No Green House? No Problem! My Unconventional Solution That Worked

2 Materials
2 Hours

It occurred to me last year when I purchased a few bell pepper plants at a local green house that if I was going to give this gardening thing a real shot then I was going to need to start my own seeds. (The cost of buying plants being a little too high for my frugal self.) However, I had two major obstacles in my way, firstly I don’t have a green house so I had to start my seedlings indoors and secondly I don’t have a good south facing area in my home for decent sunlight. I tackled the first problem by going to my drawing board because the second problem isn’t going to be changing anytime soon. It came to me when I was at Walmart and I stumbled upon the perfect mini green houses. “Disposable” roaster pans with clear plastic lids!

(This is my first time planting seedlings so I fully expect(ed) this to be a serious learning experience! Also, you’ll notice, I’m starting very small this year with just a few different vegetable varieties!)

They were inexpensive (less then $4) and came in packs of two. From there I was confronted with the “traditional” plastic seed starting trays but that seemed like a really bad idea to me. Because I live in the northern part of Minnesota I am always dealing with extremely bipolar weather and that means it could be anywhere from mid April to early June when we would see our last frost.

Of course I could always cover my plants once they were outdoors I didn’t want to take the chance of them getting too big for their containers and us getting hit by a late April snow storm! So I decided instead to put them in much larger containers and that took me to the disposable cup department and, $5 later, I bought around 50 styrofoam cups. Besides that my other purchase was a bag of organic seed starting soil and a bag of basic potting soil.

I spent around $30 all together and then an additional $30 on seeds. Why did my seeds cost so much? I purchased heirloom, non GMO, organic seeds off of Amazon knowing full well that I would probably be getting sent enough for this year, next year and probably the year after that too. And, I was right!

To start I set out all of my pans and then decided the best fit would be five cups in each. (My only complaint about the roaster pans is I wish they had flat bottoms!) The perfect tool for giving my cups drain holes turned out to be a bamboo skewer but anything with a sharp point would work fine. I made the holes by putting two cups together and pushing in the skewer through the bottoms of them five times and also through the sides a couple of times too. From there I filled them half up with potting soil and then the rest of the way with the seed starting soil.

I planted at least two seeds in each cup and then gave them a good misting of room temperature water. I planted three pans (fifteen cups) of cucumbers, one pan (five cups) of tomatoes and two pans (ten cups each) of asparagus, green beans and sugar snap peas. Within a week I had several seedlings up (and did a little dance) and within two weeks all of my cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans and peas were up.

This really worked great!

Resources for this project:
Stryrofoam Cups
Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
Hometalk may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.More info
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 9 questions
  • Blissful1 Blissful1 on Jan 02, 2018
    Where did you find the roasters with the plastic lids? I can't seem to find them on Amazon.

  • Jesse Rozelle Jesse Rozelle on Jan 10, 2018
    Do you need to put any holes in clear lid?

  • Lynn Lynn on Jan 22, 2019

    Do you have to replant outside? Or can you continue to grow inside? I have alot of rabbits and squirrels that come in my yard so I don't want to put outside.

Join the conversation
4 of 166 comments
  • Marj Marj on Feb 23, 2019

    I start my flower seeds in pots made from rolled newspaper. I also save containers from deli or bakery. If there is no lid, I just use a plastic bag. I live in Florida, so I start them outside, I just started some Daisy's and Sweet William (February) but did not bother with seed pots, I just put them in a bucket that already had soil and they are coming up well. I will start my Sunflowers, as I did last year, with the newspaper pots. We have too many ants in Florida so I don't put the seeds directly in the ground. I only have a small garden area behind my apartment, and it is mostly pots because of my physical issues. This photo is my garden from last summer.

    • GrandmasHouseDIY GrandmasHouseDIY on Feb 27, 2019

      I am very envious! We currently have over three feet of snow here in MN. Good luck on your planting!

  • Marj Marj on Feb 27, 2019

    GrandmasHouseDIY, yes I know about the snow!! I don't envy you at all. I have family in MN and even though we are not in touch, I keep up on the weather. I think you need more good luck than I do!! I am originally from NY and I could not live in a cold climate any more. Too painful. I would be a "house plant" all winter!!!

    • GrandmasHouseDIY GrandmasHouseDIY on Apr 16, 2019

      Hey Marj, yup our winters can be brutal, this last one was record breaking and we all really really hope we don't see the likes of it again! Thank goodness spring is finally here, last week we got yet another FOOT of snow!