Every spring we start by planting some seeds for later transplant into the garden. The main reason for starting seeds in the house is that the growing season for the plant is too short if you simply plant the seed in the ground. It’s always a better idea to plant seeds directly in the garden when you can to avoid the shock of transplanting. However, many items, such as tomatoes and squash, need a longer growing time and you simply have to start them early. As a consequence, we’ve tried a number of planting trays over the years. A planting tray contains some number of individual cells that you use to grow plants from seed. When the time comes, you simply remove the young plant from the cell and plant it in the garden. This year we tried a new type of fiber planting tray, the Plantation Products P72HFB Clear Dome Fiber Tray with 72 Cell Insert.
This particular product lets you plant up to 72 individual plants in a single tray. It comes with a clear dome that helps hold in moisture and give the seeds a better start. The clear dome also allows sunlight through, which naturally is a requirement for getting the seeds to grow. We actually use the really large rubber bands that come with file folders, orders from some companies, or the type you use for trash cans to hold the dome in place. Using a rubber band at either end keeps prying paws (those of our cats) out of the new plants.
Of course, there are a number of systems out there and choosing the right kind for your particular needs can be difficult. There are a number of advantages to this system over using plastic trays.
- The cost of the trays is less than comparable plastic trays (although, the plastic trays do last several years and we don’t know yet just how long these fiber trays will last).
- The trays are completely biodegradable, unlike the plastic trays that have to be recycled (assuming they have the right recycling number on them, which many lack).
- The fiber actually absorbs excess liquid and releases it back into the soil, which makes it more difficult to over-water the plants.
- The trays seems sturdier and less likely to buckle.
- The fiber breathes better, which means that there is less likelihood of burning the tender roots—overheating the roots is a problem when using plastic trays.
Longevity is the one potential issue that might make these fiber trays a little less of a value than they could be. The plastic tends to break if you don’t handle them with extreme care, but with careful handling it should last three or four years. We think we’ll be lucky to get two or possibly three years from the fiber trays we purchased. However, given the other advantages, the fiber trays seem like a good deal to us.
You also have to be careful to get the product that comes with the watertight tray. The product packaging for the product we bought said that the base was watertight. Otherwise, using this product inside your home could lead to a watery mess.
Of course, there are many different choices when it comes to planting trays, but most seem to come down to a choice between plastic and fiber. Let me know your thoughts on which is better, plastic or fiber, when it comes to planting trays at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.