Help with containers

pixie_louMay 13, 2011

I've overwintered seeds in my garden before with limited success. So I have decided to try my luck with winter sowing in containers next winter.

I need some advice on containers.

My daughter is lactose intolerant, so I don't buy milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. I don't buy soda. I don't buy bakery items at the store. It's been 3 weeks since I went to the dump, so I looked through my recycling bin last night to see what I could salvage. I was able to grab a couple strawberry clamshell packages and a plastic container that I had bought some dried fruit in. Otherwise my recycling bin had a bunch of coffee cans and misc packaging in it.

I was thinking of holding on to the plastic pots when I buy my seedlings at the nursery next week. I figure I could put saran wrap over the top. But I'm concerned about the black color.

Any ideas?

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sometimes starbucks has milk containers. You could call them and have them save them for you.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 11:21AM
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PVick(6b NYC)

Do you buy bottled water (gallons, pref)? They'll work.

The nursery pots will work fine, no matter the color, as long as they are big enough to hold at least 3-4" of potting mix. I've used 4" transplant pots; stick some straws or skewers in the sides and enclose them in vented plastic bags (better than saran wrap, and provides headroom when the seeds germinate and begin to grow). Large plastic cups work well too - I've used clear, black, red, whatever color I could get.

Be careful of the clamshells and plastic food containers; if you're lucky enough to snag some nice deep ones, by all means take them! But a lot of them are too shallow to maintain good soil moisture, so don't use those.

Check here to see various containers you can use (just ignore the shallow plastic ones - I was a newbie back then!)


    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 12:21PM
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Lasagna pans work great for me. Then I place the pan in a comforter bag during winter. I put vent holes in the top of the bag and drainage holes in the bottom.

I have used the plastic coffee cans and they work fine even using the black lid.

A few others I have used, grated cheese, dishwashing liquid, ketchup, peanut butter, juice bottles, water bottles.

Ones I will never use again are the rotessiore chicken shell and a pie tin.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 1:14PM
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PV - thanks for the photo link. And thanks for the tip about the depth. I'll go measure that strawberry clamshell, and toss it back in the recyling if necessary.

Thanks for the ideas carolyn. We go thru lots of ketchup, peanut butter and dishwashing liquid. So I will start to save those. I'll try to buy more of the cheap coffee in the red plastic cans.

I'll start saving those big plastic cups whenever we get them.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 2:02PM
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Hey Pixie-Lou,

I was able to score some 5lb BBQ tubs and his milk jugs from a local hot dog, milkshake place. Also, after contacting the local authorities in my city, I scalvaged a few from the recycling bins near my sons school; I was very picky and took gallon water jugs, the large Hi-C juice jugs and an occassional 2 liter/3 liter that had been obviously rinsed well. I also used the large sweet tea cup from the golden arches drive thru topped with a piece of plastic and a rubber band to hold it on.. poke a few holes.. worked great! Best Wishes! ~Lisa/NC Zone 7b

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 4:19PM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

Many people use plastic drinking cups inside of large clear storage boxes which works well. I also like the quart sized yogurt/cottage cheese tubs which hold about as much as the 2L bottles. I just take a utility knife and cut out the center of the opaque lid and then put a thick piece of plastic film under the rim and poke some holes in it. When it starts to warm up you can just use your fingers to rip the plastic open a little more for better ventilation.

Just remember the smaller the container the quicker it will dry out. Also containers without smooth straight sides can be a real pain to get the seedlings out of. If you plan to do a lot of sowing having containers like the yogurt tubs or drink cups is nice because they are very easy to get the seedlings out of and they nest together to store for the next year. Try a mix of different containers to see what works best for you. I use large milk/water/vinegar jugs for the stuff I sow early because they are the largest and hold up best to the elements, and need the least supplemental watering. Then I start using the yogurt cups for things I don't have as much seed for. I only use the drink cups in storage boxes for spring sowing like my tomatoes and tender annuals. I also keep these near the house so I can more easily monitor them. They need more watering and also need the lids taken off and put back on more often with our wacky weather here. This week again we had a high of 90, then two days later a high in the 50s.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 5:36PM
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I've used anything I think will work. You can look at my latest thread and see a few different things I've used. Don't recommend tp rolls, thought them a good idea. Nor do I recommend the tinier plastic cups. Lots of milk jugs, both quart and half gallon. You can get people to save them for you and don't fuss if there's a little milk residue, just not a stinky or dried mess.

I bought a bunch of oversized, deep cell 6-cell packs; like them but paid too much for plastic covers that fit, will have to figure out something different. Scrounged other used cell packs, take less soil and easy to sow, easy to get mixed up too if you don't label each one. Used juice jugs but harder to cut.

The big round ice cream containers I thought would be wonderful, but nothing much happened in there, may have been the seeds. I may try those again.

