There are lots of kits available to start seeds in specially built ‘green houses’ with pricey mini pots, but some of the commercial option are way out of my budget.

I like to provide bottom water for my seedlings–it ensures even water for sprouting seeds and new plants as they develop root systems and grow stronger. If you have leftover six-packs and other pots from last spring, those will work great. For those of us who don’t have room to store them, or didn’t think ahead, there are lots of other great low-cost or free options available.

Cut the top off old milk cartons and plant in them. You can plant a number of seeds across the top and just transplant the strongest.

Use those little tiny paper bathroom cups–for a couple of bucks, you can start half your garden indoors. Don’t forget to poke holes in the bottom for drainage. If water pools at the bottom of the cup you could end up with root rot before they are ready to put in the garden.

Use cans from soup or vegetables. Again, don’t forget to create drainage holes.

Peat pellets are about 7 cents each, and come with the advantage of not having to remove the plant from the pot or pellet before planting in the ground. For the more eco-conscious, you may want to avoid this choice. Peat bogs take hundred of years to create, and are being destroyed at an alarming rate to provide additions to our gardens. I still occasionally use peat, but prefer to use other, more renewable options when possible.

My favorite option is to make my own biodegradable mini-pots out of newspaper. We don’t get a daily paper, but I contacted the local delivery people, who were happy to unload their extra papers on my doorstep instead of the landfill. I cut the paper into pieces about six inches wide and the length of a paper from top to bottom. Then roll the strip around a glass or soup can so a couple of inches hangs off the bottom. Then tape the bottom closed and slide the can or glass out.

I made my newspaper pots while watching a movie in my living room. Remember not to use the glossy ads–that paper will mildew and cause problems with your seedlings.Then simply fill with damp potting soil and plant your seeds. These can be added directly to the ground when you are ready to plant, just make sure you bury the entire newspaper under dirt, or rip it down so none shows above the ground, since it can whick water away from your plant.

If you don’t have anything to put your pots into or on to keep the water where you want it, go to a local thrift store and see if they have any old cookie sheets for sale cheap. Did someone bring a snack tray or bakery cake with a clear top to the office? If it’s going in the trash anyway, take it and use it for a trough under your pots. You can even line more permeable containers with plastic (plastic wrap, grocery bags, garbage can liners, etc) and use them. Get creative.