprised at the number of vegetables that will start growing from their own seeds. Tomato is a favorite that sprouts with little persuasion. So does cantaloupe, lemon, watermelon, bell pepper and other regular veggies bought at the store.

Start by separating the seeds from the pulp and membrane that surrounds them. This can be done by submerging them in water or in a strainer under cool running water. Arrange them individually on a paper towel and let them dry for a couple of days. Once dry, you can peel them off the paper and store them in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.

How to Prepare Your Own Seeds for Storage

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Store the seeds in jars with tight fitting lids and label them by type and year.Remove the pulp and membrane from around tomato and cantaloupe seeds before drying on paper towels.Separating pumpkin seeds from the membrane.Rinsing the pumpkin seeds in cool water.Draining the seedsDrying the seeds on paper towels.
Store the seeds in jars with tight fitting lids and label them by type and year.
Store the seeds in jars with tight fitting lids and label them by type and year. | Source
Remove the pulp and membrane from around tomato and cantaloupe seeds before drying on paper towels.
Remove the pulp and membrane from around tomato and cantaloupe seeds before drying on paper towels. | Source
Separating pumpkin seeds from the membrane.
Separating pumpkin seeds from the membrane. | Source
Rinsing the pumpkin seeds in cool water.
Rinsing the pumpkin seeds in cool water. | Source
Draining the seeds
Draining the seeds | Source
Drying the seeds on paper towels.
Drying the seeds on paper towels. | Source

Seed Storage

  1. Remove the pulp and membrane from around tomato, cantaloupe, and pumpkin seeds by rinsing under cool water.
  2. Place them on paper towels to dry.
  3. Store the dry seeds in jars with tight fitting lids.
  4. Label the jars by type of seed and year collected.

Backyard Garden

Plant the starter seedlings outside after all danger of frost is past.
Plant the starter seedlings outside after all danger of frost is past. | Source

Plant the seedlings in an area of prepared soil after all danger of frost is over for your area. Consult a Farmer's Almanac or online reference source to learn the best times for planting certain types of vegetables.

Gardening is a great way to relieve stress, enjoy the outdoors and breathe in the fresh air of spring. Using starter seeds and recycled containers, you can grow a nice crop of fresh vegetables for a small investment of your time and money.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Peg Cole

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    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Thank you, Chitrangada Sharan. I figured you were a gardening type person and you are so right, "growing our own food is both satisfying and necessary." Hope you are doing well during these stressful and difficult times.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      2 months ago from New Delhi, India

      This is such a wonderful article, with helpful tips and suggestions.

      I like gardening and follow some of these methods, which you have mentioned above.

      I am excited to follow some of your container ideas.

      Growing our own food, is both satisfying and necessary, especially during these difficult times.

      Thank you so much for sharing.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hi Genna, It's nice to see you here. I'll have to check out Rebecca's hub and see what she's up to. My seedlings are ready for planting but it's been raining here. Maybe tomorrow I'll get it done. Thanks so much for the visit and kind words. Hope you are doing well.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Peg. I just wrote a comment on rebeccamealey's hub about growing plants and flowers in containers, so your article is perfect timing for me. :-) I have to agree with William -- what clever and creative ideas. Thank you.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Thank you, Nithya Venkat. Now comes the harder part of digging in the soil to plant these seedlings. Off to the yard.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Thank you for the extra idea for storing seeds, Devika Primic.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      2 months ago from Dubai

      A great article about making plant containers with household items. I love the egg carton and idea. Ironing the rim of the plastic bottles after cutting them is a great tip. You have given so many useful tips, thank you for sharing.

