How to Use K-Cups as Seed Starters

As with most of my “brilliant ideas,” this one was copied from someone else. I first thought of using K-cup pods to start seeds when I read a Craigslist ad requesting used K-cups. The ad said to keep the cup intact and just allow the coffee grounds to dry out; he would use the whole thing to start seeds. I noticed that the cup seemed to have about the same volume as a cell in a six-pack, and had a drainage hole already punched in the bottom, so why not try it?

LAST YEAR’S TRIAL

I sowed one tomato seed in each of two cups last year, preferring to replace the coffee grounds with potting mix. It worked well, and I potted up the little seedlings when they had their first set of true leaves. The only drawback was that the potting mix was a little too moist when the root ball was removed from the K-cup for transplanting. I plan to compensate this year by punching an extra drainage hole in the bottom.

PREPARING THE CUP

Recently when I removed a used cup from the machine, I turned it around 180 degrees, inserted it again and lowered the handle to punch a second hole. (You could probably add more holes this way if you wanted to.) Then I set it aside until I had a small collection of them.

Use your machine to make a second hole

Make a second hole in the bottom of the cup.

The typical K-cup pod has the coffee grounds contained in a tiny filter, which is suspended just above the cup bottom, creating an air space between the bottom of the filter and the bottom of the cup.

A clear K-cup showing the suspended filter

This brand of coffee uses a clear K-cup, so you can see the suspended filter.

Other gardeners make use of this filter to keep the growing medium suspended also, but I found it easier to just insert my thumb and rip out both the grounds and the filter, leaving only the cup with the holes in the bottom. (Save the grounds for a soil additive to use in your garden later.) Wash out the cup or clean it in the dishwasher.

SOWING THE SEEDS

Fill the cup with moist potting mix and plant the seeds according to package directions. Write the variety name on the cup with a Sharpie pen. Put the cups in a flat-bottomed container and cover with plastic wrap. It helps germination to place the cups in a warm spot, but don’t let the mix dry out.

K-cups fit in little spaces

It is easy to fit these cups between the other containers.

As always (you know the drill) as soon as you see the seedlings break through the soil, remove the cover and put the cups under a bright light…or outside if it is warm enough. Continue to keep the soil moist and wait for the true leaves to appear.

TRANSPLANTING

When the first true leaves have appeared on your little seedling, it’s time to transplant it to a larger container. Fill the larger pot with moist soil mix and make a hole just about the diameter of the root ball. (Remember that tomato seedlings can be buried deeper because the buried stem will form additional roots.)

True leaves means ready to transplant

When the true leaves appear, it’s time to move to a bigger container.

Place your index and middle fingers in a V-shape on the soil surface—one finger on each side of the stem. Turn the K-cup over.

To remove the plant, tap UP on the K-cup rim, not DOWN onto its bottom. (I learned this method from my garden-loving father, and it seems to work well no matter what type of seedling container you are using—from cell packs to larger pots.) Lift off the K-cup and your V-shaped fingers will hold the root ball.

Make a V with your fingers to hold the root ball

Hold the root ball with one finger on each side of the stem.

Carefully turn the seedling right side up and place it into the hole you created. Firm the potting mix around the seedling, which will be happy in its new home!

The root ball fits in the hole you created

Nestle the root ball in the hole you created.

Add soil to bury the tomato stem

Add soil to bury the tomato stem right up to the leaves.

NOW YOU TRY IT

How many cups of coffee will you be drinking between now and next spring? Even if you don’t have a Keurig machine, you probably know someone who does. A local restaurant or business may be happy to give you their used pods. My bank has a Keurig machine in the lobby for courtesy use by its account holders. Theoretically you could even wash and reuse the same K-cups repeatedly to start seeds. You may never have to buy cell packs again!

Click here for a post by a garden blogger who keeps the filter intact when using K-cups to start seeds.  And for other creative ways to recycle your K-cups, click here.

The produce from the K-cup seedling

Here are the results of the little seedling I started in a K-cup!

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About Nana's House and Garden

I am a retired baby boomer who was born and raised in New Jersey. Had a lovely, happy childhood in a surburb that was similar to what you would see in "Peanuts." Went with family EVERY YEAR to the Jersey Shore and believe me the people in that TV show..and in the Sopranos...are NOT representative of most NJ residents. Married a widower with three boys and then had two daughters. All are now grown, and I have several step-grandchildren and one biological grandson. I worked out of my home doing medical transcription while my daughters were growing up. Now that my husband is retired, I quit the part time transcription business to stay home and keep him company. One of our daughters is still living with us and we enjoy her company, also. I have started a sideline business with my college classmate. We discovered that we each had once had an elderly relative who was called "Nana" so we decided to name the business "Nana's House and Garden." We sell items on eBay that are related to home, gardening and crafts. This blog and our website "Nanashouseandgarden.com" will be companions to our eBay store. We hope they will be informative and entertaining.
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