Alternatives to plastic single cell seed trays?

Discussion in 'General Gardening Discussion' started by Linz, Feb 5, 2019.

  1. Fat Controller

    Fat Controller 'Cuddly' Scottish Admin! Staff Member

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    I bought some six cell, half tray size, inserts from Scotplants Direct years ago, and they are still serving me well - - well, at least I hope they are as they didn't get used last year, and I am yet to check them.
     
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    • CanadianLori

      CanadianLori Total Gardener

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      The little green trays are from Poundland/Dollarama, I think they were 3 for a dollar or something like that. They aren't necessary but I like to use them :)
       
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      • Fat Controller

        Fat Controller 'Cuddly' Scottish Admin! Staff Member

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        @Linz - I have some six cell trays going spare if you would like some?
         
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        • Sian in Belgium

          Sian in Belgium Total Gardener

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          I was about to start my own thread, and then found this one pop up in the “similar threads” section....

          I was surprised to see @Scrungee’s thread in my New Posts selection.

          I’m not getting at you at all, @Scrungee , but do people really buy cell trays? I grow most of my plants from seed, and don’t grow many annuals. However, I probably buy 3 or 4 strips of plants per year, in order to bulk out my pots, and also to do the “doorstep” pot for my mum, which I change with the seasons.

          The plants pop out of the trays easily; a gentle squeeze on the soil plug, then fingers cupped round the base of the stem. It’s just a case of easing the plant plug out of the cell....
          So this means that I have the empty cell trays to use.

          My pile of trays gets higher and higher, they last longer than I can get through them!
          I use these cells for planting out rooted cuttings, rooting cuttings, and sowing seeds. Fill the 10-block with soil, two little diagonal indents (like the 2 on a dice), a seed in each. If one comes up, great. If both come up, once I have a pair of true leaves, I gently tease the two baby plants apart, and put one per cell. Once the roots come through the bottom, I ease the plant out and put into an 8-, 6-, or 4- block, depending on the speed of growth.

          After 4-5 years of reusing, one or more cell in a tray will develop a split. I have a second pile of split cell trays, and I wait until I have 4-5 trays, before throwing away. (We are charged on volume of rubbish generated, and a small black bin-bag sized sack costs £2, so I try to minimise space usage).

          Confession time: I don’t scrub out the trays. I store them in the garage (indoor-dry level), and so I reckon that bugs, mould, bacteria will either die, or fall off, when I give them a good sharp tap before filling them.
          I’ve no problems with seeds damping off, or the compost developing a mould. Personally, I think that the health of seed germination is down to proper watering, rather than scrubbing and disinfectant.

          Be honest now:
          ....am I the only one who does this?
           
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          • andrews

            andrews Super Gardener

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            On re-using pots / containers - no. I'll get as many uses out of them as I can

            On not cleaning pots - no. Ive never had a problem with mould or infections (that's the kiss of death right there !)
             
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            • CanadianLori

              CanadianLori Total Gardener

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              Okay, I'm totally different to all of you! I start my seeds in soil blocks (1st pic). I do not use cell trays. If a seed doesn't germinate, the soil gets broken up and gets reused either to pot up other seedlings or to make more soil blocks. No waste. I do mostly put the blocks in little trays (2nd pic) but those get reused year after year. And I do rinse them out as I light things to look tidy.
              It is quite quick to make four blocks at a time. Takes about 5 minutes to make a full tray of 28 with the maker (3rd pic.)soil blocks 2015 (4).JPGIndoor Growing Startup (8).JPG9527.jpg I don't wash my trays with anything but water. No point to do otherwise, in my opinion.
               
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              • Selleri

                Selleri Super Gardener

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                Lori, you are a star and I truly admire the approach you are taking at every level of your gardening and lifestyle. Blooming marvellous. :dbgrtmb:

                Personally I just use any available vessel to hold soil for my seedlings.

                It's not about avoiding plastic which is in itself brilliant. Just imagine a suburban gardener having to buy the summer bedding in clay pots. That would make gardening an elite hobby rather than opening it to everybody and allowing nurseries to trade in supermarkets.

                Plastic is here for a reason, it's so useful and can easily be repurposed or recycled.

                My vessels to hold small amounts of soil for seeds, seedlings and cuttings range from small pots you get when buying plants via bedding plant multipack trays which last for years to any container in the house that is about the right size and shape. Sour cream... perfect.
                 
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                • CanadianLori

                  CanadianLori Total Gardener

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                  @Selleri I agree that plastic is useful. My hanging pots are plastic. I didn't want to use them again this year because I don't like the colours so I kicked myself in the behind and painted them for this year instad of throwing them out, some are over 12 years old.