    • profile image

      Devika Primic 

      2 months ago

      A great idea to store seeds. Often I keep in a brown bag.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hello Dora, It's so nice to see you here this morning. May your garden grow abundantly and feed many.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      2 months ago from The Caribbean

      So creative! So practical! All's good, but I especially like the egg crates to sprout the seeds. I need all the help I can get. Thank you.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Thank you, William. Hope you are well. Stay safe.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      2 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Pretty clever stuff, Peg. Thanks for sharing.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hello Linda, Thank you for dropping in and for the nice comment. So good to see you here. Congratulations on being featured on the front page of successful hub members.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Peggy, I have a compost bin, too, and am always amazed to see the rich earth it becomes after a while. There's a family of geckos that live in my bin and I have to be careful when I stir things up. Sometimes seeds sprout in mine as well.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      2 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for sharing all the instructions, Peg. This is a very useful article.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      2 months ago from Houston, Texas

      I have had some plants sprout in our compost pile and have successfully transplanted them into our small garden. Your ideas of sprouting your saved seeds are great and economical. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hi Pamela, Thanks so much. Today another useful container came to mind as I was making an applesauce cake. I'm saving the plastic cups that the sauce came in to use for sprouts.

      So glad to see you today and hope you are well.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      2 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I never thought about using egg cartons. I really like all of your great suggestions for growing plants, Peg.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Thank you, Marlene. I liked the results on the plastic bottle rims as well. I hope you'll share some new uses for these items.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      2 months ago from USA

      This is a very helpful article. I really like the idea of smoothing out the top of plastic containers with an iron. That opens up a lot of possibilities for me.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Mary, good luck with your sprouts. Hope you get good results from your gardening. I was amazed that some cantaloupe seeds I'd put aside in 2012 still were viable in 2020. Some of them are pictured in the photos. I also had good luck with bell peppers growing from their seeds.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Oh, Shauna, I love cherry tomatoes. So did my dog, Bucky, who used to reach her paw through the fence to pick her own. This year I'm trying out Roma tomatoes since that's what I had in the house. Not going out much these days during this "shelter in place."

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Becky, I haven't tried rooting any rose cuttings but it sounds like an excellent way to do it. Thanks for that idea, too. There are so many different methods for growing things. It's good to know the ones that work.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      2 months ago from Brazil

      I've been saving some water bottles to do this. As of yet I have done nothing. I needed this push to get me off the starting block.

      I like the idea of saving the seeds back too.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      2 months ago from Central Florida

      Thanks, Becky. That's good to know. My son's thumb has turned very green recently. So far, he's doing a great job in our yard. We've got cherry tomatoes coming out the wazoo!

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 

      2 months ago from Hereford, AZ

      Shauna, my son starts plants the same way as your son, and has had good luck. He started some rose cuttings for me, and planted them last year. It took a year to get them big enough to plant out of a pot. They are doing good this year. He has also started some tomatoes rooting in a baggie and transplanted into a pot when they were rooted good.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hello Mary, Thank you. I loved the way they turned out, too! And also glad my iron was not messed up after I finished ironing my bottles.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Well, Shauna, I've got to give him credit for innovation. Who knows? His idea might work. My lemon seeds (years old) were duds and didn't sprout but I gathered some new ones this week. Also trying an acorn seed I found.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hello dear Mckbirdbks, What a joy to see you pop in here to comment. Practical and economical are two of my favorite words. :) I am having fun with my little "trees." Hope to see you again soon. Take care.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      2 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Those containers look really good after ironing. Love them.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      2 months ago from Central Florida

      Peg, my son has some lemon seeds inside a damp paper towel, inside a baggie and taped to my kitchen window. Same with a couple of rose clippings. I think he'll have more success by trying your methods. :-)

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hi Shauna, I'm not sure there is a proper way to start seedlings as long as they grow. :) I've seen photos where people grow tomatoes from tomato slices put in the dirt. They are quite hearty.

      In colder climates (not so much in FL) it's important to be able to bring in the plants so they don't freeze when an unexpected cold front comes in. One year we had snow in mid April that killed some of my plants so it might be a good idea to start them indoors. Thanks for your positive response and hope you are staying safe and healthy.

      Oh, about the pavers, I like to say "borrowed with pride."

