If you've read this blog before you probably have noticed that I blog quite a bit about starting seeds and especially about frugal ways people can start seeds at home. You can start seeds in plastic shoe boxes that are pretty inexpensive, empty plastic bottles makes great seed starters and even plastic sandwich bags can be used for germinating seeds. Since the day I dawned on me that so many seed starting kits and seed starting bio domes were unnecessary I haven't purchased a product like this seed starter kit from Burpee. In fact, my track record remains because it was sent to me for free by a representative of Burpee to review in my garden. So, what made me change my mind and give one of these commercial seed starters a try? I was intrigued by the manufacturing of the product. It is one of the new eco-seed starter kits that are made from biodegradable plastic.
Let's start with what comes in the seed starter kit from Burpee. The kit comes with the seed tray with the lettered grids to help you keep track of what seeds where planted in the rows, a tray to capture water, a piece of paper that maps the rows, a cover (more about this below),coconut coir pellets, a couple of wooden plant labels and a packet of Espoma brand Plant-Tone. After deciding what seeds I would plant I filled the tray with half of the coconut coir and planted the seeds in each cell.
Once I had the seeds all planted and I had written on the paper which seeds were in which trays, it was time to cover the seeds with the remainder of the coconut coir that was provided. I watered the seed tray using a water bottle as described in the post on how to water small seeds and seedlings.
In an effort to be eco-friendly Burpee has replaced the plastic domes for these seed starters with a sheet of plastic film. When I sowed these seeds indoors it was actually the second time I had used the product. Earlier in the growing season I used it to start a my pepper seeds. At some point between these tow seed-sowings I lost the plastic "sheet" that is suppose to cover it the seed tray. It only took me about four minutes of brainstorming to realize the plastic sheet was very similar to plastic food wrap and I headed into the pantry for a replacement. On the website Burpee describes the product as an "Eco Friendly Greenhouse Kit" and as you can tell there is no dome. What is a seed starter bio dome without a dome? Genius.
While it was a temporary inconvenience to lose the original plastic film that comes with Burpee's eco friendly greenhouse kit I think ditching the dome is a great idea. Eliminating the dome from these seed starters means less plastic is created and less ends up in our landfills. Not only will does the environment benefit from dome-less seed starters but so do beginner gardeners. One of the most common questions by people new to germinating seeds in an indoor seed starter is when they have to take the cover off. Those domes are also usually the result of a lot of seedling failures because they can keep things to wet and humid which are perfect conditions for fungus and mold. Almost immediately after your seeds germinate in this kit you'll have to take off the plastic sheet because there's nowhere for the seedlings to go but up. Another benefit of using this kit is that you don't have to acclimate your seedlings to the dry air because they will not spend days or weeks under the plastic dome.
Update: After sowing the seeds pictured above I left my biodegradable seed starter outside and we've had a lot of rain. Because my mind was still thinking "plastic" I didn't think much of it. Recently I went to reuse it and noticed that the rain had started the biotic decomposition of the seed starter and it is starting to "melt." Pretty cool.
Would I buy this eco-seed starter from Burpee? Probably not. I'm too accustomed to homemade seed starting bio domes made from things around the house. I'm also in love with direct seed sowing. But I would recommend it to new gardeners who are interested in starting seeds for the first time? Yes, I would. It uses less plastic than similar products, it is biodegradable, uses coconut coir instead of peat and is easier to use for beginner gardeners. Although, I have to question the inclusion of the wooden plant labels in an "eco friendly" product like this. I'd rather make my own plant labels from recyclables or use color-coded plant labels when seeding different varieties of the same plant. All in all, I'd say Burpee has done a good job with this particular seed starting kit. You can find it and other eco-friendly seed starters on Burpee's website. This particular seed starter is listed for $10.95, but I was given mine for free to test and review.
If you're trying to be more environmentally-friendly in your seed starting: try making your own square newspaper seed starting pots, or using biodegradable seed starters made from natural fibers, and starting seeds in a homemade bio-dome greenhouse from a plastic bin.