How I start seeds indoors using clearance plant trays and DIY milk carton labels

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Now that I can upgrade from my container garden to a full garden again, I’m starting more plants than I have in years!

I’m still trying to keep this manageable. Between my husband’s demanding, full-time job, an active toddler and my own small business and blog, I can imagine a huge garden quickly becoming overwhelming. Until we get through some of our current projects, at least, I’m going to scale back my original plans a bit.

I have a huge yard the landlord gave us the go-ahead to plant in, but I don’t have a tiller or the time to invest in a no-dig garden at the moment. The house had a few small garden beds installed already, but they were overrun with grass. I even found a small net and broken bits of plastic in one.

I found all kinds of trash when cleaning out a garden bed at our new home.

I watch the dollar store’s sales at the end of the growing season because their $5 plant trays, seed packets and bulbs are often significantly marked down. I’ve paid pennies for some garden products there! I stocked up on seed trays a few years ago and am still using them now to start seedlings each year. I’m just careful to not destroy the trays when I transfer plants from the trays to their new pots or ground.

(Note: Although I have transitioned nearly all of my gardening to organic, some stores’ expensive organic seeds are often very affordable when they’re on clearance at the end of the season. If you’re not concerned about purchasing GMO seeds, you can normally find them even cheaper.)

My husband says we live in a greenhouse since I have so many plants indoors!

Yesterday after we finished with church and grocery shopping, I filled up two seed trays.

I used DIY milk jug labels to mark which seeds I planted in each section.

I was out of plant labels. I’d gotten a pack awhile back from my mother-in-law but had used those up. Some of the lettering was faded, so I went back over it with a Sharpie. My old popsicle stick labels were breaking easily and super faded, so I tossed most of those. I saw the idea somewhere online to use a plastic milk jug for labels and thought it was a good one! We normally get organic milk in a carton, but lately we’ve gotten some in a gallon jug. We normally some jugs to keep water in to replace water in our fish tank, but this was a good way to upcycle the ones we wouldn’t store.

I started at the top, cutting it down to where the jug started to curve at the bottom. Then I cut horizontally to where the jug starts to curve again. A few more vertical cuts made at the desired width of your markers gives you long pieces of plastic that you can use at that length or, like I did, at half-length for double the labels.

Cutting plastic milk jugs into plant tags is one way to upcycle the jugs.

They fit perfectly in my discounted seed trays!

I cut a plastic milk jug into plant markers for my seed trays.

Yesterday, I started chives, two varieties of basil, echinacea, oregano, German chamomile, parsley, summer savory, four varieties of lavender, sage and English thyme in one tray, and Brunswick cabbage, Blue Curled Scotch Kale, Dragon Tongue beans, sweet peppers, celery, black vernissage tomatoes, green vernissage tomatoes, royal chico tomatoes, snow peas and Jing orange okra in another tray. I have more seeds on the way that I ordered with my sister-in-law, and will probably pick up a couple of dwarf berry plants, as well.

So much for scaling back! But it truly is a smaller garden than I originally envisioned!

I’m not sure yet where everything will go since we won’t get to till up the land. I’m going to put some in containers outside, in the window and in our sun room, some directly in the garden beds and will probably use a trellis for cucumbers. I’m also considering ordering one or two large grow bags for the patio for some of the larger plants.

What will be in your garden this year? Let me know in the comments!

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