WS'ing Containers

Crazy_Gardener(Z2b AB Canada)July 18, 2006

I'm just curious what you all use for your WS'ing containers? I'm sure there are alot of newbies out there that would like to know what to use too.

I like using those black commercial nursery flats with drainage holes, 5x7x2½ inserts with the plastic domes (vent holes) duct taped on top.

So what do you all like to use?


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cangrow(Z7 BC Canada)

I like 2 or 4L milk jugs and Costco 2-lb. organic salad mix boxes because they have enough head room that you can leave the covers on longer, which gives the plants protection longer, particularly from late frosts.

I sowed three lots of Alyssum at once: first ones in containers without a cover (one step up from direct sowing), second in shallow containers where I had to take the lid off once the seeds sprouted, and the third in milk jugs where I left the lids on until I got around to planting out.

The first lot germinated later and never caught up, the second lot slowed WAY down once I pulled the lids off, and the third lot in milk jugs went crazy.

When I planted them out, the third lot were easily double the size of the second lot, and were in full bloom. The first lot were still small and undeveloped.

This isn't so bad as it's nice to have some succession so some Alyssum is just coming out as you're having to trim the first blooms from more robust plants. But it gives you an idea of how much better it is to keep the plants protected longer.

And a tip for anyone else in the Lower Mainland: you need double the drainage holes that you think you do -- and big ones, not little slits.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 1:04AM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

I don't know if you have, but reading Trudi's article is very informative:
Most WSers seems to be a frugal lot - we re-use existing containers rather than buy anything for sowing as Trudi suggests. Some guidelines are to have at least three inches of soil and at least three inches of head-room so that the roots can develop, your containers don't dry out, and your plants can grow on for several more weeks if needed. You will not believe the root-systems that these plants can develop. I made the mistake last winter of using those berry containers which seemed perfect with holes ready-made. They were not good - too shallow and not enough head room. I was successful only because I went out daily to water then, but I did lose some nasturtiums - they wee burned by touching the lid of the container. My plans this year are for some clear plastic containers about 6 ins. tall which my DH gets from the health food store with peanut butter. For the larger seeds, I will use paper pots (have perfected my method and made some this morning for summer sowing) inside those pots or yogurt tubs. I will also be saving the plastic container that contained salad greens my DH bought last week. It's only 5 inches high, but it will do for some things because it's clear plastic, with a nice fitting lid. The best idea I've seen is the plastic salad container, I think from Costco. The milk jugs seem to be very popular, but we don't drink milk so I've never tried them. For me, container hunting is an on-going thing: always on the look out for something suitable, and re-usable.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 6:57AM
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tabbycat55(z6 Ont Canada)

Sounds like you need clear lids or plastic to cover the containers. Do you have to worry about them heating up too much in spring? The sun can sometimes get pretty warm, even in early spring. Or do you take the container lids off sooner? Think I should read the recommended FAQ by Trudi. :-)


    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 9:44PM
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Crazy_Gardener(Z2b AB Canada)

Yes, Wendy, once it starts warming up in the spring, you either open your tops or cut bigger slits, otherwise you can cook your seedlings. If a frost is predicted, cover them back on ;)


    Bookmark   July 20, 2006 at 4:09AM
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The first year I winter sowed I checked out the temperature in my containers when the weather warmed-up. I bought a dollar store thermometer, and placed it in containers at different times during the day, and when the outside temps were at varying stages.

In my case, when the outside temp was 15C without wind - which is rare in NS on the coast - the inside of the containers would go over 30C. In essence, that's when I start watching things.

In terms of containers, I like 2 litre pop bottles, but this past year I winter sowed in styrofoam cups and placed those in containers with wire cages on top, then covered in plastic. I liked the styro cups, and next season might do all my annuals in them and use the pop bottles for perennials.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2006 at 9:54PM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

It's nice to know someone else enjoys the styro experience.
They have always been my choice in containers, especially the ones with plastic lids from the Chinese takeout. But I was warned against them by someone on the 'mother' forum - something about a tendency to dryout quickly, but I don't find that a problem. I have used styrofoam cups packed in clementine boxes to spring sow my lettuce and I was hoping to use them for WSing my tomatoes this year, but I need a container like the one you described. Will keep looking. I had only one tomato plant from my WS trials this year, so I need to try something different.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 2:20AM
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tabbycat55(z6 Ont Canada)

Lettuce is something I've always wanted to try in the garden. I like your idea Tiffy....using the styro cups. Now I know what I can use those clementine boxes I've been holding on to!

I've started saving 2L pop bottles and plan on asking some co-workers to help me out if I don't get enough. I almost stopped today and pulled a big plastic lettuce container out of someone's recycle...but I didn't quite have the nerve. :-)

Tiffy, you mentioned you live on the NS coast. I'm headed to Truro this Sunday to visit my parents for a week. I've got my Dad interested in WSing I'll be passing on some adice....from this forum of couse, since this will be my first year. We'll be able to compare notes next year. My Dad has a nice big garden....fenced off against the deer and rabbits. He is excited to save a few dollars by sowing from seed...more variety to choose from too.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 9:34PM
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claubill(z3Sud ONT)

Do they have to put in clear plastic containers? As well as those big salad containers, I was thinking of ice cream containers but they are not clear.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 11:28PM
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marciaz3 Tropical 3 Northwestern Ontario

The sun has to be able to reach them. The containers can be opaque, though. I use milk jugs, two litre juice containers and strawberry containers. All work well for me.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 11:59PM
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rose_is_a_rose(z4 SW Ont)

Last year I used some flats I had from the greenhouse with the holes in the bottom... I doubled them up and put tin foil on the bottom so there was room for water to seep through... Then I added short fencing and taped it to the sides of the flats .... I planted in styrofoam cups and they fit perfectly into the flats... I then put them in clear garbage bags and tied them loosely so air could circulate... It worked great! and they were easy to take on and off for watering or as temp allowed one way or the other...I also used tin foil cooking platers from the dollar store to hold the styrofoam cups but there wasn't enough head room for them

    Bookmark   August 23, 2006 at 2:53PM
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I'm going to use 2 litre pop bottles again this year for perennials, BUT, I'm going to line them with newspaper pots (saw that idea on W/S forum). Sounds like it will be way easier to get those seedlings out in the spring.

For annuals, I'm going to try styrofoam cups for the first time. (I usually just prick out seedlings from the 2 litres into them to share in the spring). I scooped some flats from Canadian Tire garden centre that hold coffee cups perfectly. I can fit three flats into a dollar store under the bed zip bag, so I'll see how it goes.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2006 at 8:52PM
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I am going to Florida in December and coming home at the end of March. I would like to try winter sowing. Would I have to have someone take the covers of before I come home or would the plants be alright until then. Never tried this before but it sounds like a great way to start plants. I am in zone 5 in northern Nova Scotia.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 9:26AM
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You will be safe, no need to get someone to take the covers off. We rarely have days which reach the teens at the end of March.

Usually, here in Prospect Bay close to Peggy's Cove, my tops might start coming off the end of April. Things start sprouting the end of March/beginning of April.

So you're fine.

And welcome to winter sowing!!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 9:46PM
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cypsavant(z5/6 Ontario)

I use a combination of the big salad containers, which are clear, and the smaller cube-ish ones that contain potato salad or cole slaw, which are usually translucent. Both work well.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 2:44AM
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