Everything You Need To Know About Seed Starting Containers

Everything You Need To Know About Seed Starting Containers

Last Updated On: February 9, 2023

Getting a seed starting container is easier than you think, even when you’re not sure how to go about it. Our list covers seed starting containers that are commercially available, as well as those you can make yourself. We’ll look at the basics of using each kind to start your seeds, as well as some pros and cons for each.

Let’s start with the ones you can find in your local garden centers or online.

Plastic Seed Containers

Plastic seed containers are some of the most popular types. They come in a wide range of styles, so there’s a good variety to fit your garden. However, the most common ones are the basic black plastic seed trays found in most garden centers. These will more often than not come with a clear, plastic lid as well.

These can come in many sizes, with small ones more suited to small seedlings. Look for one with a deep soil base to lessen root trauma prior to transplanting. Where possible, recycle, reuse, or repurpose these containers as much as possible to lessen landfill contribution. A standard plastic container can be reused for multiple growing seasons without any issues.


  • The biggest advantage of plastic is that they are extremely affordable and easy to find.
  • Plastic containers are also reusable up to a certain degree, lowering your overall costs.
  • Another distinct benefit is that you can easily find one in the size that suits your purposes.
  • Plastic seed containers are the most preferred seed starting containers due to their durability, convenience, and overall effectiveness.


  • Unfortunately, most plastic containers are not biodegradable.
  • They can be a bit boring and visually uninteresting without some work.
  • Overall, plastic containers are some of the most popular, and the easy choice for those unsure. If you’re looking for a cheap, easy way to start your seeds then plastic is an obvious choice and our generic recommendation.

Peat Pellet Seed Containers

These small disks are compressed pieces of peat that are covered by a thin layer of netting. Peat pellet containers are often sold as parts of mini greenhouse kits, complete with clear plastic domes and watering trays. However, you can also buy them individually.

Peat pellet seed containers are usually soaked in water until they expand three to five times their original size. When using peat pellets, the seedlings are trained to grow as plugs that are eventually inserted into the ground or in a larger pot.


  • Bulk purchases often result in bigger savings compared to individually bought pieces.
  • Aside from this, peat pellet containers are easy to store as they are small and compact.
  • These types of seed containers also fit conveniently in seed starting trays.
  • They’re natural and biodegradable.


  • Peat pellet containers can be too small for many seedlings.
  • The netting can restrict and cause trauma to the initial root growth of the seedlings.
  • Repotting or transplanting can stress small seedlings.

Peat or Coir Pots

These types of seed starting containers are made of peat, coir, or a combination of both. The pressed fibers are quite popular because they encourage a more biodegradable approach to growing plants from seeds. Similar to peat pellet containers, they can be plugged into the ground or bigger containers once the seedlings are established.

They are available in many gardening centers, physically as well as online. They are often sold in packs and can result in bigger savings if purchased in bulk.


  • These containers tend to be larger than peat pellet containers.
  • It is easier to repot without stressing the seedling’s roots or the seedling itself.
  • Plus, the materials make these more sustainable than plastic containers.


  • The pots can be expensive, especially if they are from imported sources.
  • Aside from the cost, the roots of the seedlings can be constrained by the material and become root-bound.
  • The material can wick away moisture, especially when it has not degraded yet.

Mini-Greenhouse seed starting Trays

While the previous three types of containers can be bought individually, they can also be purchased as part of seed starting kits that include mini-greenhouses. Typically, the kits come with a plastic bottom tray that allows water to drain through the grooves.

The pots are placed over the tray and then covered with a clear plastic covering. While the plastic cover can encourage humidity, too much can cause fungi to grow. Once the seeds start to show, it’s best to remove the plastic covering to avoid fungi or mold growth.


  • Mini-greenhouse seed starter trays are efficient and convenient to use.
  • Additionally, these types of set-ups encourage a neater aesthetic appeal.
  • Finally, they are reusable, allowing you to save money in the long run.


  • Mini-greenhouse seed starting trays are suitable primarily for smaller seedlings in early stages of growth.
  • While it can work for larger seedlings, you may need to get a bigger covering if you want to grow them into maturity.
  • Leaving it on, the plastic covering can encourage fungi or mold to develop and spread.

Self-Watering Trays

Self-watering trays are great picks if you tend to forget about watering your seeds or are often gone for a period of time. Pots are placed on a fiber pad that draws water from a reservoir found below the tray. In order for it to work, the pad must be soaked and the reservoir full.

This system works by allowing the pad to absorb water. The pad then provides adequate moisture for the pots and soil. This allows the seeds to be perfectly hydrated without the threat of fungi. To lessen the risk, rinse the wick with some peroxide to eliminate possible fungal spores.


  • The biggest advantage to using self-watering trays is that you can leave them alone for days.
  • Another benefit is that seeds get the right amount of moisture from the moist soil.
  • Plus, they are low-maintenance and reusable, especially if you take care of them.


