Peat Pellets vs. Potting Soil

sneezer2(5)April 6, 2011

To start my seedlings I have used Jiffy pellets for the

last 12 years and was always satisfied. However, having

seen repeated comments on this forum to disparage these

pellets, I decided this year to try a quality potting

soil instead.

Big mistake. My seeds germinated as expected and look

just fine but today I am repotting some of the stronger

ones into one quart containers. What a surprise when I

lifted them out of the flat. Early root development is

really disappointing. Of course they have roots and

will probably grow OK but by comparison the roots

developed in the potting soil are very much less in

extent than I found with the pellets. So much so that a

lot of the soil was left in the flat cell as I couldn't

even pull out anything like a root ball because it didn't


By contrast, using the Jiffy pellets I have always had

numerous, well-developed roots covering the entire outside

of the pellet and even extending several inches into

adjoining cells. Needless to say, next year I am going

back to the pellets.

I don't know who started this myth about the inadequacy of

the pellets or for what motivation but I can report

without hesitation my observation that it is a load of

crap. I would be the last to second guess anyone's

choice of starting medium but it is clear that what some

folks like to say in disparagement of peat pellets

absolutely does not stand up to the light of day.

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What kind of potting soil did you use? They vary WILDLY. You can't paint all potting soils with one wide brush stroke.

What I like about using potting soil is that it makes it very easy to separate seedlings out for potting up. It's also easier for me to keep them evenly watered. I go completely unnatural, and use the miracle grow moisture control stuff. I love it, and I hate the netting on peat pellets.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 4:00PM
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I've always had great success with the peat pellets. Not saying other methods don't work -- I have seen many posts here saying so.

But they work great for me. When it is time to pot up, I simply cut off the netting and bury the whole peat pellet in potting mix in the larger container.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 4:11PM
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I don't want to prejudge your choice. You do what you do and
if you are happy with it there should be nobody to have any argument with you.

It is "Baccto Lite" Premium Potting Soil, designated on the
bag for many purposes, including seed-starting. I am NOT
complaining about the potting soil. It appears to be of
good quality, probably better than Miracle-Gro, which I
have used before because of easy availability. And yes,
I also like the moisture control variety, though not from
now for starting my tomatoes.

I'm not worried much about separating seedlings as I have
always planted just one seed in each cell and should have
no problem separating them.

In this case, the WILD variation is between Jiffy pellets
and potting soil, probably any decent one. I can say that
by using these pellets the early root development I have
had in the past has been many, many, many times superior
to what I have observed this year. The roots have been
far more abundant, thicker and longer.

I've also heard that line about the netting but never had
any trouble with it. The roots find their way through it
very easily. If you don't want it, you can tear it off
without any trouble. I've done that too but it never
made a bit of difference in how well the plants grew.
If you don't like it then that's your choice. I never
found it to be any impediment.

Only one factor against the pellets that I can find:
they are expensive.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 4:26PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I don't know who started this myth about the inadequacy of the pellets or for what motivation but I can report without hesitation my observation that it is a load of crap. I would be the last to second guess anyone's
choice of starting medium but it is clear that what some
folks like to say in disparagement of peat pellets
absolutely does not stand up to the light of day.

My, there are some very strong and very negative implications in all of that. And this is based on nothing more than your single anecdotal experience. No control for comparison and no documentation? No mention, much less an accounting, for all the other variables that could easily explain the difference?

That is about as valid as one of us claiming that based on your post, you must work for Jiffy.

But your single experience and personal opinion in no way warrants the implications of your post. More importantly, it in no way invalidates the opposite claims made by others - many of whom are professional growers and have posted photographic evidence with controls included - both here and other on gardening forums as well as in gardening publications.

Whatever works for you, fine. Go for it! But stick with your "I'd be the last to second guess..." and tone down the attack rhetoric on those whose personal experience and opinion differs from yours.


    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 4:27PM
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Well said, Dave. There was no side by side comparison. You just don't know whether you really would have had different results this year (when all the variables are factored in) with peat pellets vs. potting soil OR if you could have done something different with potting soil to get better results. Overwatered, heavy potting soil with low nutrients will give very different results from light, fairly rich potting soil that is allowed to dry out a bit between waterings (I also thing bottom watering helps root development, but I don't have evidence to back that up.)

