This review is part of our series on Starting Seeds Indoors.
The Peel Away Seedling Pot Kit comes with 12 2-inch pots and a self-watering system (water reservoir, tray, and wicking capillary mat). The pots fit right next to each other in the tray so the whole system is quite compact. The 2-inch pots are a good size for starting seeds but you’ll want to transplant seedlings into something larger as they grow (as you would with any 2-inch seed starting pot).
Assembling the Seed Starting Pots
These seed starting pots are made from stiffened Velcro® fabric. Because they’re packaged flat, they need to be assembled before use.
Putting the Peel Away Seed Starting Pots together takes a bit of fiddling. It’s difficult to put them together perfectly square – you may need to pull the pieces apart a couple of times to get everything to line up properly. Editor’s Tip: Focus on lining up the four holes in the bottom of the pot; if those line up well, the sides should come together nicely. Also, fold all of the seams over sharply before assembling the pot; it’s difficult to make a crisp fold when the pieces are already stuck together.
Be prepared for seedling pots that don’t really hold their shape. None of them will look square until they’re full of seed starting mix. Even then, it isn’t until you stick them all together in the seed starting tray that they start to look (and stay) square.
For more information about how the self-watering system works, check out the sidebar at the right.
How It Works
The fabric is supposed to “air prune” roots as the plant grows. So, instead of roots growing around in circles inside the pot or coming out the bottom, roots stop growing when they hit the fabric (roots can’t grow in air). This forces the plant to put out more roots to get the water and nutrients it needs. Ultimately, the goal is to have more, shorter roots and strong, healthy plants that experience less transplant shock.
I grew tomato seeds in the Peel Away pots. After 3 months of growth, I had strong, healthy plants. Editor’s Note: These plants were far larger than I would normally grow in such small pots and I don’t recommend that you do this at home. I kept them well-watered and fertilized to keep them growing for this long only because I wanted to see how the Peel Away Pots would hold up over time.
When I peeled away the fabric, it was clear that the plants had far fewer and shorter roots than I’d expect in a plant that size. There were no spiraling roots. However, roots had grown into the fabric and these were pulled off when I removed the plants from the pots. So I’m not sure whether the roots were air pruned or just pulled off. Or maybe it was a combination of both.
The plants did extremely well after transplanting. After only one week in the ground, there were strong new roots in all directions; much more than seen in the tomato plants grown in solid pots.
Difficult to Clean
It’s supposed to be easy to wash the fabric and “lay it flat for easy storage.” That wasn’t my experience. It was impossible to remove the roots that had grown into the fabric, even with vigorous scrubbing. As the pots dried, the roots dried too and turned into wiry strings that still couldn’t be removed.
Be careful not to wash or scrub too hard; the pots tended to tear apart at the seams if handled too roughly.
As for drying flat, that didn’t happen either. Instead, the fabric curled up on itself and couldn’t be flattened (see image at right). This made it very hard to reuse.
Next, I tried keeping it from curling by laying the washed fabric flat and placing a stack of heavy books on top until the fabric was dry. No luck. Within 10 minutes of removing the books, the fabric had curled up on itself.
Overall, we give the Peel Away Seed Starting Pots a 2-shovel rating. It’s a neat idea and it does produce strong, healthy plants, but the material is difficult to work with and isn’t easy to reuse. The seed starting pots are difficult to assemble, the fabric is hard to clean, and the fabric curls up after washing, making it almost impossible to reassemble the pots. When grown properly, there’s no need to “air prune” seedling roots (see our resource page on Starting Seeds Indoors) so the Peel Away Pots are solving for a problem that isn’t really an issue when seeds are grown properly. Most home gardeners will be better off with a more traditional seed starting pots or system.
There may to two exceptions to this recommendation:
- If you have very limited space for growing seeds, such as a narrow windowsill, this seed starting system may be a good choice. Because the tray is only 4.5 inches wide, you can easily fit it in spaces where other self-watering seed starting trays couldn’t go.
- If you tend to neglect your seedlings and let them grow on without transplanting into a larger pot, then the air pruning could be helpful in keeping your seedlings healthy – as long as you continue to water and fertilize the plants.
Where to Buy It
The Peel Away Pots and the Kit are available exclusively from Gardener’s Supply. You can buy the kit (12 pots, tray, and capillary mat) for $24.95. The pots come in red or brown. You can also buy replacement parts, a set of 6 2-inch pots, or even 4-inch pots.
Buy it here >> Gardener’s Supply Peel Away Seedling Pot Kit
And now over to you – Which seed starting pots or kits have you used? What did you like or not like about them? Let us know in the comments below.