  • Self-watering trays can be costly and may not be the best choice if you’re on a budget.
  • Aside from the cost, the wick can promote fungal growth if it is not regularly cleaned.

DIY seed starting Containers

If you’re looking for more earth-friendly and affordable options, then this section is for you. These DIY seed starting container ideas can be made by reusing, recycling, or repurposing items that you already have in your home. Here are some ideas you can try:

Eggshells and Egg Cartons

Unless you’re allergic to eggs, you can easily grow seeds from used eggshells. Simply make a small hole in each shell for drainage, place some potting soil in the shell, and cover your seed with soil. You can even use the carton that the eggs came with as trays to stabilize the shells.

On the other hand, you can also use egg cartons by themselves as seed starting containers. Use the same method as you would with eggshells, and you have a free seed starter kit. Once established, you can easily transplant your seedlings in their permanent containers.


  • The great thing about using eggshells and egg cartons is that the cost is extremely low.
  • Plus, they are biodegradable solutions compared to plastic containers.
  • Aside from this, eggshells release calcium carbonate into the soil and make it more alkaline, which is a more suitable soil pH level for many seedlings.


  • While eggshells are hardier, egg cartons can degrade quickly, especially if constantly moist.
  • Additionally, these natural containers are more suited to small seedlings.
  • If you have seedlings that prefer a more acidic soil pH level, then eggshells might not work.

Avocado Skins

If you don’t have any at home, you can always ask nearby restaurants if they have avocado skins they want to dispose of. Intact halved avocado skins are great options to start growing seeds because they are biodegradable.

Avocado skins allow larger seedlings like tomatoes to grow. Simply fill the hollowed-out skin with some soil, plop in your seeds, and moisten the soil. Once established, you can transplant your seedlings without a hitch.


  • Collected avocado skins cost almost nothing to use as seed starting containers.
  • They are biodegradable, which allows you to garden in an earth-friendly manner.
  • Avocado skins can accommodate larger seedlings aside from small ones.


  • Since they are biodegradable, the skins do break down over time.
  • Avocado skins are not always in season, so you may find it hard to find any throughout the year.

Toilet Paper Rolls

These are among the most underused items in the house that often get thrown away. Toilet paper rolls have a lot of uses, from household decor to repurposed organizing tools. For gardening, they are invaluable as seed starting containers.

Toilet paper rolls are ideal containers because they are biodegradable yet hold their shape well over a period of time. Plus, if you don’t have any, you can always ask your family, friends, and neighbors for some as almost everyone is likely to have a few at some point.


  • Toilet paper rolls are incredibly affordable options as seed starting containers.
  • They are readily available, biodegradable, and multi-functional.
  • As an added bonus, using toilet paper rolls as containers lessen landfill contributions.


  • While they are inexpensive choices, making containers from toilet paper rolls requires time and effort.
  • It may also take time to accumulate the rolls over time unless you can get your hands on several at a time.
  • You also need to provide some base or grow in an area where you don’t mind a bit of soil getting out.

Sock Seed Containers

If you have old socks, then they make the perfect seed starting containers. They already have the perfect structure and texture that allows them to stand without falling while allowing water to drain well. Plus, their material ensures that your soil does not become dry or waterlogged.

Aside from old socks, you can always use socks that no longer have a pair. Even if they’re new ones, you can always reuse and repurpose them instead of throwing single socks away. Plus, they serve as great décor, especially if your socks are fun and colorful.


  • Socks filled with soil are stable containers with the right amount of drainage.
  • Using old or single socks is basically free and quite biodegradable.
  • By repurposing socks as seed containers, you eliminate your landfill contribution.
  • They’re also unique containers that are sure to get people talking.


  • Old or single socks may not always be available to you, especially if you live alone.
  • When kept in humid conditions, socks may develop mold or fungi.

Takeout Containers and Cups

There are so many takeout options and deliveries these days that their containers end up in landfills unnecessarily. If you or anyone you know has a lot of takeout containers, you can use them as seed starting pods.

If you want to be particularly earth-friendly, look for containers that are classified as truly biodegradable. Look for cardboard containers because they are better for the environment. Takeout containers are also great for growing microgreens as they are often wide and shallow.


  • Takeout containers are affordable options especially when you get them for free.
  • While many are plastic, more companies are using more materials that are environmentally conscious and sustainable.
  • Look for biodegradable containers that you can easily plug into the ground or in larger containers.


  • Given that they are from diverse sources, takeout containers may not be uniformly pleasing to the eye.
  • It can also be challenging to find only biodegradable options, so you may wind up with a mix of plastic takeout containers.

seed starting Containers

Starting seeds is always an exciting adventure for any gardener, whether you use commercial containers or repurposed household items. The key point is that whatever choices you make, you enjoy the process of growing plants from seeds.

Now that you know you have so many seed starting container options to choose from, we’re curious to know your thoughts. Which materials do you plan to use? And what seeds are you thinking of growing? Let us know in the comments below!

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