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 

      2 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hi Peg - What great fun. Smart, economical, practical, and offers fresh produce in the bargain. This artical is filled with good ideas.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      2 months ago from Central Florida

      Peggy, this is an awesome DIY article. My son has been experimenting with starting seedlings from seeds. After reading this, I see he's not been doing it correctly. I will definitely show him this article and keep it on hand for myself as well.

      Using pavers to separate each type of plant is a genius and attractive move. As Guy Fieri so often says, "I'm definitely stealing that"!

      Thank you so much for this. You've been a tremendous help!

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hi Bill, I figured you would be one who employs these sort of practical ideas. Waste not, want not. How are the chickens?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I love this practical DIY stuff. Bev and I have been doing this for a number of years now. Necessity being the mother of invention and all that. :) Great article, my friend!

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hi Flourish, I'm seeing a lot of folks online who have decided this is the year to grow some of their own food. It doesn't take much room. Even a patio container will produce a lot. I have some blueberry bushes growing in patio containers that I found at Home Depot a few years ago. Every year they bear enough fruit to freeze and use.

      I appreciate your encouragement and kind words. Hope you are well.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Becky, Last night the dogs nearly got two bunnies that were snacking in our fenced dog yard. For the life of me I can't understand why they come into the yard when there is so much vacant land around. They have tiny offspring they're tutoring, too. I'm reminded of Peter Rabbit.

      Thanks for the great idea of putting chicken wire under the soil. I figured they would burrow into the garden through tunnels, so that will help.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      2 months ago from USA

      You are so admirably organized, resourceful and industrious. Given our situation right now a lot of people should be growing their own food this year, I suspect. Your process is easy to follow.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 

      2 months ago from Hereford, AZ

      We have baby bunnies right now. I had to go chase them under cover, before I could let my son's dog out of my truck yesterday. I chased them under the car that doesn't run any more. I had to walk right up to the bumper of it to get them to go under the car. They are entirely too tame for their own good. I put chicken wire under the raised beds too. It keeps gophers and bunnies from digging up through the bottom to get the veggies. Roots can go through, but animals can't.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      What a smart idea, Becky, putting the seeds in the freezer. I've never tried that! Also smart to protect your garden with raised beds and chicken wire. We have so many rabbits out here, I have to go out on the back porch and stomp my feed to scare them away before I let the dogs out!

      So very glad to see you out here. It's been a long while. I hope you are doing well.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hi Maria!

      It was so delightful to see photos of Miss Fannie the other day along with her sweet brother. Running away with the tomato plants! What a hoot. My dog Bucky was a big fan of home grown (you pick) tomatoes and would reach between the fence wires and find her own. She also loved watermelon.

      And I'm also pleased to have you drop in for a spell and check out these sprouts.

      So good to see you and hope you all are doing well. Love and hugs.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 

      2 months ago from Hereford, AZ

      I have a bin in my freezer to put my harvested seeds in. I have read in several places, that seeds will last up to 10 years in the freezer. That way, if you lose some of your seeds, you have some from previous years. That is how the seed repositories keep them viable also.

      Maria's comment reminded me of my mom's dachshund and the carrots. My dad planted carrots and she loved them. He went out one day to find her digging them up and eating them. I have too many rabbits in my yard not to keep a fence up, with my raised beds. They can't dig from underneath, and with that 2 foot high fence of chicken wire, they can't go over either.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      2 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Smart to put a fence around your starter seedling garden, dear Peg. There was quite a commotion the other day when Miss Fannie went running through the yard with a beautiful tomato plant in her sweet mouth. At least, she is a healthy eater!

      Lovely to see your post and the hopefulness it brings with new life - thank you for the smiles. Love and hugs, Maria

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hello Liz, Gardening is so therapeutic during these days of stress and anxiety. I hope your daughter's garden turns out well.

      I could kick myself for throwing away several items recently that I could have used. But at least they went to the recycling place. :)

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      2 months ago from UK

      These are great tips. My daughter has started growing plants during lockdown. I will show her this. Disappointed that I threw away a cardboard drinks holder today.

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