Containers for Growing Seedlings

You have a wide choice of containers if you want to grow your own seedlings, and they all have pros and cons. Here’s some info so you can make an educated choice:

Container type Pros Cons
Plastic flats with inserts and lids  Easily available
No mess, easy to use
Can be washed and re-used with care
Can eventually be recycled
Square units make the best use of tray space under lights
 More unnecessary plastic in the world
Cheap ones can be flimsy and not reusable
recycled plastic eg yogurt pots  Free
A good use for plastic pots before you recycle them
Must poke drainage hole in the bottom of each pot
Sizes are not optimal
Shapes and sizes vary, don’t make good use of space
recycled styrofoam cups  Free
A good use for old cups
Insulates root ball
 Must poke drainage hole in the bottom of each pot
Hard to clean after use, hard to recycle or re-use
cardboard tubes eg TP, paper towels  Free
Good for seeds with long taproots
Tall and narrow to fit plenty of plants in a small space
Can be planted “pot and all” so good for plants which don’t like roots disturbed
 Tend to go mouldy if they sit around damp for a long time
Must plant carefully – wet thoroughly and rip off rim so it does not show above ground
Don’t stack, so space-consuming to store
Newspaper pots  Free
Can be made with or without a commercial “potmaker”
 Time-consuming to make
Tend to go mouldy if they sit around damp for a long time
Must plant carefully – wet thoroughly and rip off rim so it does not show above ground
Advanced commercial plastic container setups  More sturdy than basic plastic inserts
Can be self-watering and have other advantages
 Expensive – sometimes VERY expensive
Even more plastic in the world.
Styrofoam ones can be impossible to recycle
Peat pots Recommended for plants which don’t like their roots disturbed
Breaks down in soil
Very widely available
 Peat extraction is environmentally questionable, and alternatives exist.
Must plant carefully – wet thoroughly and rip off rim so it does not show above ground
Coir pots Recommended for plants which don’t like their roots disturbed
Breaks down in soil
 More expensive than peat
Must plant carefully – wet thoroughly and rip off rim so it does not show above ground
Material comes from far, far away
Cow manure pots  Recommended for plants which don’t like their roots disturbed
Completely disintegrates in soil
North American product
 More expensive than peat or coir
Must plant carefully – wet thoroughly and rip off rim so it does not show above ground
Jiffy peat pellets Recommended for plants which don’t like their roots disturbed  Peat extraction is environmentally questionable, and alternatives exist.
Leaves netting behind in the soil
May contain non-organic fertilisers
Coir pellets Recommended for plants which don’t like their roots disturbed  Material comes from far, far away
Leaves netting behind in the soil
soil blocks Recommended for plants which don’t like their roots disturbed
No actual container at all
Conserves space in trays and under lights
Small blocks fit neatly into spaces in larger blocks for “potting on”
 Soil blocker to make the blocks is fairly expensive (but a one-time expense)
Needs suitable soil mix
Takes practice to make good blocks
Some plants don’t like the compacted soil in the blocks

Personally, I use a mix of basic plastic inserts I already own (re-used many times over, then recycled) and soil blocks. Both go in plastic trays I have had for years, mended when they start to leak, and eventually recycled when they fall apart completely. I plan to build wood trays from salvaged cedar when I run out pf plastic trays. For clear lids, I use a mix of clear plastic purpose-made lids, and reused sheets of clear plastic from old 1970’s illuminated ceilings.

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