The Best Way To Clean Your Seed Starting Supplies, According To Pinterest

Seed starting season is an exciting time full of anticipation and preparation for gardeners. It can also be overwhelming as you work to gather and take inventory of all of your must-have garden supplies and your desired seeds. Especially for plastic products like seed starting trays, making the effort to reuse them can go a long way in keeping your gardening habit sustainable. In order to get the best results, these supplies need a good cleaning before you begin your season. According to the Pinterest account Growing in the Garden, the best way to sterilize seed starting supplies is through a series of steps that make use of vinegar, mild detergent, and hydrogen peroxide.

Starting with thoroughly cleaned seed starting supplies may seem silly — they'll just be filled with dirt soon enough anyway, right? However, diseases from previous plants can unfortunately make their way into your new crops without proper precautions. Soil-borne fungi can lead to seedlings dying, also called damping off, before you get a chance to transplant them in your garden. Starting with sterile seed starting supplies, especially your trays, will give your garden the best chance of success this year.

Clean your seed trays the Pinterest way

Pinterest account Growing in the Garden suggests a multi-step process to get any trace of last season's troubles far, far away from your precious seedlings. The process may take up to an hour out of your day, but you'll likely have most of the needed materials on hand already. You will also need a large amount of outdoor space to spread out your seed trays, and a few tubs or bins where you can submerge the trays.

The first step is to get rid of any dirt and debris that may be stuck to your containers and trays. To do so, fill a tub with a mixture of water and detergent. Use a cleaning brush to scrape away any clumps of dirt until the containers appear clean. Then, spread them all out and spray them off with water for a good rinse.

For the next step, you'll need to mix one part vinegar with one part water into a spray bottle. Spray down your containers, let the mixture sit for 10 minutes, then give them another good rinse. To finish off, you'll need hydrogen peroxide. Wear protective gloves for this step. You can either mix one part food grade 12% hydrogen peroxide with four parts water and submerge your trays for ten minutes, then rinse, or you can use a quicker method of spraying the trays with 3% hydrogen peroxide, then rinsing thoroughly after 10 minutes. 

Quicker method

If it seems like this method of sterilizing your seed starting supplies is quite heavy-duty, that's because it is! The method described above is probably best suited for gardeners who have had ongoing woes with damping off and fungus in their seedlings. If you have struggled to prevent mold in your seedling trays in past seasons, it's worth the time and supplies to get all of your tools and containers sanitized thoroughly. If this isn't you, then it's okay to try a different, quicker method.

The Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Services Extension recommends washing your containers in soapy water, then rinsing with a mix consisting of nine parts water and one part chlorine bleach. Allow them to dry all the way before you add your soil mixture, and you're ready to go. In many cases, this method will yield the same overall results, but with just a fraction of the materials and time demands of the Growing in the Garden method. In addition to cleaning your containers, take the time to clean shovels, identification markers, and any other supplies that might come in contact with your seedling soil.