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 5:00PM
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taz6122(N.W. AR.6b)

Very well said Dave. Sounds like a Jiffy CEO to me. I've used pellets and potting soil and there's really no comparing the two. I've got a much larger, healthier plant/root system with potting mix and the plant has much longer to develop before having to be potted/repotted/planted out.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 5:22PM
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Well, sorry Dave but I'm really not attacking anyone
individually. I've pointed that out in my posts and do
agree with your sentence that begins, "Whatever works...".

Yes, it is my single anecdotal experience but a truly
astounding one (at least for me). My control, however,
is my previous experience. Am I going to document it? No.
But if anyone wants to run a controlled, documented trial
and report the results, I would be glad to see it.
Are there many other variables? For sure, and if anyone
has a comment or guess on any possibility, I'd be glad
to see that too. In fact I do have one guess at a certain
possibility. For now, I'll keep it to myself just to see
if anyone else brings it up.

Negative implications? I don't think so, but take it as
you like. I have no complaint or grudge against anyone
who wants to use either of the two methods mentioned
here or any other. Unfortunately, the earlier posts I
have seen on this topic all made unsupported claims
about inhibited root growth and that nasty netting and
some contained what you would apparently regard as
"negative implications" or even "attack rhetoric".
Incidentally, there are already two comments here
(other than mine) about the netting. Lunita hates it and Daveinco
cuts it off. Big deal. I've tried it both ways (the
netting that is) and found no particular difference. It's
a discussion Dave. I expected it would raise some
different opinions than mine. I can live with that.

I just decided to try something different this year and
was stunned by the results. BTW, I don't work for Jiffy,
don't own any stock, don't even know where they are

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 5:37PM
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Well, if you all want to get upset, I guess that's OK.
Get some blood boiling. Anyway, it seems to me that
the suggestion that I have some connection with Jiffy
may carry some "negative implications". It's certainly
unsupported by any evidence. But that's OK. It's not
factual but believe it if you like.

That's right. No side by side comparison. I didn't start
out looking for one. I do think though, that a year-to-
year comparison, in light of what some folks have to say
about pellets, is not without validity even if anecdotal.
"all the variables"...""different results"... granted
but there wasn't really that much different, if anything
except the use of potting soil instead of pellets. It's
not a heavy potting soil with low nutrients, at least in
my judgment and according to the purveyor. I don't
believe I overwatered; at least the soil is not sodden
and did dry out a bit between waterings. I'm very glad
you have good results with what you are doing. So do I,
but a big surprise this time.

I might point out that "Jiffy" pellets by themselves
would not produce "a much larger, healthier plant/root
system" They are obviously too small but I have
consistently had a very good root system at the stage
of 1/2" to 3/4" true leaves, which is when I repot, and
certainly an order of magnitude better than what I saw
this year. My plants have always gone on from there to
have a very good structure (in potting soil by the way)
and quick growth until ready to set out. I'm afraid I
don't understand why you would want your seedlings to
have "much longer to develop" if you could get them
growing and outside sooner. To me, my objective is to
get them out into the garden soil and sunlight as
soon as I can. (Less time, less trouble) Then again,
if you're happy with what you do, then I applaud you.

I haven't had the privilege of finding or seeing any such
"photographic evidence with controls included" If you
can refer me to the post or thread containing such information,
I would like to see it.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 6:08PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Not attacking anyone? No negative implications? No complaint or grudge?

Maybe you'd better re-read your original post.

The one where you claim that those of us, and there are many, who "disparage these pellets" have "created a myth", one of "crap...that doesn't stand up to the light of day" that is "unsupported" and we apparently did this because of some sort of questionable "motivation".

You could have easily posted your personal opinion on peat pellets without adding in the derogatory comments about those who disagree with you. So there is no other way to take it.

But it is a waste of time to point out to anyone who has to ask "Are there many other variables?" - oh, gee, maybe 20 I can think of off hand - the relevant facts about peat pellets vs. potting soil.

You like them, fine. I'm sure that will make Jiffy happy since the core focus of their market is the inexperienced home seed starter who doesn't know any better. But you won't find experienced growers agreeing with you. We have all tried them, compared them, documented the results, and moved on from them long ago.


    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 6:26PM
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