Starting your vegetables from transplants reduces the time until harvest by at least a month or more. You can buy transplants or start your own. You can find materials for starting seeds indoors at nurseries or garden centers, in seed catalogs or right in your home.
To hold your transplant you can use a variety of containers for sowing seeds. Using your imagination, you might be surprised on what you can come up with to use as containers. In choosing a container for your seedlings, you should consider not only convenience but also how much damage might occur to the seedling roots at transplant time. To make transplanting less of a shock to plants, choose individual biodegradable containers that can go directly into the ground without the risk of disturbing the tender new roots.
The most common container used for starting seeds indoors is the peat pot. They are little pots made of pressed and dried peat moss. When you use them, you can place pot and plant directly into the garden soil for transplant without damaging the root system.
In recent years, the soil block has made starting seedlings easier than ever. A seedling grown in a soil block can simply be planted directly into the ground, avoiding any shock to the roots. A soil block is a combination of peat moss and compost pressed into a compact 2-inch cube. Some soil blocks come packaged as flat pellets that expand when you add water.
Another traditional container is the plastic cell pack, which can hold the seedlings during germination but the container must be crushed or torn to remove the seedling. This manipulation can cause root damage if you are not careful.
You can also use recyclables like salad bar containers or egg cartons to hold indoor sown seed. Seedlings can be started in foam coffee cups, cardboard milk cartons, aluminum pie plates and cans.
One ingenious way to starting seeds indoors is by planting inside eggshells. You first start by saving the shells from your morning eggs! You place the eggshells in an egg carton and then make a small hole in the bottom of the shell for drainage. Next, fill the eggshells with potting soil or seed starting mix. Then, you sow a seed in each shell. When it’s time to transplant the seedlings outdoors, you lightly crack the shell and then plant shell and all. The tiny roots will not be disturbed and eventually the shell will break down into compost to help add nutrients to the growing plant.
If you reuse old containers, be sure they are scrupulously clean. Wash them with disinfectant or a diluted bleach solution. It just takes a little thought and ingenuity to find containers for starting seeds indoors. The key to using a good container is that it can hold soil and have good drainage.