Reusing Seed Starting Pots
You’d be surprised by what can qualify as a decent, if not great, seed starting pot and perhaps surprised even more to discover that many can be found in the recycling bin. Toilet rolls are free and accessible, but have their downside. I can get a second use from the paper cups and cartons that my to-go cappuccinos and milk come in. Large yoghurt containers are the perfect size and depth for flourishing seedlings that need a little more space before transplanting outside, and plastic packaging of all sorts can be cut up and repurposed into handy self-watering containers.
My Favorite Seed Starting Containers
With a few exceptions, I prefer to start my seeds in a pot that is large enough to carry them through from seed, to seedling, to their final place, whether that will be in the ground or in a pot outdoors.
My reasons for this are 1. I grow a lot of plants from seed and repotting hundreds of plants is not work that I want to do. 2. My eyes are always bigger than my space and starting seeds in their final pot gives me a clear indication of how many seedlings I can reasonably grow within my space. Were I to start in peat pots (hate them) or soil blockers, or some other super tiny little nugget of soil, I can guarantee you that I would over sow and be out of optimal space underneath lights in 2-4 weeks. Sowing in the way that I do keeps me in check.
I have a few favorite containers that I hoard and reuse over and over again. Most of them were acquired when I bought or received seedlings from friends. There are different pots for different plants, depending on their growth habit and needs. For herbs, dwarf tomatoes, hot peppers, and a few other miscellaneous plants, I love small 2 1/2″ X 3 1/2″ black pots that taper down toward the end. This tapering increases drainage. For plants that grow very slowly, lettuces, and herbs that do not develop deep root systems or require extra drainage, I often turn to the square pots that are approximately 3 1/4″ wide and deep. These pots are not tapered and do not drain as well. For tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers, and a host of other deeply-rooted edibles I favor the standard 3 1/4″ x 4″ pots (often called 4″ pots) that most seedlings come in at the store.
I rarely have need to purchase a container for seed-starting, but when I do, I like these plastic drinking cups from the dollar store. They are nice and deep and great for most tomatoes. They do require that I add drainage holes, but once that’s done I can get a good 5+ years of use from them.
I do not wash all of my seed starting containers every year. I wash newly acquired containers because I don’t always know where they’ve been and what has been in and on them. I thoroughly wash containers that may have had diseased or pest-laden plants in them. And every few years I scrub away any salt deposits that have formed around the drainage holes and tops of the pots. In other years, I simply wipe away any old soil with a rag, brush, or my fingers.
To Disinfect: Most garden literature suggest soaking pots in a mild bleach solution, but I don’t use bleach or like to keep it in the house so I wash my pots in warm, soapy water a few splashes of hydrogen peroxide (aka oxygenated bleach) added. You can buy this in the cleaning product section of most health food stores.