Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Side by Side Seed Tray Experiment

With the weather as warm as it has been (prior to this week!!), and with our mailbox stuffed with seeds every day it was impossible for us not to go ahead and get started on seedlings. Most of the tomatoes and peppers we ordered are under 70 days to harvest, a good way to maximize the odds for harvesting ripe fruit off the vine in our sometimes all too short maritime summers. Those did not require an early start. But we did make a few bets on some over 80 day plants, San Marzano Gigante and Japanese Black Trifle tomatoes, as well as several peppers hubby picked out.
This is our first time starting seeds for vegetables indoors, so we were choosing between recycled toilet paper rolls or a plastic seed starting tray. Loved the recycle-reuse approach of TP rolls, but also admired the high-density in a small space of the plastic tray. We decided to hold a showdown! We picked up a commercial plastic seed tray for 5 bucks at local drugstore (half the price of the local big box hardware store hmmm..), a small square "Corning" style covered casserole from Goodwill to hold the toilet paper rolls - also 5 bucks, and a good organic seed starter mix. The TP rolls were free - but we did cut them a little smaller than halves, to minimize the soil required.

We soaked the seeds overnight in warm water and it was off to the races! Our house is 100 years old and pretty drafty, but the Mr. had installed lovely heated floors in a bathroom remodel recently. This made a perfectly warm spot to park the seeds while we waited for them to germinate. The Corning/tp casserole under it's thick warm glass and the plastic tray under it's snug lid. Both stayed nicely moist under their covers.

The results!? Shocking! I admit I was expecting a bit of a tossup and maybe writing a little comment here about picking what mattered most to you, but that wasn't what happened at all! The Corning/TP seedlings germinated over a week earlier and are so much sturdier! It's shocking! The tomatoes are all up and the peppers are all uncurling today.

The plastic tray seedlings are limping along. They are germinating much more slowly and the few that did make it up already are stringier. Even where we planted the exact same variety...

TP rolls in Corningware is unequivocal the winner!!! I suspect the insulative properties of the glass may be the cause.

Happy seed starting,


3/10 Post Script: The absorbant nature of the cardboard is nice too. When you're going to be gone a bit too long one day and can't be home to spritz as often as you like, you can spray the cardboard liberally and it wicks the moisture to the plants throughout the day.


  1. Oooh, interesting! I will have to give this a try. Wasn't impressed with the seed-starting results I got in one of those plastic tray things last year, but chalked it up to the temperature of my house. I'm starting seedlings this weekend...now if I can just round up some TP rolls!

  2. What a great idea! I've never thought of using Corningware. It makes so much sense. :)

  3. Hooray for SCIENCE!! Great unexpected experiment gone horribly right! I put my peat pots in a pyrex dish, so hopefully I'll be seeing sprouts-a-plenty!

  4. Could it have been the soil that made the difference? Maybe that peat couldn't compete with the soil you put in the cardboard tubes?