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Starting Seeds in Polyethylene Containers

Posted by mjkk (My Page) on
Wed, Feb 3, 10 at 9:05

Last year I started some heirloom tomatoes fromm seed and they were wonderful. This year to comply with demands from friends I will have to start more. Here's my thought. I was thinking of using large polyethylene storage containers, sort of the like the one you use to store clothes down the basement in the off season. They are translucent. I would place some wood slats on the bottom so the bases of the peat pots would not be sitting in water. I am planning to use paper 2" starters set on 3" square pat pots to start the seeds. The cover would keep the air around the sprouts humid and the pots damp. If it got too dry I would simply remove the cover. I will use a grow light on them once they sprout. Any ideas or suggestions are appreciated.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Starting Seeds in Polyethylene Containers

Keeping the soil too moist, & the high humidity are the conditions that promote damping off. Keep the soil damp not wwet & there should be GOOD air circulation around the plants.....


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RE: Starting Seeds in Polyethylene Containers

I can't picture what you're talking about. How deep are these polythene containers? What are 2" paper starters? Is there some reason you don't want to use regular flats? Some advantage to this setup you're describing? Sounds like a recipe for damping off imho, lacking airflow and limiting any ambient light. Unless I'm just confused; if the polythene containers were about 2 inches deep or so, then that sounds good, although then that's not really much different than a flat and probably costs 5 times as much or more. Need more info!


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RE: Starting Seeds in Polyethylene Containers

Bad Idea!!

I agree with the other posters. That much moisture and your plants will all die or the seeds will rot in the soil. I'm with sleepy--what the heck are paper starters? I never heard of pat pots unless you mean peat pots.

A tray with humidity cover is all you need. If the soil is moist right through--moist not sopping--and you use a humidity lid, you probably won't need to water until after they sprout.

The secret to getting tomatoes to sprout fast is heat. Tomatoes won't sprout unless the soil is 80 degrees. Bottom heat ensures that the soil is the right temperature. If you can't supply that, then look around and find a nice warm place to put them until they sprout. Just make sure it is not too warm or you will have the another problem.


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RE: Starting Seeds in Polyethylene Containers

Sleepy33

Sometimes you have to use what you have at hand. The containers are 12 inches deep. I will use nominal 1" strips to raise the 3" square pots off the bottom. the paper starters are made by pressing a strip of newsprint between two dowels creating a round small cup to start the seeds. For air flow I might drill holes around the base. The containers are all but transparent and will rest on a shelf in the bright morning sun. The light will be supplemented with a grow light. I hope I have typed this slow enough for you ;-)


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RE: Starting Seeds in Polyethylene Containers

Well gee whiz, mjkk, how many wpm you type surprisingly doesn't really effect my reading comprehension. You asked for advice, and I just wanted to get an accurate picture of what we're talking about here. It really sounds to me like you've already made up your mind what you want to do, so I'm not sure why you asked for input. I'm sure everyone on the board has made mistakes before and they take the time to give advice to others in the hope that they can help others be as successful as possible. And while you may very well be able to grow seedlings in the manner you propose, why make it harder on yourself than you need to? A high level of humidity is only necessary during the seed germination process, and after the seeds have germinated (which takes hardly any time at all for tomatoes), humidity should be avoided to reduce risk of damping off and for optimal seedling growth. Putting a whole bunch of newspaper pots/peat pots next to each other in a 12 inch deep plastic container is creating a perfect environment for fungus. How do you propose to water the seedlings? Are you going to lift all of them out every time you water and then set them back in again? Very time consuming on a daily basis. I understand the need for 'using what you have at hand', but flats are like $.95 cents a piece. There's a reason professional growers use them, they're the easiest and most effective way to grow from seed. At the very least, I'd consider putting the pots in a flat for ease of lifting them in an out of your polyethylene containers.


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RE: Starting Seeds in Polyethylene Containers

I use clear plastic containers about the size of a shoe box with a clear plastic lid for starting seeds. Forget individual pots, just put a 2 to 3 inch layer of seed starting mix in the bottom (I use Pro-Mix BK but any seed starting mix would work) and plant your seeds directly in the seed starting mix. But you have to be very careful not to get it too wet or your seeds will rot or you will get damping off. If you see a lot of condensation on the inside of the lid it is too wet so take the lid off and let it dry out a bit. When the seedlings get about two inches tall transplant them into plastic pots.


