I love, Love, LOVE starting my own seeds!! Not only am I cheating and getting a jumpstart on spring, getting the chance to stick my hands in the dirt after only a couple month hiatus, but I know that I’m doing something that is frugal and organic!
I mean, you can grow a tomato as organically as you want once you get it home from the nursery’s greenhouse, but let’s be honest, do you really think they give a hoot and a half about organics? Well, maybe they do in your neck of the woods, but around here “organic” is something all those hippies on the west coast dabble in. We’re practical here in the midwest (and “feeding the world” don’t you know? Pft!!)
I played around with starting seeds for a few years, but once I realized that onion seeds need to be sown somewhere around January, I got real serious about my new wintery hobby. You mean I only need to skip November & December in my gardening calendar?!?!
It was music to my ears! (Being the addict that I am and all. )
So over the years, I’ve tried most of the ways that a backyard gardener commonly starts their seeds. Here’s the rundown of the pros & cons of each that I’ve learned.
Difficult to maintain even moisture levels
If it gets too wet, it could rip
Can decompose if planted in the ground
Time consuming to prepare especially if you’ll be doing a large number of pots
Don’t wear white while making them. No seriously, you’ll ruin it.
Easily rips if saturated
Susceptible to molding- Mine got quite slimy
Don’t quickly decompose in the ground- I suggest at least ripping them open prior to planting so those little roots can get out.
Can rip if saturated during watering.
(Buy Peat Pots here.)
Can be planted in the ground and decomposed
Can be shuffled and moved around if allowed to dry out a little first
Can rip if over saturated
Can be susceptible to molding
(Buy plastic seed starting supplies here. Or plastic cups work great too and could possibly be free if you collect them from parties or fellowship meals. If you’ll be using a self-watering tray, be sure to poke a few holes in the bottom first. No matter how I start them, I transplant tomatoes up into plastic cups because they’re so tall and narrow. I bury the whole stem right on up to the bottom of the first true leaves and a beautiful root system will establish itself by the time it’s ready to go into the ground)
Can be inexpensive especially if salvaged
Reusable and with careful handling can be saved from one year to the next
Can rip or get a hole
One time investment
Easy to use, and quick to make once you get into a groove
No containers to break
No root shock
Roots don’t get bound
If you need to shuffle your seeds into different trays it can be tricky to keep them from breaking if they’re loosely made or wet.
You’re limited to size. If you want to upsize using to a larger one, you’ll need to purchase multiple sizes. Not all plants need a large block of soil so you might need to buy a second one to accommodate those need.
If your seeds don’t germinate, your soil is stuck. There’s no adding it back in to be made into another one. It’s just wasted space.
So what will I use?
Honestly, I don’t see myself ever making newspaper pots or ones from cardboard tubes again. It wasn’t worth the upfront time investment for the advantage of using “free” materials.
If I’m pressed for time and only have a small window available, I’ll probably reach for a plastic pot or Jiffy pot as long as I have them to use. It will irritate me come planting time that I’ve used the Jiffy pots, but that’s trouble for another day.
Ideally, if I have the time, I’m going to go with the soil blockers. Hoping that I’ll get great germination rates and have to face the painful task of thinning seedlings, I believe that in the end a soil blocker produce a pot that is the best for the seedlings and the most user-friendly for the gardener.
Which is your favorite for starting your seeds?