Growing from seed can be rewarding and a cost effective way of expanding your garden. Depending on the plants it can often times be cheaper than buying a plant at your local garden center. While big box stores can be cheaper than buying at a specialty nursery sometimes the variety of plants can leave a lot to be desired. To avoid the "McGarden" look, acquire seeds; on-line, through catalogs, seed exchanges and the seed rack of your favorite store and start them yourself.
You're probably thinking that you couldn't start seeds yourself because you don't have the money for seed starting trays, grow lights or most importantly- a greenhouse. Fear not, using this method all you need is some space outdoors. Here's what you need: an empty 2 liter plastic bottle, potting soil, a handful of seeds and a tool for making holes. I find that Miracle- Gro potting soil works fine for me, other people don't like it for starting seeds. Use your favorite brand but whatever you do don't skimp on the soil. If you use those 99 cent bags you find in Walmart, Walgreens or similar stores it may harden and you'll end up with a brick. That's fine if you want to build a patio or raised bed, but not so good for seed starting.
Take your 2 liter bottle that you've cut in half and make several drainage holes in the bottom of the bottle.
Fill the bottom with about 4-5 inches of soil. Read the seed preparation directions on your packet of seeds and sow them and water them in. You can water from the top or set the "pot" you just made in a saucer of water and allow it to absorb water. Take the top half of the bottle and replace it. What you have now is a seed starting greenhouse like the kind of available in stores. But it didn't cost you between 12-20 dollars. It should look something like this
I use this method to start seeds that require Stratification (cold treatment) I prepare all of my Ghetto Greenhouses and sow the seeds and set them outside for the winter and allow them to be exposed to the elements. When the weather starts to warm up and the snow melts I keep an eye on the containers and water when necessary. The clear bottles make this easy and when the seedlings emerge I just plant them out either into the ground or into pots. I can fit five of these into a plastic milk crate that I stack in a corner of my back yard. Here's what it looks like inside in the spring.
You can use this method to start all kinds of seeds. When the weather outside warms up you can start your tender plants, like annuals and tropicals. You can also adapt this method and make your Ghetto Greenhouse out of things you may have around your house. As a kid my grandfather used coffee cans, in school we used empty milk boxes and larger orange juice boxes. You can use take out containers, the salad containers you get nowadays in fast food restaurants. If you have empty pots you can cover them with plastic wrap or used sandwich bags. You can sow your seeds in Styrofoam/plastic cups and set them inside a plastic tote. Just make sure you have drainage holes and some opening(s) for ventilation, a few holes in the top of your container will still trap enough humidity. If you don't have a yard, try your deck or a bright windowsill.
On the right hand side of this blog you'll find a link to a great site with lots of info on individual seeds and their germination requirements.
Homemade seed pots
Seed pots made from newspaper