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RE: Starting Seeds in Polyethylene Containers

Thanks for clarifying what a paper twist is. I have used them myself--made them without a tool-- but never heard them called that. I guess that every manufacturer of tools to do this has a different name for them. Frankly I didn't like them. You have to be very careful how you pick them up or handle them, because paper tears. Much better to fold in the bottom of a toilet paper roll.

If you want an effective transparent container with a lid, why buy totes. They are expensive. Use those containers you buy bisquits or cousants in at the supermarket. They have lids that act as a humidity lid. You can hold them closed with a clothespin or bag clip. A muffin one, with holes cut in the bottom works as individual pots when set inside the biscuit one and it's flexible enough to poke out from the bottom for transplanting.

mjkk-- please listen. You asked if your idea was feesible and we said don't do it. Well I'm saying go ahead and do it, but don't be surprised if you end up with no plants.

californiaman--the reason you have trouble with damp off down in a box with no drainage holes--1 the excess water has nowhere to go and 2--there is not good air circulation when the sides of the box are that much higher than the plants.

Both of you are innovative and that's what gardening is, but you also have to follow certain guidelines. A plant needs light and warmth and water--but not too much-- and good air circulation. Be innovative but also keep in mind what a plant needs to grow.


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RE: Starting Seeds in Polyethylene Containers

thanks Californian and Oilpainter. I was looking for reasons either to or not to do it. I have the containers and thought they might work. Will reconsider my options. Maybe plant directly to the 3 X 3 peat pots. Heat is not a problem as the stand is in a direct sunlight window and the woodstove is to the rear of it... 5 feet. It's a afine line between keeping seedlings watered, creating a mold situation and drying the little sprouts out. Before you say move teh seedlings there is a lot more too it than that (and I will not go into it here). The heavy containers seemed to be the answer. I'll let you know what I come up with. Thanks for the advice.


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RE: Starting Seeds in Polyethylene Containers

mjkk,

just read through the thread, and my immediate thought was....why do you want to use the plastic containers? Are they to hold the paper pots? is this their only function?

If you are trying to keep the soil moist for germination, and germinate a lot of seeds....just use one 4" pot, fill with seed starting medium, add seeds(we put in about 15-20 tomato seeds for instance), saran wrap the top, and let them germinate. When they do...prick out into your other pots...at this point they won't need covering, and as long as your large plastic containers aren't too deep...you could use them as trays.

good luck
m


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RE: Starting Seeds in Polyethylene Containers

If you are just looking for a 'tray' to hold your pots from things around the house..... After they germinate what about a cookie sheet with a 'cooling' cookie rack the paper pots sit on with about an inch between the paper pots for airflow? The cookie rack would have to sit just at water level but then you could just bottom water and the paper pots would wick it up as needed? Just a thought My only other suggestion would be a 1020 tray without holes (large black garden flat) that you could set all your pots into. I know Menards sells them and their ridged bottom helps to keep the pots from drowning.

No matter what you use... your friends should be very thankful. Best of luck. Happy gardening!

Keriann~


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RE: Starting Seeds in Polyethylene Containers

Ok, folks, I see we have a good group of experienced seed-sowers...

I have a bunch of small to medium plastic containers that I saved over the course of last summer. You know the kinds that you find in the blueberry/strawberry department? Well, they could not be recycled, and I wanted to reuse them. I have plenty of nursery containers in which I have purchased plants over the course of a period of 5 years or so. My thought is to start the seeds in these smaller transparent containers, which already have drainage holes in them, at first covering them with the throwaway plastic bags that a available from the grocery store, rather than spending money on Saran Wrap. After the seedlings have germinated, take off the plastic bags and let them grow until they are read for the "prick off" stage, and then put them into the appropriate size container for growing them on. Also I have read that chamomile tea is excellent for preventing damp-off and other soil-born fungus. I have made up a weak tea mixture into a spray bottle from the kitchen that was originally intended for spraying on olive oil. I have already ran that throught the dishwasher, and also disinfected it with a Clorox solution of which I am also now using to clean the containers, and then, of course, changing the waters frequently, as the most of the labels were able to be scrubbed off as well. I am almost finished washing all of my nursery containers.
Anyone see any problems with my plan? Thanks!


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