Gardening 101: 7 easy seeds you can grow in a cup

Many gardeners start seeds indoors during the last months of winter or early spring to get a head start on the growing season. When it’s too cold to plant anything outside, you can easily start seeds indoors and transplant them into the ground once the weather warms up. So, what can you use for seeds without spending a fortune on seed-starting trays? Plastic cups leftover from parties or camping trips are ideal.

seeds started in cups

Benefits of starting seeds in a cup

Recycling 

There are many benefits of starting plant seeds in cups. One of the best reasons is recycling. Many of these cups are used once and then thrown away, adding to the heaps of plastic garbage in landfills. Turning them into seed-starting cups is the perfect solution to give them another life. They can be used over and over again for years. That’s a green thumbs-up from gardeners and the planet. 

Visual root growth

Many of these cups are clear and can show root growth. When impatiently waiting for seeds to germinate, it can put your mind at ease to see the roots reaching and growing. Otherwise, growers often have to disturb the plant by pulling them out to check on the roots. This can cause the plant to go into shock, and it might not recover. Keep plants safe and reduce the risk of losing seedlings by using clear cups to keep an eye on those precious baby roots. 

Easy succession planting

Whether it’s carrots that need to be started at a later date than the tomatoes or you’re succession planting to have new lettuce every week, starting seeds in cups allows you to do so without disturbing the other seedlings. Seed trays are large and often are too big for backyard gardeners. When you already have seeds germinating, and it’s time to start more, this can be a hassle. With cups, you can start seeds at different times without disturbing other plants that are already fragile seedlings. 

Get a head start

It doesn’t matter if your growing season is long or short; it seems that all gardeners love to take advantage of late winter and early spring to get a headstart on growing seeds. Many have greenhouses, but others start plants in living rooms, kitchens, or bedrooms. Using cups to start your seeds indoors can give you up to eight weeks of extra growing time. That means you might get eight more weeks of tomatoes than you would have if you had started them directly in the ground. 

Indoor garden

Growing in a cup can also allow apartment dwellers to grow plants even if they don’t have space outside for a garden. Using a sunny window sill or artificial light, gardeners without access to a full-sized backyard garden can still enjoy the taste of fresh produce  they grew themselves. 

mint grown in cups

Which plants grow great in cups

While most plants can be grown in cups during the germination and seedling stages, not all will grow healthy, strong, and delicious. Most plants need to be transplanted outdoors once they hit a specific size or else they won’t grow fruit. However, some can produce leaves and fruit for families to eat without ever leaving a cup. Many of these are herbs, but there are a few that might surprise you. 

  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Chives
  • Thyme
  • Sage

Other plants that can thrive in cups: 

  • Strawberries
  • Peppers
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Collard greens
  • Pole beans
  • Sugar snap beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Asparagus
  • Green onion

How to grow seeds in a cup

Herbs are an easy option to grow in cups. They don’t take up too much space, and they often can stay in a small cup and keep growing as you harvest. 

However, plants such as strawberries, pepper, and asparagus will need to be watched and transplanted into bigger cups or pots once they reach maturity. You’ll know the plant is ready to be transplanted when the roots begin to swirl around the cup repeatedly. Another way to know is if the soil is drying out too quickly between waterings. Once the seedling has reached these milestones, it’s time to transplant. 

First, find a pot that’s about one to two inches bigger in diameter and fill it with high-quality soil. Next, take the seedling and gently pull it out of its nursery pot. It’s crucial to “tickle” the roots a little before placing them into a new home. This means to use your fingers and gently wiggle the roots away from some of the soil. Don’t worry about removing all the dirt, just enough that some of the roots are dangling down without soil attached. The “tickling” method encourages the roots to reach out and explore the bigger pot. Now place the seedling into the pot and gently press the soil around the base to support it. Water thoroughly, and you’re done!

To ensure these plants have enough nutrients, provide them with ample light and fertilize every month or so. Also, be sure to harvest fruits or leaves to promote more growth. 

Don’t feel defeated if you don’t have your own outdoor space for growing. By using cups and selecting the optimal plants, you can grow edible food for your family right inside your home. 

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