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No green house? No problem! My unconventional solution that worked great!

Apr 10 2017 -
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It occurred to me last year when I purchased a few bell pepper plants at a local green house that if I was going to give this gardening thing a real shot then I was going to need to start my own seeds. (The cost of buying plants being a little too high for my frugal self.) However, I had two major obstacles in my way, firstly I don’t have a green house so I had to start my seedlings indoors and secondly I don’t have a good south facing area in my home for decent sunlight. I tackled the first problem by going to my drawing board because the second problem isn’t going to be changing anytime soon. It came to me when I was at Walmart and I stumbled upon the perfect mini green houses. “Disposable” roaster pans with clear plastic lids!

Inexpensive way to create mini green houses to start your own seedlings! Plant and grow your own vegetables by starting them from seed, easy and frugal!

(This is my first time planting seedlings so I fully expect(ed) this to be a serious learning experience! Also, you’ll notice, I’m starting very small this year with just a few different vegetable varieties!)

They were inexpensive (less then $4) and came in packs of two. From there I was confronted with the “traditional” plastic seed starting trays but that seemed like a really bad idea to me. Because I live in the northern part of Minnesota I am always dealing with extremely bipolar weather and that means it could be anywhere from mid April to early June when we would see our last frost. Of course I could always cover my plants once they were outdoors I didn’t want to take the chance of them getting too big for their containers and us getting hit by a late April snow storm! So I decided instead to put them in much larger containers and that took me to the disposable cup department and, $5 later, I bought around 50 styrofoam cups. Besides that my other purchase was a bag of organic seed starting soil and a bag of basic potting soil.

Inexpensive way to create mini green houses to start your own seedlings! Plant and grow your own vegetables by starting them from seed, easy and frugal!
Inexpensive way to create mini green houses to start your own seedlings! Plant and grow your own vegetables by starting them from seed, easy and frugal!

I spent around $30 all together and then an additional $30 on seeds. Why did my seeds cost so much? I purchased heirloom, non GMO, organic seeds off of Amazon knowing full well that I would probably be getting sent enough for this year, next year and probably the year after that too. And, I was right!

(sadly the asparagus seeds I purchased are no longer available so that link goes to the closet other product I could find on Amazon)

Spring is here in northern MN, I started my seedlings, I donated to the monarchs for milkweed and cold started them and I have myself a new rocking chair!

To start I set out all of my pans and then decided the best fit would be five cups in each. (My only complaint about the roaster pans is I wish they had flat bottoms!) The perfect tool for giving my cups drain holes turned out to be a bamboo skewer but anything with a sharp point would work fine. I made the holes by putting two cups together and pushing in the skewer through the bottoms of them five times and also through the sides a couple of times too. From there I filled them half up with potting soil and then the rest of the way with the seed starting soil.

Inexpensive way to create mini green houses to start your own seedlings! Plant and grow your own vegetables by starting them from seed, easy and frugal!Inexpensive way to create mini green houses to start your own seedlings! Plant and grow your own vegetables by starting them from seed, easy and frugal!
Spring is here in northern MN, I started my seedlings, I donated to the monarchs for milkweed and cold started them and I have myself a new rocking chair!

I planted at least two seeds in each cup and then gave them a good misting of room temperature water. I planted three pans (fifteen cups) of cucumbers, one pan (five cups) of tomatoes and two pans (ten cups each) of asparagus, green beans and sugar snap peas. Within a week I had several seedlings up (and did a little dance) and within two weeks all of my cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans and peas were up. And then by week three my asparagus finally came up too! At that point my green beans were just going crazy and I had to leave their lids off of them because they were hitting their heads. I did so many pans of cucumbers because I saw no reason why my mom or aunt should have to go buy cucumber seedlings when I had enough space to grow plenty for all of us!

Spring is here in northern MN, I started my seedlings, I donated to the monarchs for milkweed and cold started them and I have myself a new rocking chair!Spring is here in northern MN, I started my seedlings, I donated to the monarchs for milkweed and cold started them and I have myself a new rocking chair!Inexpensive way to create mini green houses to start your own seedlings! Plant and grow your own vegetables by starting them from seed, easy and frugal!Inexpensive way to create mini green houses to start your own seedlings! Plant and grow your own vegetables by starting them from seed, easy and frugal!Inexpensive way to create mini green houses to start your own seedlings! Plant and grow your own vegetables by starting them from seed, easy and frugal!

