Free Seed Starting Trays

snuffyI will make a confession here: free is my favorite price.

My farming dream includes my abundant garden where I grow organic heirloom vegetables.  I would grow all these vegetables from seed, seed that I have collected myself.  Of course right now this is just a dream, as I have failed and failed and failed with my garden.  I hope and pray that this year will be the year I will figure it all out.

One big key piece of the dream is to cultivate vegetable starter plants from seed.  There are basically three costly inputs to starting your own vegetable starter plants: seed, soil and seed starting trays.  (Of course there is water and sunshine, too, but I am referring to monetary input costs.)  Believe it or not, the most expensive “ingredient” is the seed starting tray.  Those seed starting trays will cost $1.00 or $2.00 each.

I am now going to share with you thee secret method to getting free seed starting trays…

1.  Go to the garden center section of a big box store, maybe Lowe’s, Home Depot, Wal-mart, etc.  Make sure it’s at the peak of the season.

2. Do the work for the garden center employees.  Consolidate trays of flower and vegetable starter plants.  You want to look for “holes” in the display trays and condense the trays to fill up some and empty others. Be mindful and respectful of the job that the employees have to do: make sure you only combine trays of the same type and price point and variety.  You are doing them a favor.  They are doing you a favor.

3. Ask permission of an employee to take the trays home.

stickynote2It’s that simple, really.

Here are a few other things to be aware of:
I have never received a “no”. Ever.
Some holder trays are better for seed starting than others.  It really just depends on the style used and there are probably hundreds of variables.
The big box stores throw these trays out anyway.  The trays do not have an inventory.  The grower purchases these trays by the truckload, so their cost for the trays is nominal.  They do not reuse these.
The “experts” will tell you to disinfect the trays with a solution of 10% bleach to kill any diseases present.
There’s probably a chemical residue on the trays because I can guarantee you that that grower bathed these starter plants in an assortment of chemical ick.
Isn’t it better to repurpose these trays rather than have them end up in a landfill?

You may also be wondering how I came up with my “system” for obtaining free seed starting trays… Once upon a time in Jersey a very long time ago, I used to manage garden centers.  I was Assistant Manager (and even Acting Store Manager briefly) of the now defunct Frank’s Nursery and Crafts.  I also ran the Garden Shop and Patio departments of a K-mart for an entire season.   I observed these trays being thrown out.  I threw them out myself as I consolidated the trays or delegated consolidating.  I managed the whole process of selling thousands of dollars worth of starter plants daily, ordering directly from the grower.  (Perhaps I should add that running garden centers was really the precursor to me becoming a farmer.  Perhaps that is a story I’ll share with you in the future.)

And of course, just because my kids are cute, I’m going to illustrate this….

Step One… Arrive at a Big Box Garden Center.

These "holes" are  what you want to look for...

Step two… These “holes” are what you want to look for… start consolidating here…

Again... look for "holes" in the display trays and then work on consolidating them.

Again… look for “holes” in the display trays and then work on consolidating them.

This is not a bad amount for April.  The garden center business peaks in May.

This is not a bad amount for April. The garden center business peaks in May.                       Step three…. Make sure you ask permission from store personnel before you take them home.


These are seed starting trays from two years ago.  My seeds never grew, but it wasn't because of the trays.

These are seed starting trays from two years ago. My seeds never grew, but it wasn’t because of the trays.

(Linked to The Barn Hop.)

Posted in Being a Good Environmental Stewards, Feeling Nostalgic, Laura's Cheapskate Secrets, The Garden and tagged , , by with no comments yet.

Is Everyday Earth Day?

Today is April 22nd, which is known as Earth Day here in the United States.  Earth Day is a day to promote support of environmental protection.

Perhaps we can talk ad infinitem about how “environmental protection” isn’t really Catholic in origin. (We can think about how some aspects of so-called environmental protection are actually diametrically opposed to Christian principles.) I’m not going to get into that here.

But we can remember when after Jesus fed 5000 men with the miracle of the loaves and fishes, “he said to his disciples: ‘Gather up the fragments that remain, lest they be lost’.” (John 6:12, DRB)  We can also remember that “In the beginning God created heaven, and earth.” (Genesis 1:1, DRB) I think it only follows naturally that we are to be good stewards of all that God has created.  If we squandered this away, would this be bordering on the sin of gluttony?  I’m not sure.  I’m not a theologian, rather, I’m just offering some food for thought.  I truly believe in being good stewards of all that He has created, and perhaps “being a good steward” is a similar theme to “environmental protection”.  So in honor of Earth Day, I will share with you, in no particular order, some of the things we do here on our homestead to make every day Earth Day, even though we just call it “trying to be good stewards”.

