Seed Starting: DIY Pods and Markers

HAPPY FIRST DAY OF SPRING!! I’m so happy it’s here, because I am READY to GARDEN! Since this is my first garden, I planned on keeping it simple. Of course, that’s not really my way and the more I researched the more I thought, “Well, if I’m going to do it, let’s DO it!” After getting a bit carried away, I decided on my game plan but still had some prep work to do. I had 3 types of tomatoes, 3 types of lettuce, 4 bush pickle cucumbers and various herbs that all needed to be started asap. I actually realized too late that the tomatoes were suppose to start on Valentine’s Day, but we’ll chalk that up to a beginners mistake.

Laying around the house, I had about 14 little starter pods by Burpee similar to these except mine are ~1 inch instead of 3. Since we would be dishing out a nice chuck of change for the soil to fill the raised beds and containers, I needed to keep costs low so I researched a bit and found some great diy options. I opted to go for smaller pods to start and I followed this awesome tutorial which shows how to create starter pods from paper pulp. Eventually, after they sprout their first set of true leaves, I plan on moving them up to these awesome, larger pods from folded newspaper but those haven’t been made yet. With both of these options, you fully plant the pod so no worrying about getting them out! Hooray, easy gardening!

IMG_2921  The first step was to shred some paper. I always forget Sam has this shredder which is why it’s crazy dusty!! Fun fact: With the exception of a few sheets of notebook paper, these pods were make entirely from my paycheck envelopes from last year. I keep my paycheck stubs in the envelopes until tax time and then organize them into one brown envelope to file them away. I keep a brown bag for paper recycling in the craft room (a habit I picked up from my sis, though hers is under the kitchen sink) so I just pulled the old envelopes from the bottom and shredded those pups up! Note: I shredded way too many because it was fun!

After that, you load some of the paper shreds into a blender and add some warm water. The tutorial said just a bit, but I needed to add almost 2.5 cups before it would get nice and pulpy. Next, you let the pulp drain the water out in a colander and then form the pulp into the muffin cups. I thought that it might be easier to lay some cheesecloth down in the colander and then you could squeeze the water out and maybe speed up the process but I couldn’t find my cheesecloth. I rummaged around, found some thin yellow fabric leftover from my Robin costume and used that instead.

IMG_2924After the first batch of paper pulp, I ditched the colander all together. I felt like it was just over complicating things. Also, I didn’t like wasting the water so I came up with this method.

1) Cram paper shreds into blender and blend with 3-4 cups water.

2) Dump watery, pulpy mess into a bowl and cram some more paper shreds into the blender.

3) Scoop up some of the pulpy mess and squeeze most of the water back into the blender and put the pulp lump into the muffin pan.

4) Form the pulp lump into a muffin cup, adding more pulp as needed. I found that putting it in the center and then pressing it out to the sides worked best to make these fast and not too thick. Then, if you have a hole in the bottom and need more pulp, you can just press it into a disc between your hands.

5) Bake in the oven at 400, checking every 30 minutes. Mine took about 1.5-2 hours, but my oven is old and cranky. I’m assuming these can catch fire pretty easily, so be careful 😉 The tutorial let sit for 24 hours and then baked at 220 for 1 hour. Wanting to go faster and since I used so much more water than she did, I baked longer at a higher temperature. Try whatever you feel comfortable with and just keep checking in on them to be safe.

6) Repeat process but only add warm water as you need it.

IMG_2927 I highly suggest lightly greasing your muffin pans or using a light spray. Out of the 3 muffin pans I used: 1 didn’t stick at all, 1 was about 40/60 and the last I had to let sit overnight to get out and then reformed and re-baked them the next day. These were flimsy and weak and I wound up tossing all but 1 and had to make another batch. Boo! On these last ones, I tried some Crisco on the 40/60 pan and they popped out no problem. They also seemed to bake faster (and had a lovely golden brown color on the outside) and turned out sturdier and thinner.

I also feel like you could probably bypass the blender all together by letting the paper soak overnight. I’ve also thought that you might be able to take strips of paper, dip them in water and lay them into the muffin cups. Treating the process like paper mache but only using water instead of the flour mixture. If anyone tries either of these, I’d love to hear your results! I’m all about streamlining the process! (And I might have almost burnt out our blender motor but it is super old! Anyway, it’s a craft blender now and I have to buy us a new one. Just in time for frozen drink season!!)

Besides the tomatoes, my first plantings were going to be all 3 lettuce, my cucumbers and my herbs (minus rosemary, mint and lavendar). Since the tomatoes were almost a month behind, I figured a couple more days wouldn’t hurt them 🙂 While waiting to plant, I made some plant markers for the seed pods. I tossed around a couple ideas but, after checking out this post, I knew what I was going to do. For the seed pods, I would use clothespins and then the paint sticks for outside. I really loved the peeled stick markers but, I can’t lie, I ADORE my peeler! So much that the picture made me cringe! (My friend, Jessica, is obsessed with her chopper so I know I’m not being crazy)

IMG_2939Back to the clothespins: I thought those were a bit plain and I had these new Sharpie paint markers to try out, so I decided to paint mine. I painted from the metal up and left the 2 little indentions plain because I thought it looked cool. I then used a fine point Sharpie to label all the pins. I made 2 for each different seed I was planting. If your pods are tall, like my burpee ones, make sure you pin the clothespin as low as possible as they make the seed pods top heavy. My first couple were too high and toppled the pod over. After pinning as low as I could, they were more stable, but still a bit too wobbly for my liking. They worked perfectly on the muffin pods though! Also, those Sharpie paint pens are awesome and dry super fast! It went so fast which was awesome since I’m normally rushing around last minute. In fact, I had forgotten to make the herbs ones and I whipped those up while my starter soil was soaking.


My first planting day was scheduled for March 10th, but something WONDERFUL came up which I will post about at a different time, so I actually started my seeds on March 12th. I set up a work table in my kitchen and meticulously counted out those tiny seeds. Seriously, some of the herbs seeds were just specks! I was so nervous! After that, I rigged up some grow lights under a table in the kitchen with some bungees. The seed pods were too low on one side, so I pulled in some milk crates to raise them up closer.

I sat back to admire my work and remembered how our one cat , Shag, loves to eat dirt…well that made me nervous, so I grab some random chicken wire Sam had on the porch and ‘fenced’ it off with some stools. All in all, pretty gosh darn proud of myself!

IMG_2947   IMG_2946


4 thoughts on “Seed Starting: DIY Pods and Markers

  1. I am super, super impressed! You are so creative! I am way too lazy to do anything like this!

    And I do love my chopper so I can relate to a good peeler as well!



  2. The blender chops the paper up and makes it easier for it to decompose. If it is laid in strips, unchopped, it would take much longer for it to decompose and the tiny seed roots may not be able to get through. We used wet newspaper once as mulch as the bottom-most layer and was shocked at how much was left over at the end of the season!

  3. Pingback: Continuing Garden Preparations | Sam Squared

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