Introduction: Put Your Paper Coffee Cup to Good (re)use

Paper coffee cups. We use them, we throw them away. It happens. And if you're like me, you hate yourself for participating in this vicious cycle. But alas, the cycle continues.

I recently decided to start an indoor herb garden. Or try to at least. In gathering the necessary supplies I had a revelation! Plant the seeds in my old coffee cups! Now I can feel slightly less guilty when the barista at Starbucks hands me yet another latte in a paper cup.

Step 1: Supplies

Here's what you need:

Recycled paper coffee cup with lid
Recycled plastic tray - or something waterproof to catch the water and dirt
Soil (I used seed-starting mix and composted potting soil)
Spray bottle - I didn't have one so I used a recycled bottle

Step 2: Poke Holes in the Bottom of the Cup

Poke holes in the bottom of the cup. This is so the excess water can exit the cup and prevent drowning your seeds.

Step 3: Adding Soil

For this step, I used half composted soil and half seed-starting mix. My mom gardens so I was able to take some of her compost and seed-starting mix back to New York with me. Compost is really wonderful but if you live in a city like me, it's hard to make your own. It may be worth locating local recycling/composting efforts if you're interested in responsible and sustainable gardening. For example in NYC the Lower East Side Ecology Center sells compost created from NYC household food waste, among other helpful products.

Fill the cup with equal parts compost and seed-starting mix. The compost should be on the bottom and will allow for keeping the seeds in the same cup after germination. Seed-starting mix is lighter so it should be on top, allowing the fragile seedlings to grow. 

Step 4: Adding Seeds

Dampen the soil with the spray bottle or under a faucet to add moisture.

Label the cup with whatever seeds you're planting. 
Read the seed packet for specific instructions on how to grow the seeds you're using. I'm growing thyme, rosemary, and parsley. I added quite a few seeds to each cup. If the seeds are really tiny, place a thin piece of tissue on top of the soil and place the seeds on top of the paper. 

Step 5: Covering the Seeds

Cover the seeds with the suggested amount of seed-starting mix for the specific seeds you're planting, indicated on the back of the packet. My seeds required 1/4".

Using the spray bottle, dampen the soil enough to add moisture but not drown the seeds.

Step 6: Store in a Warm Place

Recover the cups and store them on a tray in a warm place. Germinating seeds need warmth and
moisture so don’t worry about finding a sunny place just yet, as long as it’s warm.

According to the seed packets, the seeds germinate in about two weeks. Keep the soil moist with the spray bottle.

Step 7: After Germination...

One cup of my seeds germinated in about 4 days. Crazy!

Once the seeds germinate they need sun. I plan on keeping my seedlings in the sun during the day and moving them back to where I let them germinate to keep them warm at night. 

I'm not a pro (yet) so consult the seed packet or other resources on how to maintain your seedlings and usher them to full growth. 

Happy planting!

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