Frugal Tomato Seed Starting

A tomato plant is indeed a beautiful thing.
Don’t throw out that coffee cup! Don’t even toss it in the blue bin! They make great seed starting pots. Poke a hole in the bottom, fill with soil, and plant a few tomato seeds, or anything you want to start from seed. At planting time I am always looking for extra containers for seed starting and transplanting, and this spring I really did it on the cheap. For the last couple of months I’ve been saving all my take-out paper and plastic cups. They’ve been stacked in my kitchen in an annoying pile that I had to keep telling my son I was going to do something with, really. I had also saved a stack of plastic take out food containers, and they are perfect for seed starting, as they have a built in lid to keep soil moist for germination. Using these free containers, I seeded six types of heirloom tomatoes this weekend. It’s a bit late, but better late than never, and I think there’s still enough growing season to see them bear fruit. Tomatoes grow fast, once they get going.
Take-out food containers repurposed as tomato seed starters. I’ll transplant these when they get about 2 inches high.

I’m growing Anna Russian tomato, one that I fell in love with last summer when I got it as a take home tomato at Vivian Reiss’s tomato tasting party. It’s an oxheart variety tomato, which has smallish fruit, and a pointy end, just like a heart. My Anna Russian made such a fabulous tomato sandwich, and I want to relive it this year.

Searched everywhere for “Anna Russian” tomato seeds and found them at TomatoFest. Of course I had to buy four other kinds as well.

Other heirloom tomatoes I am trying this season are Blondkopfchen, (Little Blond Head), Super Snow White, San Marzano Redorta, Amish Gold, and Big Beef. I got all these heirloom seeds from Botanical Interests and Tomatofest. Tomatofest threw in an extra package into my order, which was cool, and Botanical Interests supplied me with several samples of vegetable seeds. (Yikes, since writing this, I just found another couple of packets of tomato seeds I bought from other suppliers. I found Paul Robeson tomato at Terra Edibles. Where am I going to put them all? I’m going to be handing out tomato plants to everyone I know, as I won’t have room for everything.)

A few weeks ago I started several cherry tomato Sugar Sweetie in a large plastic water jug. They are around 3 inches high and I’ve just potted those ones on into coffee cups, where I will let them get a bit bigger under my grow lights before I plant them outside. I’ve learned that waiting an extra week or so to get tomatoes in the ground is often better than rushing them in on the typical planting weekend, May 24th.

I also had two oriental lily bulbs, Penthouse, in a sawdust packet and used a coffee cup to plant each bulb. Better they get a head start in a paper cup than languish in the package till I get time to plant it in the garden. Head starts are always good.


  1. I never started tomatoes from seed intentionally. They have grown on their own. In our climate, it seems like a long time coming, even started indoors. The greenhouse a different story, but I usually by plants from a local nursery. I get an unnamed heirloom from a really old farmer and it is the best tomato I ever had. Not as sweet, but the texture is perfect.

  2. Whenever I buy packets of tomato seeds, usually Sweet Baby Girl cherry, SunGold cherry, Big Belgium, etc., and grow them here in Toronto, I plant the entire packets. So, I need many containers. I have found that saving the MacDonald's sundae cups and the 1 litre yogurt tubs very helpful. If anyone is interested in buying any tomato plants, check Kijiji in Toronto. Happy gardening everyone 🙂

You might also like