Seed Starter




About: Knitter/Crafter/Kode Warrior

If you find yourself in February yearning for fresh herbs and the light, spend the rest of the year collecting plastic bottles for these Seed Starters. As a farmer's daughter, I can usually take care of plants, but they are most likely to die at the seedling stage. This Seed Starter is not intended to be permanent. After 3 months, transplant your herbs to a garden or a pot, and start a new batch.

Step 1: Materials

To complete this project you'll need:
One plastic bottle, 4-16 oz
Utility Knife and cutting surface
Clear plastic packing tape
Herb seeds
Potting soil

Step 2: Dissect the Bottle

With the utility knife, cut the bottle 1 inch from the bottom for 5oz and less bottles. Cut 2 inches from the bottom for larger bottles. For Irregularly shaped bottles (salad dressing), cut the bottle at the widest point.

Step 3: Cutting Variations

Post cut bottles on 1x1inch grid.

Step 4: Notch the Bottles

In order for the top portion to fit snugly into the bottom portion, make a 1/2 to 3/4 inch in length triangular notch on each cut side of the top portion of the bottle. If the bottle is made of thicker plastic, make the notches wider. If dealing with a flimsier plastic (soda bottle), a very thin notch or slot can be made.

Step 5: Check for Fit

Once the notches are cut, check for fit. Squeeze the top notched portion into the bottom portion. There only needs to be 1/4 inch of overlap, as long as it is snug.

Step 6: Adding the Soil

Next add the potting soil, leaving the top 1/2 inch empty. Read the directions on the back of the seed packet for planting depth. Add multiple seeds at that planting depth. Ignore the seed spacing instructions on the back of the package. You will end up transplanting these seeds into a clump of herbs, which seems to work well in healthy, watered soil.

For a smaller bottle, add 8-10 seeds. For larger bottles, plant up to 18. This operation best for basil, it grows and will need to be transplanted the fastest. Thyme, cilantro, and parsley grow a little slower. Oregano and rosemary seem to take forever, for which the whole Seed Starter "forget it in a windowsill for 3 months" schema works well.

Step 7: Adding the Water

For a bottle 5oz and smaller, add 1 teaspoon of water.
For bottles 6oz to 12oz, add 1 tablespoon of water.
For bottles 12oz to 16 oz, add 2 tablespoons.

Keep an eye on your planter after you have assembled it. You want to see water condensing on the top of the bottle and wet soil the next day. If you do not see this after one day, add another teaspoon per day until you do.

Conversely if you see mold growing in your seed starter, cut back the water by one teaspoon the next time you try. (3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon)

Step 8: Assemble the Seed Starter

If you checked for fit in step #5, this step should be very easy. Place the top part into the bottom part, taking care not to uproot the soil too much.

Step 9: Seal the Bottle

Use the tape to seal the seam. This will prevent all of the water from evaporating. When you take the plants out of your Seed STarter, the tape parts will be gummy. Don't worry about this, just immediatelly re-use your seed saver and re-tape over the gummy parts and it will be fine.

You can skip this step if you keep a really good eye on your Seed Starter to make sure it is watered every week or so.

Step 10: Label and Place

Label the bottom of the bottles with with the name of the herb planted in each. Place on a sunny window, and check for condensation weekly. If there is no condensation, add another teaspoon through the top of the bottle .

Step 11: Transplant

This transplant picture is a little premature. You should wait until the smallest plants are bigger. It is OK if the largest plants coil against the side of the bottle. To move the plants, take a butter knife and loosen the soil around the sides of the bottle. Turn the bottle upside down to free your new herb patch. Re-plant the patch in the garden, or in a larger pot.

Got to my site to see a plastic Coke bottle variation:

Basil pre-transplant picture:



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    9 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Look up Wintersowing. It will change the way you start seeds. Using empty milk jugs or take out food containers, seeds are left to germinate on nature's schedule. Just put them out, even in the snow, and come the proper time in spring those suckers will jump up and grow like crazy. Already hardened off, there is no need to baby them before putting them in more permanent spots. Seriously, the difference between the seeds I started inside and the WS ones was phenomenal. Glad I live in the country though. No snooty neighbors to critique all my containers sitting around. Have a good time growing! To the Instructables teams- I really enjoy the information on this site, so thanks for providing a forum for creative thinking.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Try cilantro, it's easy to grow and grows really well. It can be used for making salsa or pico de gallo. Yummm. And it produces TONS of seeds for next year. Cilantro also adds a nice Mexican spice to chicken, beef, or many vegetables.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I wanted a banana tree but the ones that seed don't produce fruit and the ones we get banana's from don't reproduce by seed, they send out suckers.

    Cat on my LapHamO

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Not sure if that was an intentional Simon and Garfunkel reference, but I laughed out loud.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea! Have you tried it with things other than herbs? Could you start vegetables this way by using a gallon milk bottle?


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Home grown Basil is so good to cook with.