Seed Pellets -vs- Seed Cells

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While shopping for seeds last week, I started browsing the growing equipment isle. I noticed that the Home Depot no longer carries the seed flats that I use, the ones with the plastic cell inserts. Seed starting pellets are all you can buy.

I’ve used these seed starting pellets in the past and didn’t like them. It’s been a few years, so I decided to try them again and compare them the my usual seed starting method.

Seed starting pellets

The first thing that jumped out at me right away was the cost. These pellets are definitely not economical compared to a large bag of seed starting dirt.

Obviously, these are for convenience or someone who doesn’t start a lot of seeds. I bought 72 pellets, which is the same number of plastic seed cells that fill the same tray.

Here are my thoughts…

Seed starting pellets in the tray
Seed starting pellets in the tray

What I like:

What I don’t like:

  • Not economical
  • Mesh outside doesn’t decompose (I was still finding them several years later)
  • Hole too small for large seeds
  • Harder to tag if you have multiple types of seeds in one flat, since there’s nowhere to stick the plant marker

Filling seed start cells with dirt
Filling seed start cells with dirt

What I like:

  • Reusable, just add dirt
  • Economical
  • Easy to mark small grouping of different types of seeds

What I don’t like:

There are two main things that keep me from switching to using the pellets. One is cost, and the other is the mesh outside that won’t decompose.

The cost is the hardest for me to get past. I buy a big bag of dirt for my winter sowing containers and use the same dirt for my flats; buying pellets would be an added cost for me. As for the mesh outside of the pellets, I could peel those off right before planting, so that’s not a deal breaker.

Sown seed flat trays
Sown seed flat trays

What about you – do you love the convenience of the pellets, or are you a penny pincher like me? Did I miss any pros and cons?

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  1. says

    Last year was my first year using the pellets and I'm using them again this year. I'm frustrated to hear that the mesh doesn't decompose. YUCK! Thanks for the tip to remove it before planting.

    I agree, not economical at all! The replacement pellets cost as much as the pellets with the tray that I purchased last year.

    • says

      You're welcome. It's too bad that the refills cost as much as buying a whole new pre-filled tray, I'm bummed to hear that. I hate to think that people will just throw away the trays every year, not very eco friendly!

  2. says

    I've tried both methods (I did like the cells better) and actually settled on a soil blocker. It's like a tiny little press and makes blocks of soils to start seeds in. From there I usually put the larger ones (melons, squash, tomatoes) into their own little pots once they get big enough, and the smaller ones just go straight in the ground.

  3. Simne says

    I did the cells last year, but then I learned about making your own seed starting containers using toilet paper rolls. I basically cut the rolls in half, place them in a tray and fill with seed starting mix or potting soil. It's a lot cheaper than the pellets and it's reusing something we all have! I also do this when I'm wintersowing so the transplanting will be easier.

  4. says

    I bought 3 sets of cell(multi pack) from Lowe's and it was very cheap last year- 5 or 6 bucks if I remember right! Also, I've seen individual cells this year, at Walmart, if you're interested. I think Linder's/Gertens nursery should carry them too, just individual pieces, cell or dome etc., and they're cheap too.

    I absolutely hate pellets, they dry out so soon and

    • says

      Thanks for the info. I scored a bunch at a garage sale a few years back for free, so I have enough to last me a while. I thought it was interesting that HD only carries the pellets now.

      I agree about the pellets. I've been checking them daily to maintain the moisture. I think it'll get really annoying once I start to harden them off, then they'll need to be watered several

  5. says

    Good info, Amy. If I ever get around to starting plants from seed indoors I think go with the cells. You could almost just plant the seeds directly in the soil this year–it's getting so warm so fast! Happy Spring!

  6. says

    Mmmm. I guess I was always the vegetable gardening is cheaper and the product is fresher type. As to dirt is was all home composted. The flower gardens were mostly perenials. Now, I do farmers markets, since the kids are grown up, and I'm converting lawn to to wildflower gardens. And the woods to the same… Nice blog here.

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