So, how did I deal with my second major problem of having no south facing windows? I didn’t really deal with it at all actually. There was only one place in our house by a window we had room to try this this year and that was in our entryway beneath two big west facing windows so that’s where they went. It is the brightest place in our rather dark home (love all of our trees but we really get little to no direct sunlight) ten feet across from those west facing windows are two identical east facing windows so though my little seedlings don’t get nearly as much sun as they want they still get quite a bit. This, however, still meant that my seedlings did get rather “leggy” which is something I knew I would be dealing with. Oh well. They are still healthy, ridiculously big already and doing great!

Next year I am going to address my sunlight problem. Have you seen these awesome shelf units on Amazon?

At $599 to say that one of those is a tad out of my price range is putting it mildly! But even if it wasn’t totally out of my price range it is still just a shelf with lights attached and, ya know what? I can totally build that! So, that’s going to be one of my projects next winter, I am going to build myself a grow shelf in the basement and I am very excited about it ๐Ÿ™‚

But, for now, my little seedlings are growing like crazy and I can’t wait to plant them in our new garden soon!

Inexpensive way to create mini green houses to start your own seedlings! Plant and grow your own vegetables by starting them from seed, easy and frugal!

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53 Comments

  1. April 11, 2017 at 1:52 am

    What an awesome idea! Thanks for sharing it!

  2. April 11, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Best idea ever! Now I just have to figure out that south facing window part. Thank you for sharing with us this week at Celebrate Your Story, have a great week and have a Happy Holiday.

  3. April 11, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Love the idea of the roaster pan! Save them to put over the small plants if you get a chilly night once they are outside. Also, look into Seedsnow.com. I got seeds from them for the first time this year and loved that I could get small 99 cent packs of heirloom non-GMO seeds… Might save some money over Amazon! Good luck with your veggies.

  4. Jann Olson
    April 13, 2017 at 1:28 am

    Great job! Starting your own seeds without a greenhouse takes a lot of work and time. I am so busy that I start seeds in the ground outdoors and buy plants for those that would take too long to start from seed. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

  5. April 13, 2017 at 2:04 am

    Great solution! We have used similar salad containers and others from foods… and they worked very well. Hope you have a wonderful garden this year. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. April 13, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    I enjoyed reading about how you solved your problems. Those aluminum foil pans and covers were a great idea. I wonder if next year if you might rather use peat pots because then you could plant the whole thing. I have a baker’s rack by an east/south sliding door, and this year for the first time I bought a grow light and used twine to suspend it from an upper shelf. It’s working out well to augment the natural light and my plants aren’t as leggy and bushier. Looks like you’re doing great!

    • April 15, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Hey Michelle! At one point a friend of my had a bad experience with peat pots. I was thinking next year I might just skip the cups entirely and just plant right there in the roaster pans!

  7. Helena
    April 14, 2017 at 9:33 am

    I really enjoy reading your posts ๐Ÿ™‚ I read this and thought of your clever idea. http://treadingmyownpath.com/2017/04/13/zero-waste-diy-newspaper-pots/

    If you’re ever feeling frugal enough to make your own newspaper pots – I like the idea that you can then plant the seedlings in their pots straight into your garden bed ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. April 16, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Tarah, I bet with a bit of pressing with a flat tool you could flaten the bottoms of your foil trays. I’m thinking a potato masher. My Mom has done this all her life. She started them in the house and moved them to the green house then outside and finally into the garden in June. May your harvest be great. Sylvia D.

    • April 17, 2017 at 1:06 pm

      Sylvia, that’s a great idea! I was worried about if they were tough enough for that but a potato masher would probably work great. Thanks for coming by and commenting!

  9. April 17, 2017 at 12:04 am

    Great solution! I couldn’t spend $599 on those shelves either, but they are very cool. Thanks for linking up at the Home Matters Link Party! We hope to see you again next week:) #HomeMattersParty

  10. April 17, 2017 at 12:40 am

    You have inspired me to give this a try. Thanks for sharing with us at #overthemoon. I’ve pinned and shared.

