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Sustainable Seed Starting Tips: 10 Easy Ways To Go Green |


Our planet is on a precipice. We’re balancing between the need to provide food, water and shelter (along with some creature comforts) while at the same time suffering from diminished biodiversity, pollution, deforestation, soil depletion, drought, warming oceans, plastic reliance, overpopulation and so much more. That is why sustainable gardening is even more important than ever before.

10 Sustainable Seed Starting Tips

There is a multitude of ways each person can help. One of these is sustainable seed starting. Growing your own food is great but go a step further by using sustainable seeds combined with eco-friendly seed starting. This small step can have a huge impact on future generations and the environment.

1. Use Plantable Containers

Plantable containers are planted with the seed or seedling right into the soil. The plant’s roots then grow through the material and the container naturally decomposes into the soil. The containers may be made out of bioplastic, coconut coir, manure, paper, rice hulls, straw or wood fibers. Not only are these more environmentally sustainable options, but plantable containers help reduce transplant shock, encourage plant growth, and reduce the use of non-renewable container sources.

2. Look for Peat Alternatives

While peat is a natural material, it is not sustainable. It actually takes hundreds of years to form peat, the decaying remains of sphagnum moss. A better, sustainable alternative is to start seeds in coir pellets. These pellets are made from what was once considered to be agricultural waste; coconut husks now contribute to seed sustainability. Plus coir easily absorbs water without getting soggy, an issue with peat products, and does not transmit fungal disease that contributes to damping off.

3. Plant Sustainable Crops

When looking for sustainable crops, look to native species, those with deep tap roots, and those which are drought tolerant. Beans, for example, are quite drought tolerant plus there are hundreds of varieties to choose from. Root veggies have a low carbon footprint since they require little water, are an efficient use of space, and are fairly quick to grow. Tomatoes, melons and squash, with their deep root systems, are excellent sustainable crops, reducing supplemental water dependence.

4. Don’t Buy Containers, Try DIY

We’ve already talked about coir pellets for seed starting, but you can also make your own seed pots. DIY seed pots can be made from newspaper, paper mache (using a paste of flour and water, not glue), or even used toilet paper rolls. Paper egg cartons can be repurposed and even separated and planted directly into the ground. You can start your seeds, and plant them directly into the ground in empty egg shells or citrus peels! If you’re hopelessly uncrafty, there are also plenty of household items that can be reused as containers such as small yogurt cups, soda bottles, tin cans and the like.

5. Get Rid of Containers Completely

Don’t buy containers at all? That’s right. For the ultimate in sustainable seed starting pots, use soil. You can buy or make a DIY soil blocker, a device that once damp soil or potting mix is inserted, compresses the medium then releases it in the form of little blocks or plugs. You can make your own using soup cans or PVC piping if you’re feeling particularly crafty.

6. Save Energy, Use Sunlight

Use the natural power of our sun instead of using electric, battery or gas power to facilitate growth in your plants. Also – surprise – most seeds do not need light to germinate. They do need heat, however. Once they’ve germinated, they will need light to photosynthesize. Place them in an area of indirect but bright light. Avoid full sun, hot southern exposures which will dry out the soil rapidly.

7. Make a Mini Greenhouse

Along the same lines as above, make a mini greenhouse out of a used plastic milk jug, soda container, to-go container (those salad ones with an attached lid are great) or similar items. Wash out the soda or milk bottle and then cut it. The bottom portion will be your seed starting area and the top is the “roof” of your mini greenhouse. Then all you need to do is make some drainage holes, fill the container with damp soil or soilless medium, plant your seeds and replace the top. Voila, mini milk jug seed pot.

8. Plant Seeds From Your Favorite Fruit

Did you know you can plant fruit seeds? It’s true, although with the caveat that the resulting tree will not produce the same fruit from whence it came. You might, though, create an entirely different cultivar! There are a few ways to germinate fruit seeds, but before you even try, know that apple, cherry, peach, pear and other common tree fruits require a chilling period before they will germinate.

9. Hold Onto Expired Seeds

Seeds generally have an expiration date. The date on the package may be the date the seeds were packed, or a “sell by” date or “use by” date. As with food, the date is often a suggestion. It doesn’t necessarily mean the seeds are non-viable; in fact if you’ve stored them in a cool, dry area, they might be just fine. To test the waters, place about 10 seeds on a moist paper towel and put the it in a clear plastic sealable bag. After about 10 days, check on your seeds. If half of them have sprouted, you have moderately viable seeds. In this case, oversow a bit with the knowledge that in the best case scenario, you may need to thin plants out.

10. Support Native Plants, Find Your Local Seed Bank

Lastly, a great way to implement sustainable seed starting is by using a community seed bank. Seed banks are goldmines for seeds; some rare, some common, some heirloom, often native. Native plants are the most sustainable option as they have acclimated to local conditions over hundreds if not thousands of years. They usually require less maintenance than hybrids or seeds collected from other locations. Plus, you can start your own seed bank for your family alone, or on a local, regional or even an international level.



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