Right now my favorites are the plastic cups covered with baggies and secured with a rubber band and 2-liter bottles cut like in one of my photos. Set those in daisy trays I bought online. A couple have broken corners but I can tape them. The tops I cut a v about 3/4 inch wide at the bottom, tapering until I have about 3 or 4 inches. You can squeeze them together and shove them in with no tape, easy to label. They do cost me 5 cents in lost refunds in my state, but that's still pretty cheap, and they do hold up well to plant the following year as do milk jugs.

I had really good luck with early spring sowing in McDonald's salad trays with drainage holes. Once they've germinated, I mist and/or transplant into something else. The downside of spring sowing is you are far less likely to get blooms the first year and transplanting tiny seedlings is not fun. So for some I cut a hunk out and plop into a plastic cup filled so the plants are close to the top; the roots will work their way on down on their own. Then I can plant with a bulb planter which goes faster and a little easier on my back.

I like my plants good sized before I transplant into the garden areas but some just plant small hunk of seeds and do just fine.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 9:32PM
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We buy bottled water. I use the jugs. Lemonade Jugs.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 10:35PM
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terrene(5b MA)

My first year WSing, I raided the recycle bins in the neighborhood, the town, and even surrounding towns. Got mostly milk jugs and 2 Ltrs. Over time I also saved 2 Ltr bottles from misc. sources. We don't drink much soda either, but I do drink some Seltzer water and sometimes got them at parties, friends' houses, etc.

I also save the 16 oz plastic cups from parties, etc. I saved Cup-O-Noodles cups (my son likes those) and use them too. Now I save the Dunkin donuts cups (again my son likes it). Cups of assorted sizes (but not too small) make great containers, especially for fewer seeds, and I've been re-using them for 3 years now. However, I haven't figured out a good cover for all of them yet.

Personally, I don't spend any money on containers, and enjoy turning trash into something useful. Also I like containers that are re-usable. I'm not into collecting, cleaning out, poking holes every year.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 8:27AM
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Thanks for the additional ideas.

What about catering trays? My husbands company caters a lot of lunches - everything comes on black trays with huge domed clear plastic lids - they are 12-16" in diameter. The tray is flat, but I was wondering if I could use the clear domed lid as the container, and then use the black tray as the lid? He could probably get me 1 or 2 of these trays each week.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 9:02AM
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PVick(6b NYC)

They'll work fine. Cut out the middle of the black tray, cover the bottom with vented plastic and use the rim of the cut-out black tray to hold the plastic in place.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 9:12AM
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Thanks PV

Does regular plastic (saran) wrap work? Or is press and seal wrap better? Or do I need a thicker clear plastic?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 10:06AM
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PVick(6b NYC)

pixie-lou, saran wrap might not hold up to much weight, like snowdrifts, especially if you'll have your containers out in the open. I use plastic food storage bags from the dollar store. They work for enclosing the nursery pots, and you could cut them open to spread across the catering tray tops.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 12:35PM
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I have used the dixie cups many times,I fill them clean to the top with soil,then place them all in a cardboard box,and put plastic over the whole box, works great.Lots of head room for the seedlings to sprout.
I like using the table cloth plastic from the fabric store,you can buy it by the yard,it is nice and heavy,and can be reused.The cardboard does last to planting time.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 3:17PM
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bev2009(6 IN)

You could also slide the clear plastic lid into a plastic sweater bag you can get at the dollar store. People told me you didn't have to cut holes, neither top nor bottom and I was skeptical, but it worked. I just unzipped them once it started to get warm.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 4:05PM
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pippi21(Z7 Silver Spring, Md.)

Folks, I think we have another potential wintersower on our hands for 2012..Yeh! We can be enablers to her next year. Pixie Lou..WS becomes an addiction..we are warning you ahead of time. But you'll receive a lot of personal satisfaction and pride from being able to grow your own plants instead of buying them. When you see potting mix(not potting soil) on sale this Fall, buy it then because the stores don't usually get their gardening supplies until about Feb. There's another thread somewhere about perferred potting mix brands. Home Depot and Lowe's only sell Miracle Gro and Scott products. A lot prefer Pro-mix but it is too expensive for my budget and I don't have room for the bales.
I have tried Miracle Gro and it's okay but sometimes has a lot of junk in it. I don't recommend buying the Miracle-Gro with the moisture crystals in it. I had really bad luck with it this year but other factors may have contributed to that failure with that product. You see all those plants that PVick grew in a high rise in NYC. You should ask her to let you view her picture of her balcony garden. She gives new inspiration to rooftop or balcony gardens. It is amazing what she grows on her balcony! Welcome aboard! Wintersowers make good friends that you'll learn a lot from and cherish their friendship for years to come.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 10:29AM
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Well said pippi,I am sorry, I did not even notice Pixie Lou
was new, sorry, and welcome,you wiil love every one over here,a great group of gardeners,and wonderful picture posters.
Hope you have as much fun here as I do.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 11:28AM
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Pixie_lou - I'll add my words of welcome to the others who've posted above. You won't find a nicer group of gardeners than the folks on this forum. I can only drink so much milk so people at work bring me their milk & spring water jugs, some in exchange for perennials for their flowerbeds and others just to recycle them for a good use. The Starbucks kiosk in the office building where I work also saves milk jugs for me--5 per week for a whole year really adds up fast. The neighbors save them for me too. It all comes together around the winter solstice and after that I just sow a few whenever I have time and set them out in the snow.

