Starting your own seeds is one way to save on vegetable gardening expenses. While a tomato plant often costs $1.25, the same $1.25 can buy you a packet of 20 to 30 tomato seeds, making the cost of the plant pennies on the dollar. As long as you don’t spend a lot on the seed starting supplies, you can keep your per plant cost well under $1.25. Share your extra seeds with friends.
When I start seeds, I stick to cool weather vegetables – lettuce, spinach, broccoli – spring annuals, and our bigger crops – peppers and tomatoes. If I have extra supplies and space, I also start herbs like basil and parsley. If you’re reusing seeds from a previous year, always check the packet for the expiration date. Most seeds are fine for sprouting the second year especially if they’ve been stored in a cool, dry place during the winter.
USDA Hardiness Zone: First and Last Frost Dates
All seed packets provide information for deciding when to start the seeds and where to start them. Some seeds, like sugar snap peas, beans, and carrots, are sown directly in the ground. Depending on your zone, other seeds need to be started inside and transplanted at the correct time to take full advantage of your growing season. You’ll need to know your USDA Hardiness Zone and the first and last frost dates for your zone to determine when to plant and transplant the seeds. Write out your own seed starting calendar to make sure you don’t forget the dates.
Seed Starting Supplies
- plastic tray – usually under $2
- peat pots
- seed starting soil
- seed packets
- plant identification tags
Build Your Own Seed Starting Kit
Most people can build their own seed starting kit using supplies they have around the house or bought at the dollar store. The seed starting tray needs to be about 3 inches deep to hold the 2 to 3 inch pots. An aluminum pan works just as well as this seed starting tray I bought at the hardware store for $1.99.
I bought the peat pots at the Dollar Tree; they were 8 for $1. I also found the seed starting soil at the Dollar Tree for $1. The 2-quart bag filled approximately 64 pots. Recycled containers would work just as well. However, I would suggest poking a few holes in the bottom of the containers for drainage.
You can also pick up a kit at your local Home Depot or Lowe’s along with the seed starting soil. I bought this Jiffy kit for 50 plants for $5.97 at my local Home Depot. I spent slightly less money buying my supplies separately though my homemade kit only holds 32 plants. If you don’t want the mess of filling the pots, a Jiffy kit with peat pellets runs about $15.97.
Identify Those Seeds!
Don’t forget to put in seed markers to identify your plants. Stick to materials that can get wet. Popsicle sticks make a frugal plant marker though the water will eventually mess up the writing. I took a plastic gallon milk jug and cut it into strips to make plant markers.
What’s the first crop you plant in the spring?
Barb is a mom of 5 kids who spends her day keeping track of socks, stuffed animals, library books, and a 5 year old when she isn’t writing about all the frugality, gardening, cooking, and reading she manages to fit in between the chaotic moments. She can be found at A Life in Balance.