Repotting Seedlings with Repurposing Hints

Reader Contribution by Blythe Pelham
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My husband recently chuckled when he found 8 of our indoor cats sitting outside the guest bedroom door listening to me chatter away to my seedlings. Yes, I talk to my seedlings. During this time of year, I greet my green progeny with a lilting, “Good morning, babies!” as I turn on their lights. I coo and squeal with delight at their progress. Each night I congratulate them and urge them to keep working hard overnight as I turn out their lights and tuck them in.

Many days between starting the first seeds and transplanting everyone into the garden are spent with high interactivity—spritzing them, watering them, or potting them on as they outgrow their starter blocks. I usually wait until they have at least their second set of leaves before potting them on, but some babies grow too tall, too quickly and have to be rescued more quickly—one of my Rouge Vif D’Etampes pumpkins was raising the mini greenhouse roof at a mere 24-hours old.

For the first couple of days after potting on, each baby gets its own inverted plastic cup top to help it through transplant shock. I spritz its leaves and choose from one of the three sizes that I have been using and reusing for years. For the bottom (or pot), I’ve used a variety of containers for potting on through the years. Before we stopped drinking milk, I’d repurpose the bottoms of the carton. Now that we drink almond and coconut milk, I cut the containers in half, take off the pour spout, and use both pieces (see photo below). It’s vital to poke holes in the bottom of your carton or cup (if you’re repurposing yogurt containers) so that the water can drain.

I use painter’s tape for labeling each plant so I know who’s who. As shown below, I’ve not only written “Green Drum” for the type of gourd going into the pot, but I’ve also included the number of the spot where it started in the tray. This is a holdover from our homeschooling days when our eldest and I were gardening together.

I wrote about a failed seedling crop a couple of years ago and how finding a trustworthy garden center was the next best thing to growing your own. Fortunately, I haven’t had a repeat of that year, though I still enjoy finding plants to adopt. This year, I’ll likely stick to adopting flowers only. I have more than enough vegetables to find room for—my tomato plants number 61 all by themselves.

Another favorite repurpose is the plastic containers that salad greens come in at the grocer (see photo below). I use two of these for seeds that prefer to sit on top of the soil for germination, with one container inverted to become the top of the greenhouse. For those requiring a light covering for germination, I sprinkle a little vermiculite over the top and spritz. I mist these babies daily until they are well-established, then water and spritz as needed. The labels on the top are handy for writing start date and type of seed and I use small clips to hold the top to the bottom.

I love my shelving unit (purchased at Costco). The important thing is to find heavy duty shelves that allow for versatility and lighting. For those who don’t go overboard with the amount of seedlings like I do, a friend of mine was recently expounding on the attributes of her growing system because the light can be raised above the table as the plants grow. When we grew our plants in the basement on tables, I used the same lights shown in the first photo on chains that could be raised or lowered as needed.

I like to repurpose things as much as I can. During non-seedling season, these shelves begin to collect things that I’ll need next growing season. I also use them to dry clay goodies that will fire in the kiln or they serve as a way station for things that eventually find a permanent resting spot. Sometimes the shelves even extend our pantry. Perhaps when our son comes to visit and help with canning season in September, we’ll put some of our finished product on the shelves so he can admire our hard work as he relaxes at the end of the day.

At the age of 60 I’ve come to know that while not all of us are eccentric many of us have eccentricities. A generous soul at heart, I figure we might as well share these unconventional ideas and behaviors with others because they often hold learning opportunities—something I’m always up for. Whether or not you start talking to your plants, I suggest you try—if for no other reason than it drives the kittehs bonkers with curiosity. And as always reuse, recycle, and repurpose!

Photos by author.

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online atHumings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWSposts here.


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