Testing Seed Starters for Spring Seedlings

MOTHER tests eight spring seedling seed starters kits for the garden. Includes seed starter description, durability, ease of use, access to buy and overall rating.


A close look at eight home gardening seed starters for your spring garden.  


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Testing Seed Starters for Spring Seedlings

Peat Pot

Description: Individual square or round
pots made of pressed peat moss and plant nutrients. A
popular brand called Jiffy Pots can be bought in connected
groups of 12, called Jiffy Strips. They are used with
standard plastic flats or specially sized Jiffy Set

Durability: One-time use. Peat pots are
meant to break down in the soil.

Ease of use: These plant-it-all containers
have been popular with home gardeners for a good while, but
I noticed a few potential drawbacks. Round pots seem a
waste of space when compared to square ones. Individual
pots are a pain to keep standing when you’re filling them
(sets are easier). And the peat walls tend to wick water
away from the soil. Granted, this does promote good
drainage and root aeration, but the extra waterings thus
required promote algae growth, as well. You also need to
tear peat pots when transplanting (they don’t always break
down readily), and you should bury them
completely—any edge left above the surface will wick
moisture away from the root zone.

Access: Local garden nurseries and many
seed and garden supply catalogues, including Park Seeds
(Greenwood, SC7). Eight Jiffy Strips (a
total of 96 pots) cost $5.95 plus $1 shipping and

Rating: * * Peat pots require too much
watering and can be inconvenient to use.

Soil Block Maker

Description: Spring-loaded metal devices
used to produce cubes of soil for individual seeds. The
plant cubes are then transplanted into the soil. Flats for
these soil cubes can be wooden (with three walls to allow
easy block removal), plastic or even the venerable
half-gallon milk carton (cut in half longways, each half
will hold exactly eight cubes).

Durability: The block maker should last
indefinitely if well cared for. Individual soil blocks are
used only once.

Ease of use: The key to success with block
makers is the soil mix you use. It must contain enough peat
moss to hold the cubes together without their becoming
adobe hard. Nick Woodin, a market gardener in New York, has
had success with a mixture of 50% peat moss, 50% compost
and some lime to adjust the pH.