                  If the soil blocks produce seedlings, they go onto to little plastic pots. And so on.

                  I really don't like cell packs because I seem to damage the roots when planting them out.
                   
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                  • Mike Allen

                    Mike Allen Total Gardener

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                    Please friends, please don't misunderstand me. Having subscribed to various gardening forums. I soon learned of the many ways keen gardeners grow their plants. Some resort to egg box cells, others to yogourt pots etc. I am still re-using plantpak pots purchased 30 yrs ago.

                    Lets take a look at what you are using pots/cells for. I often use multi cells for seed sowing. Each cell measuring about half to one inch square. Normally a pack will contain about five or ten strips, each strip adding upto enough to fit into a plastic seed tray. Here, I suggest a rigid seed tray. Seed sowing and pricking out is no so much easier. For instance. Using a strip or whatever of small cells, fitted into an average size seed tray. Simply fill with compost medium, water, sprinkle seed if required, cover seed. Place glass or other transluscent cover and wait for signs of germination. Benefits of cell sowing. Young seedlings/plants can be removed with minimal root disturbance. For larger cells. I avoid these. Yes support is needed and for what, six or eight plants.
                     
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                    • CanadianLori

                      CanadianLori Total Gardener

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                      @Mike Allen I still believe for initial germination soil blocks are best.

                      The pic with the four domed trays illustrates a compact way of moving only sucesses to the next stage and the roots are not disturbed.
                      That pic is a few years old as I now use LEDs. Those four hold 112 soil blocks that are well separated. Air pruned until. Potted up.
                      I will have used about 300 blocks by the time I've got enough seedlings for me and my friends. :)
                       
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                      • shiney

                        shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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                        We don't use single cell packs. All our seeds are sown directly into seed trays or individual pots if the type of seed warrants it.

                        Our seed trays are at least 50 years old and just get a quick squirt with the hose at the beginning of the season - laid out on the lawn and just hosed down. The only cell trays we have are when people have given them to us.

                        Potting on gets done, carefully, as and when necessary and we get through a few thousand pots a year. All those used and emptied, when potting on, get a quick rinse. People drop off pots to us all year round and I have had to insist on them being washed out before they bring them - after I had to clean out all these 'gifts'! Almost 6,000 of them :doh: (That was the second batch :yikes:)

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                        • john558

                          john558 Super Gardener

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                          I use quite a few McDonalds & KFC drink cups, ideal for starting off Runner Beans as they are deeper, and they last many seasons.
                           
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                          • Sian in Belgium

                            Sian in Belgium Total Gardener

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                            :bigthumb:
                            I think there are lots of different soil containers we can use for seed sowing. I’m sure many of us use and re-use containers. When all is said and done, what we are looking for is a way for the seed to be kept moist whilst it germinates, and something for the young roots to grow into.

                            I am always aware of people joining our wonderful hobby. I don’t want them to think that they have to buy, spend, invest money, when starting out. After all, even if you didn’t buy bedding plants last summer, or autumn, a quick ask around the office/school gates/neighbours, and a tray (or 5!) will be forthcoming. Giving you more free cash to invest in compost, seeds, etc.
                             
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                            • NigelJ

                              NigelJ Total Gardener

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                              Keep an eye open on Freecycle and similar as people are often trying to get rid of pots and trays.
                               
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                              • Mike Allen

                                Mike Allen Total Gardener

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                                A great big 'Well Done' to all.

                                There is an old saying. The route you know, is probably the best for you. When indulging in our gardening we probably want to sow lots of different seeds, flowers and veg. Then perhaps we take cuttings etc. So we must be faced with the problem. Ambition. Sowing. Pricking out etc etc. Then space. Where am I going to stand all these pots etc.

                                Shiney. I know you and Mrs. S do a lot for charity. Tell us please. Do you have outside help with pricking out etc. Please don't tell me. You take a couple of trays of seedlings to bed with you and some pots then prick out a few trays?

                                At one point in my career. I had at my disposal two 75 ft GH's. Gas/hot water heated. Some seed was sown in trays and later pricked out ino trays of 48 plants. Others were potted up. I had staff working under me, but the grounds had to be cared for, so most of the GH work was done by me. Oh! if only cell trays had been around then.

                                To me. The invention of cell trays was a blessing. A simple underside prod and out comes a tiny plant, no root disturbance, and in you go to a hole in a pot or whatever. No more damaged seedlings.

                                As I say. I take my hat off to all, for whatever methods you find best.

                                Relating to this plastic warfare. We are backing a loser IMO.
                                 
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