Washing Trays – A Gardener’s Winter Ritual

---, Starting Seeds

Every winter, the first thing I do to get ready for planting seeds is to wash out my planting trays. I have a collection of at least a hundred and I reuse them as long as I can – until they fall apart. I have 10×20 inch support trays, both mesh and solid versions. And I have different types of planting pots, 6-packs, 4×4 inch pots, and 10×20 cell trays ranging from 50 to 200 cells per tray.

My first step of cleaning is to rinse the 10×20 support trays. In batches of about 20 they go into my big sink in the garage and get

sprayed clean.

Then I layer the planting pots or cell trays into the support tray, assembling the units I will be planting in. A mesh support tray is at the bottom, then a solid support tray, then the pots I will plant in. These units then go into the sink and I spray them with water, cleaning off last years dirt and built up minerals.

After the rinse, these they get stacked two at a time and soaked in a bleach solution. I use a 1:600 dilution of bleach in a big plastic container. I let them soak about 30 minutes and the final step is to rinse with fresh water and drip dry.

Its really helpful to clean your old pots well for spring planting. Used pots can retain pathogens that kill tiny seedlings. The seeds we plant early in the spring tend to be tiny and take a while to grow into a vigorous plant. You can loose two to three weeks before you realize a plant like thyme or spinach isn’t going to survive because of damping off fungus and needs replanting. I often get away with using unwashed pots for beans or peas later in the season.

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