SHOP PRODUCTS
Houzz Logo Print
garden_witch

How clean is clean?

garden_witch
18 years ago

So, I have spent the better part of the day cleaning my pots and flats for storage. I am wonderig though, how clean should the cell-packs be? I washed them in very hot, soapy water with added bleach, but it was difficult to get all of the organic resdue out of the bottom of the cells. Will this hurt anything? I cleaned about a gross of cell packs today, my fingers are still pruned =) I don't want all that work to be for nothing.

And before you ask... Yes! It is worth it to me to clean all of those cell packs for reuse. My gardening budget is very slim (I envy those on a shoestring budget, mine is more like spaghetti strap) and all of my extra cash will be invested in lumber for my greenhouse/potting shed.

So, I ask, just how clean do these darn things need to be?! I'm so tired of scrubbing, so very tired...

And by the way, these will be used for starting seeds in the greenhouse, also some winter sowing.

TIA

GW

Comments (35)

  • brighteyes
    18 years ago

    (I envy those on a shoestring budget, mine is more like spaghetti strap)

    i can relate...i have friends and family who buy everything in the spring and i take all of their pots and cell packs....i also clean them with soapy bleach water. I always have some residue on mine and i havent had any problems with the plants that i grew in them.....

    So i would go ahead and use them they should be ok....

    carey

  • raehelen
    18 years ago

    Hi,

    How organized you are! Getting them all ready now! I have reused cell packs to start seeds for over 20 years. Before I wash them, I soak them in a 5-10% bleach/water solution in the sink for at least 10 minutes, often longer. Then, if any residue is left ( I use a skinny bottle brush to get in the nooks and crannies), I figure they will have been sterilized. I get so many pots donated to me, that now I can throw out the cracked ones- no need to tape them like I used to! :>)

    ALWAYS use fresh sterilized potting soil to start the seeds. Don't try and skimp there. You can save by buying the soil mix whenever you see it on sale- I have three huge bales stashed now- and hopefully they will carry me through spring.

    Once the seeds have germinated, I no longer sterilize the larger pots that I transplant them into. I wash them, but don't worry about soap or bleach- and have had no problems.

    Good luck in the garden!

  • Related Discussions

    Tulip Chairs: To clean or not to clean? (and how to clean?!)

    Q

    Comments (1)
    Saarinen Tulip chairs have never really been out of production, so the vintage chairs and a new chair are essentially the same. When it comes to midcentury modern furniture, especially with a a non-wood finish, its value is not adversely affected by being clean. Only a purist is interested in collecting pieces that have hardened foam etc. There are exceptions, such as pieces that are prototypes or have rare "options".
    ...See More

    How clean is 'clean'? - DW question

    Q

    Comments (3)
    In our case, it means the DW isn't leaving bits of food behind, I can place scraped, but not rinsed dishes and flatware in it, and it all comes out spotless, there's no residue or "stuff" floating in the small am't of water that collects in the bottoms of our coffee cups...unlike our old DW. Also, the dishes just look cleaner (more "sparkle") after washing them in the Miele--esp. when I use the Miele tablets (I use 1/2 per load).
    ...See More

    Cleaning a Self-Cleaning oven safely?

    Q

    Comments (15)
    I too have a self-cleaning oven feature that I've never used (on this current oven, that is), because I've got a parrot andf they really can be killed by things that don't affect other pets (like non-stick cookware coatings) - there's a very good reason canaries were used as mine safety checks prior to environmental samplers, birds are highly susceptible to gases that mammals don't detect. What I do is a hot soapy water dampened towel to soak off baked on gunk and then a green scrubby, or the Method bathroom scrub (well rinsed off before cooking in the oven again.) That said, I think the cat would be okay - I never had a problem using self-cleaning before getting the parrot, and I've always had cats and dogs. My 20 year old siamese has been through several oven cleaning cycles in her life, and she always just vacated the room until the smell dispersed.
    ...See More

    Long Intro and Bathroom paint question/validation

    Q

    Comments (4)
    Thanks, Lilac, for the great book recommendation. I'm adding it to my list of "must-gets." Some days, the house seems more like a labor than a love, but I'm sure all old house owners feel that way at one time or another. I have my fair share of "What were they thinking?!" Only in my case I could actually ask (if I wanted to set off family fireworks!) I would dearly love to ask my aunt why she thought the bathroom was the perfect place for her leftover carpet, but I'd rather still be welcome to Thanksgiving dinner.
    ...See More
  • susanzone5 (NY)
    18 years ago

    I clean my cells with dish soap and water with a bottle brush and have never had a problem. I agree with using sterile potting mix. The secret for fungus free pots is to have air flow at all times (I leave the window open slightly all the time...some use a fan) plus a thin layer of finely milled sphagnum moss sprinkled on top of the soil.

    I dislike the washing part more than any part of seed starting!

  • Vamptoo
    18 years ago

    LOL, thanks for letting me know I'm not crazy. I started washing out my pots when I first started gardening about 3 yrs ago. I couldn't see throwing them out so it has became my winter project to wash and sterilize them a little at a time. My friend and my sister were laughing at me. But I wanted to save every penny for more seeds and plants, not on pots and such.

    Cindy

  • veggiecanner
    18 years ago

    I reuse my potting soil that I get free from a plant nursery by microwaving it. I also wash my pots and 6-pks over and over.

  • triple_b
    18 years ago

    I read somewhere of the virtue of solarizing pots. Get out all the loose soil that will come out from knocking (not for breakable pots) or just swiping. Then let 'em sit in the sun in the open air for a week. That is supposed to kill off just about anything. They need not be 'kitchen' clean.