1. We drive a Nissan Versa.  We have four vehicles: a Nissan Versa, a minivan, a pickup and a “Dollar Van” (15 passenger van).  Our Nissan has a manual transmission and gets over 35 miles per gallon.  We drive the Nissan as much as we can.  It is our preferred vehicle.  I have figured out how to fit three car seats in the back safely.  Although we need the minivan, pickup and Dollar Van for the stage of life that we’re in, we always make the most fuel efficient choice we can.

This is our Nissan Versa in the Wal-mart parking lot in Ohio, September 2011.

This is our Nissan Versa in the Wal-mart parking lot in Ohio, September 2010.


2. We don’t use the dryer.  We own a dryer which is probably not very efficient, but we only use it about twice a year, when we have an urgent need. I use the clothesline.

Here are some socks hanging on the clothesline , March 2013. Our house isn't white anymore.

Here are some socks hanging on the clothesline , March 2013. Our house isn’t white anymore.


3. We cloth diaper.  I used to be a member of the cult of cloth diapers.  OK, so it’s not really a cult, but it seems that way sometimes.  When I had just two in cloth diapers, I did crazy things like go camping with cloth twice and drive to New Jersey with cloth.  Now I use disposable diapers when I’m on the go.  I just really can’t handle cloth on the go with three in diapers.  Even packing that amount of diapers for a twelve hour day on the go takes up too much room.  So I do use ‘sposies, but it’s minimal.

This is Baby5.

This is Baby5 last week.


4. When we go to Denver or Colorado Springs for a day of appointments, it is usually a twelve to fourteen hour affair.  I coordinate my trips to go grocery shopping and other stores with necessary doctor appointments.


5. I make the most of leftovers.  I try not to let anything go bad.  I use scraps as much as I can.  If I can’t use the scraps, I give them to the animals.  I compost what can’t be used for the animals.


6. I compost cardboard and paper stuff.  I take metal to the scrap yard (when I’m in town anyway).  I take glass to town to recycle, during a trip for something else.

September 2012- This is our pickup on its way to the scrap yard.

September 2012- This is our pickup on its way to the scrap yard.


7. We homeschool.  In our school district, preschool is a half day and does not run a midday bus.  If I had enrolled my two oldest there, I would have to pick one up at eleven and drop the other off at one.  We’re nearly 8 miles from the school.  8*4 = 32, 32*4 (days per week)=128.  I save 128 miles driven weekly.  The bus drives by our house anyway, so we are not saving the school district any gas by homeschooling.

September 2013- We homeschool.

September 2013- We homeschool.


8. We do hand-me-downs.  We do thrift stores.  We do garage sales.  We also buy some clothes new and look for higher quality.  Clothes have finite wear.  We’re sensible about it.  When clothes do wear out, they become cleaning rags, “baby butt rags” (cloth diaper liners) or compost.


9. We make good use of what’s lying around here, especially for our farming endeavors.  Remember the Loomix tub?  Case and point, really.


10.  For our animals, we source as much as we can from our own land.  We grow our own straw.  We grow our own hay.  We make fodder from our wheat.

This is June 2012- This is a bale of straw in our wheat field.

This is June 2012- This is a bale of straw in our wheat field.

11. We raise our own beef, eggs and now pork.  We raise our own wheat.  One day I might actually have a garden good enough to provide food for our family.  I’m working on that.


12. I order everything that is economically feasible to do so online.  The UPS and mail ladies drive by our house anyway.


13. We heat with wood.  The trees on our property are in various stages of dying.  Our heating fuel therefore comes right from our own property.

This is our woodpile in January 2012.

This is our woodpile in January 2012.


14. My children who have needed speech help get it over the computer, in a similar way to Skype.  That saves a lot of trips, even if we actually had quality speech therapy locally (which we don’t).


15. We save some roof runoff for watering the garden.

Spring 2013- These containers are catching roof runoff.

Spring 2013- These containers are catching roof runoff.


16. We farm organically.  Sure we’re not certified yet, but our practices are organic.  There are no organic farms within a 50 miles radius, so farms like ours are rare.  We don’t use those icky chemicals on our land.

Can we better stewards? I’m sure that we can improve. We are decent though. This list is just some of things we do, off the top of my head at least.

I think the important thing to remember is that whether you call it environmental protection or being a good steward, Earth Day is not just a day. It is an every day endeavor. It’s a lifestyle.

(Linked to A Mama’s Story.)

Posted in Being a Good Environmental Stewards by with no comments yet.