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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Dixie Cup Seedling Starter

Seedlings (from left to right): Red Bell Peppers, Sweet Basil, Plum Tomato, Black-Eyed Susan

This is an inexpensive and convenient way to start your seedlings indoors.
  • Dixie Cups
  • Seeds
  • Potting Soil
  • Pencil or Pen
  • Water
  • Empty Water Bottle
  1. Fill a Dixie Cup at least halfway full. Leave at least 1/2″ space from soil line to the top of the cup.
  2. Press your pinky finger (or use the end of a pencil) to make an impression in the center of the soil. The depth of the impression will depend on the seed sowing instructions, but is usually between 1/8″ and 1/2″ deep.
  3. Place 1 or 2 seeds in the impression, and then lightly cover the seeds with soil.
  4. Gently pour water onto the soil.

    • Caution: Do not over-water the soil. You want moist soil, not soggy soil.
  5. Write down what you are growing on the cup to keep track of what you are planting.
  6. Place the cup on a sunny windowsill.
  7. Check the plants daily and keep the soil moist. The trick to getting seeds to germinate is to keep the soil moist and warm.

    • Tip #1 (Transporting Seedlings): You can place Dixie Cup seedlings on a tray or in a shallow box (e.g., shoe box) so that you can move several seedlings around at once. If you keep them in a box, make sure there is proper air circulation to prevent the growth of fungus.
    • Tip #2 (Watering Seedlings): When seedlings begin to sprout do not pour water directly on the tender seedling shoots. Spoon water directly on the soil around the seedling shoots.
    • Tip #3 (Retaining Soil Moisture): You can rest a piece of plastic wrap or other transparent material over the cups to help the soil retain moisture. If the plant shoots above the cup line, place clear plastic bags (like Ziplock bags) over a group of seedlings to create a mini-greenhouse tent.
    • UPDATE: It is a lot easier and more economical in the long run to use re-useable seedling starters.  The great thing about these miniature plastic pots is that they help keep the soil from drying out and they can be used over and over again.   
  8. Transplant seedlings when they are 3″ to 4″ tall.

    • Fill 4″ or 6″ pot with potting soil leaving about 2″ or 3″ of space. Place Dixie Cup in the center of the pot and continue to fill pot with soil. You want to leave about a 1/2″ of space between soil line and top of gardening pot. Water plant thoroughly.
    • Tip #4 (Removing Seedlings from Cup): Position the cup so that the seedlings point to the ground at about a 45-degree angle. Then roll the bottom half of the cup in your hand to loosen up the soil and slightly tap or shake until the seedling falls in to your hand. Place in the new pot.


Anonymous said...

Your blog has been very helpful. I am first time gardener and was unsure about planting seeds in dixi cups. I was unsure if the cups had to have holes in them, but your article helped clear that up for me. Just planted my seeds, and hoping they germinate and I will soon have some seedlings.

Burpee Lover

Lina said...

Hi Burpee Lover! I'm glad to be of help. I hope you have plenty of seedlings soon. Keep me posted. :)

Anonymous said...

We are doing a project using this method in my botany class. We were instructed to put a hole in the bottom of the cup. What is its purpose? I'm guessing to let excess water drain?

Lina said...

Yes, the purpose of the hole is to create drainage. Generally, you don't want seeds/plants to sit in soggy soil or you risk rot.

I live in an area that is normally hot and dry so I had a problem keeping the soil moist. To prevent the moisture from escaping, I skipped making a hole, watered the right amount, and placed a thin, transparent plastic sheet over the top.