Be sure to check out the Seed Exchange to widen your selection when WS season rolls around. More than half my 300+ milk jugs have sprouts from traded seeds in them including toad lily, fleece flower, salvia, blanket flower and a host of others.

Happy gardening!!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 12:00PM
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Thanks for the warm welcomes pippi, cAROL and gardenweed. cAROL - I really like your plastic table cloth idea. It reminds me that I have a bunch of clear plastic shower curtains lieing around, which may be useful.

Right now I'm really "stressing" about the containers since we just don't generate much trash or recycling. I'm also a "planner" so I need to have my game plan figured out months a head of time.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 7:05PM
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Pixie Lou, welcome to you!!!

My first year a wonderful WSer named Alberta noticed that I lived in her county and shared many top notch containers with me - clear salad/greens boxes, a real treasure, to get me started. I wonder if there are any other WSers living near you. If you put your town in a post, they may just contact you with some containers to share!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 11:06PM
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pippi21(Z7 Silver Spring, Md.)

Pixie_lou...the next time you go grocery shopping, make it a point to look around you and you'll discover how many things are sold in clear plastic containers that could be used for Wintersowing. My first year, I was amazed. I am not suggesting that you buy the product if that is not your routine purchase. If you have storage space, you can start collecting your milk jugs or containers gradually until January. Do you think you've be wanting to plant flowers and veggies? Go on the seed catalog websites and order their free catalogs or you can look at the sites and make yourself a list then order online. You will find seeds in the stores a couple of packs each time you go out shopping if your funds permit..I found some nice seeds at Dollar Tree back in late Feb. 2 pkt. for $1..I think K-mart may have their seeds on sale now. They sell Burpee and Ferry-Morse and Livingston. You'd be surprized what you already may have around the house to get you started. You mentioned catering trays; and I think you mentioned clear shower curtains..some of us forgot to mention your plant markers you'll need. Do you have a thrift store near you? Mini-blinds make the best plant markers, they cut so easy with a pr. of scissors. Last year I found a brand new blind at a thrift store for$ made many plant markers. Go to a craft store and buy a paint pen..they come in many colors and point thickness. A paint pen will not fade from being out in the weather. They cost about $3 or $4. DecoColor is the brand I bought last year at Michael's. Usually the store has a roll of paper so you can try the colors out on it before you chose. Better yet, stick a small note pad from home and take with you to try marker colors out on. Maybe somebody will post a picture of these so you'll know exactly what to buy. You need something that will be permanent and won't fade or disappear in the elements outside. If you ask friends, neighbors or family members to save milk jugs for you, ask them to just rinse the milk out for you. It only takes a few seconds to do that..if they forget and the jug smells can add some bleach to water and let it sit and shake it up and dump it out, turn it upside in a dish drain or on a paper towel to drain. Duct tape is cheap and now it comes in colors if you want to be fancy. Bet your hubby has some in the garage that he rarely uses..Last year somebody put me onto heating and a/c tape and I liked it a lot better than duct tape but it was $8.99 a roll but it's easier to remove and you can even reinforce your plant markers with it if you need to. You can use your plant markers outside when you start to sow your plants into your flowerbeds..You can write on that foil tape with a pen or marker. It is very strong. Just keep reading over all the wintersowing forum and you'll find a lot of ideas that others have used and found useful. It is amazing how you can use that you or others throw into the recycle bin. It becomes a game and a addiction..we're warning you and it's fun, satisfying and you'll find that after your first year, you'll be telling others how to do it.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 8:42AM
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Thanks for the further ideas Pippi. I have the feeling you are going to be my #1 enabler!

This is the area I need to plant next Spring. I spent this spring tearing out all the oriental bitteresweet and multi flora rose. I'm waiting for the rest of the poison ivy to die off before I rake it all out. Our pond is to the left. The brook is to the right. The tree trunks are about 8' long. From where I'm standing taking the photo, it is about 80' to the fallen vine encased tree in the back ground (I still have to clean that up). And about another 20' to the far end of the pond. Then another 30' -40' to my property line - which is the line of pines in the background. As you can see - I have a huge area that I need to fill with plants. Plus I'm trying to landscape all around the perimeter of the pond.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 2:35PM
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