My seedlings are out-growing their pots

But I have a plan.

The abundant spring rains and record heat have pushed my vegetable garden seedlings into hyper-growth mode. The green beans are starting to form buds for flowers, and are already sending out tentacles to attach themselves to anything they can grab and hang onto for dear life. The corn roots are shooting out the bottom of the paper seed starting cups, and the leaves of the cucumbers have spread wider than the span of the cups.


Memorial Day is the only time I will be able to head to the lake to plant these seedlings. And that day is still a few weeks down the road; and until Memorial Day, the danger of frost is still a threat. Meanwhile, the vegetables keeps growing, and growing. In their current state, I doubt that the vegetables will make it. As their mother, I see it my duty to help them out of this tight mess they’re in; I’m the one who got them into this mess in the first place.


I’ve wondered what other people do with their sweet corn when they’re in this mess, and then I realize, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who tried to start corn in a paper cup. As my husband, in his infinite, I-am-from-the-country-wisdom says, “Corn is meant to be planted in the ground; not in a cup.” I wonder if my vegetables were doomed before I even started.

Undaunted, I realize that just because no one has ever thought to grow corn in cup, doesn’t actually mean it’s not possible. I’ll find a way out of this; I’ll think like a plant. I believe in my plants; I’ve already imagine myself eating the fruits of this labor.

Why a cup? Our summer is short; thanks to our pre-Labor Day first day of school start dates. I need our harvest to come in mid-July and early August so that we’ll have enough time to harvest before we pack up and head back home from the lake.

You might see more vegetables started in non-traditional cups like these. If the school systems continue cut our summer vacation shorter, those of us who want a summer vegetable garden will have to find a way to shorten the growing time.


As I think like a plant, specifically, my corn, I know exactly what it needs so that it can continue to feel nurtured, well-supported and confident enough to keep growing. I need to trick my corn into believing, although temporarily, that the word is bigger than a cup, and yes, it is safe to keep growing, to spread its roots and grow a bit taller.

My trick, for now, is a simple paper grocery bag. The brown bags are nice and thick, and have already proven to be heavy and sturdy enough to handle some torrential spring downpours. I simply rolled down the sides to create a little pouch, fill with soil, and transplant the seedlings. Back up bags stand ready to serve as stand-ins if and whenever these bags start to rip, because my husband has already said, “haven’t you heard of a wet paper bag?”


When we’re ready to move our vegetable garden for its 3-hour journey to the lake, I’ll simply transfer these grocery bag pouches into their cousins, those plastic grocery bags, so that they’ll be sturdy enough to carry. There, at last, they’ll finally make their way into my already prepared soil, which now stands ready and waiting.
Life simply falls into place, when you think like a plant.

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8 comments to “My seedlings are out-growing their pots”
  1. I’ve seen corn much bigger than yours in the plastic flats at garden centers. I think you bag idea is genuis! If you can manage to transport them, along with everything else that needs to go to the lake I think they’ll be fine. The beauty of the paper bags is that you can just dig a hole big enough for them, and drop them in. The paper will disintegrate, and you won’t have to disturb the roots when transplanting!

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  6. Years later, how would you say the paper bag seedling starters are working? How long would you say the bags hold up in rain?

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