  11. anniebreland
    April 17, 2017 at 2:21 am

    I start my seeds in the clear container that strawberries or the clear container that you get take out salad in. I don’t put holes in container. I soak starting soil in water and plant seeds close cover. After seeds get about 1 1/2″ plant seeds in good planting soil in cups. Look at this web site http://www.southernexposure.com and http://www.heirloomgardener.com

    • April 17, 2017 at 1:10 pm

      Great tip! Thanks for coming by!

  12. April 20, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Such a great idea! Really want to try this out myself!

  13. April 22, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    What a neat idea! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I would love for you to share this with my Facebook Group for recipes, crafts, tips, and tricks: https://www.facebook.com/groups/pluckyrecipescraftstips/

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

  14. April 24, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    Gret idea and creative. It will save you so much money. I cannot wait to see your shelf project. Thanks for sharing your awesome idea at Dishing It & Digging It. Have a great week.

  15. April 30, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    I’m a fellow gardener, and I love this idea. Starting your own seeds saves tons of money. Thanks for sharing.

    • May 1, 2017 at 11:12 pm

      Thanks Rhonda! I think next year I might just plant right in the roasters and skip the cups ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Billie
    May 1, 2017 at 6:19 am

    Be sure to harden off those seedlings before planting them outdoors to slowly acclimate them. Since they’ve been sprouted indoors, they need to be gradually exposed to outside (an hour or two a day til you build up)

    • May 1, 2017 at 11:07 pm

      Thanks Billie I’m planning on planting this weekend so I’ll be putting them out a bit every day until then!

  17. May 7, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Brilliant! It looks like you’ve found a great solution. No doubt your greenhouse shelf will be fantastic too.
    We are frugal here as well and use toilet paper rolls, yogurt cups and tin cans for containers to get seeds started. All free and readily available.
    Hope you get to transplant soon and watch your seedlings soar!
    Visiting from Simple Saturdays.

    • May 8, 2017 at 2:57 pm

      Thank you Daisy! I’ll have to start saving toilet paper rolls for next year!

  18. May 10, 2017 at 6:41 am

    Great idea!! I pinned it to my gardening board ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. May 16, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    Awesome idea! Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home!

  20. June 12, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing at Inspire Me Monday. I wanted to let you know that you are one of my features this week. Come check it out at http://www.farmhouse40.com/inspire-me-monday-135

  21. Pat Cardinal
    June 12, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    Love the idea of roasting pans!
    And that you used non-gmo vintage seeds to grow your family’s food.
    Hate the idea of using styrofoam cups. It is almost never recyclable and never goes away. So much plastic in our environment now!
    If you go the route of planting directly into the roaster pan, you can cut cardboard dividers to section the soil and keep the roots from getting so intertwined.

    • June 12, 2017 at 4:25 pm

      Thanks Pat! I’ll be reusing the styrofoam cups next year, or use them for other things so I won’t just be throwing them away I promise! Thanks so much for coming by!

  22. June 12, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    This is such a helpful post! Maybe I should try this next year ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Liz Crone
    June 12, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    When you try the grow light thing, don’t buy the really expensive grow lights. Go to Lowes or I’m sure Home Depot and purchase one blue and one red florescent tubes. Then you can hang them on a chain that you can move them up or down. Turn your pots with seedlings in every couple of days to get the best lights.

    • June 12, 2017 at 4:26 pm

      Thanks for the tip Liz, I’ll definitely use that when I get to building it!

  24. Debbie R.
    June 25, 2017 at 2:28 am

    I have no room for tables in front of my windows, but my window ledges are wide. I use wallpaper trays (the kind you soak the roll of wallpaper in), plant using pellets and cover with plastic wrap. The pellets let me easily remove the plants and they don’t take up too much room. The trays fit nicely on the ledges and I can reuse them for seveal years!

    • June 26, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      Great Debbie! I wish I had big window sills like that, I always dreamed of having a big bay window someday but we just didn’t have a place for it here!

  25. June 25, 2017 at 10:50 am

    I can just see your healthy garden growing from those little seedlings, you will have such fun in your new garden. Everyone is hanging out to see your shelf.

    Kathleen
    Blogger’s Pit Stop

    • June 26, 2017 at 3:14 pm

      Thanks Kathleen, so far we have eight peas ๐Ÿ™‚

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