Cheap Garden Pots for Seedlings: 52 Weeks of Tips

Hell everyone!

Week 4 is here with a new tip! Those of you in the north are probably planting onions in the next few weeks, those of you more south are probably putting in tomatoes and peppers soon, so this should help. This is one I use myself every year.

Let me tell you a story. Every single year I get on Amazon about Dec/Jan and start looking for an amazing deal on pots. Usually I’m looking for those little 3″ pots that you buy seedlings in at the store. Well, every year I find a great deal, but I have no money to buy it straight away. Some time goes by and finally, duh, I remember that I don’t use those pots unless I get them for free. Don’t be like me and be forgetful, just do this.

Cheap Garden Pots

Buy paper cups! Duh! It took me forever to figure this out, someone on youtube had to tell me. I feel so dumb.


I buy paper cups for a few reasons, but mostly because they are easily disposed of (burned or composted) and they are super cheap. Terracotta pots are hella expensive (I used to make my own, but alas, the studio is not up and running) and they have a tendency to break if they freeze. Plastic pots are cheap, but they get brittle in the sun, the break easily and they never, ever, ever break down. When we moved in I was pulling plastic pieces from pots up on our property while tilling, from the 1970’s or before, they were in perfect condition. Peat pots are a favorite among gardeners, but I’m not comfortable with their sustainability and the damage that is done to peat bogs by their making. I avoid peat at all costs.

It’s true, I do use plastic flats with cell trays. I’m working on a way to remedy this, but until I can afford to build all the wooden seed trays, I’ll use and reuse what I have.

To switch over to paper cups is really easy. Just go to the store and buy COLD water paper cups. Cold cups are waxed (usually) while hot cups are lined with plastic. If you want a purely compostable, unwaxed, unlined cup you will probably have to spend a lot of money and special order them online. That was the only place I could find them. Even then, those cups need some sort of wax or liner that stops the water from penetrating them, so they take a while to compost nonetheless.

I directly seed tomatoes, peppers and larger plants  in the cups that are 3/4 filled with soil. Make sure you poke a hole in the bottom. I also transplant cell plugs of kale, broccoli and others into the cups if they get too big. When you are done with the cups they are easily burnable or you can compost them. I prefer burning because I don’t want paraffin wax in my compost pile (it’s made from petroleum).

So, not the most sustainable thing on the planet, but spending $5 on 100 cups instead of $30 on 100 plastic pots will help you save money in your garden start up and may help you purchase/build a more sustainable option down the road.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Lydia Noyes says:

    My plan exactly. So excited to start seeds in a few weeks! (My onions should be coming soon.) My biggest project so far has been building a table in the garden shed in order to start my seeds, (, but when I do start them I will be using paper cups and clear plastic bins with some holes drilled into the bottom. You can see some pictures of them in the link I attached.

    1. I actually just got that article in my email, I was just about to read it! I’m still working on getting more space. I ordered a lot of cuttings this year for trees and now I don’t have any space to grow veggies. I’m going to have to improvise!

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