  • susanlynne48
    18 years ago

    The bottle brush is great! Many now come with a tiny brush on one end (for cleaning the nipples on baby bottles). It works great for getting into tiny spaces. You can get them for less than $2.00. I think I got my last one at The Dollar Store.

    Susan

  • dreamweaver_
    18 years ago

    I have never washed my pots, use the same ones year after year with no problems. Guess I'm just following in my Mom & Grandmother's footsteps, they never did either & always had beautiful gardens.
    As Triple_b suggested I just "let 'em sit in the sun in the open air for a week"
    I also reuse any leftover potting soil from the previous year too with no problems.

  • tyshee
    18 years ago

    Well if you have a greenhouse you might want to consider the things that might happen. Spider Mites lay eggs on dry soil and will live the winter even under the rims of the pot. Whitefly can survive. Fungus, black spot and other things can wipe out your plants from dirty pots and used soil. Nasty little black flies that eat the roots of your plants can lay eggs in the soil and hatch as soon as conditions are right. You can get by for years and then get an infestation brought home from a nursery (everyone of them has something they fight)the year before in just one pot and you will loose many plants. Is it worth it? Washing pots is a pain but you might be sorry one day if you don't.

  • rain1950
    18 years ago

    The only difference in my process is when I get ready to use the pots. I give them a quick dip in hit bleach/water before using them. I don't try for squeaky clean before storing either.

    As for the soil, I reuse mine. I just damp it down; then bake it. I'm not a commercial grower; but have never had any problems with starting seed. If you think about it; what makes soil work? Bacteria

  • ljrmiller
    18 years ago

    I always use fresh seed starting mix (Jiffy-mix) to start my seeds. If I couldn't afford fresh, I'd mix it with some decomposed granite and then haul it to work and autoclave it in a big ol' pan. Autoclaving is steam sterilizing. Steam sterilizing soil stinks a lot, but so does just about everything else we put in the autoclave.

    I bought commercial quantities of flat inserts and 4" pots and flats when I was kinda flush, knowing that I'm now set for at least 5 years. If I had to reuse seed starting pots or pots in a greenhouse, I'd scrub them well, re-scrub them, rinse them well, then let them soak in 10% bleach for about an hour prior to rinsing and any final scrubbing. Why a whole hour? Because I LOOOOVE the smell of bleach. No better reason :-)

  • barrie2m_(6a, central PA)
    18 years ago

    If you allow your cell packs to dry when you are finished using them, then you can knock out most of the residue before stacking. That way you only need to dip them in a bleach solution in the spring. High levels of organic matter(potting soil) will inhibit the effectiveness of chlorine bleach but I can typically dip a few hundred cell packs before the residue is substancial. Then, use that same tub of bleach to dip your flats that hold the cell packs and finally brush your bench tops (if you have a greenhouse) with the waste bleachwater.

    My biggest concern is the Damping-off fungus but other pest concerns are valid. Chlorine bleach is remarkable in its ability to destroy unwanted organisms and cheap to use. Be careful not to mix with an ammonia based cleaner and even better to dip in a well ventilated area.

  • pickwick
    18 years ago

    I will suggest using NEW cell packs for sowing seeds.Could we at least contemplate posing this question in the Professional Forum? The phytotoxicity effects of bleach is well known.

  • ljrmiller
    18 years ago

    Pickwick, good point. But a triple-dunk rinse in plain water will eliminate almost any water-soluble residue. By triple-dunk, I mean three sequential buckets, three dunks, and changing the water every so often.

    I agree with using new cell packs, but then, I have lots and lots of them to sow in. I spent somewhere between $150 and $200 including shipping to set myself up with enough 4" plastic pots, flats and flat inserts for many, many years.

  • pickwick
    18 years ago

    ...ljrmiller:
    What might be inferred by your post is that a triple rinse is adequate. I will argue otherwise.
    One might acknowledge the phytotoxicity effects of bleach,but the effecacy of using bleach to contol pathogens should be revisited as the evolving nature of this website includes the trading of seeds.

  • weebus
    18 years ago

    Funny, many commercial growers will use bleach to clean their seed before they put them into stratification.

    It is also recommended that one should dip the root of plants in a 1:10 bleach solution to kil any pathogens, if they cannot be quarantined...

  • trudi_d
    18 years ago

    The cheapest sterilant around is 1/4 cup bleach in a gallon of water. Swab it liberally onto anything, wait fifteen minutes and rinse. This is the formula used to sterilize ambulance interiors.

    I honestly can say I've never sterilized a single pot here. I reuse all my containers and make dozens and dozens more from recylcables. The only thing any of the recylcables get washed with, if I bother, is a rinse with soapy water in the kichen sink, then air dying. I prep recylced containers nine months of the year and store them in the attic. When I need them, down they come in bags, buckets, cases and cartons. I don't rinse off the dust--just fill and sow and outside into the snow.

  • pickwick
    18 years ago

    weebus;I will note that we are not essayists here.It is not my intention to discredit and mortally wound any individual over a singular post.I shall ask you if you are satisfied with your input and leave you a bit of time before I dislocate your shoulder...
    regards


  • Zophra
    18 years ago

    Is Pickwick writing with a thesaurus? Me thinks he doeth taketh this too seriously.
    Bleach solution works fine for me; no problems.
    TE

  • pickwick
    18 years ago

    hello,Zophra;I am patiently waiting for a reply from weebus...If you care to run a search using the GW search engine-keyword:"disinfectants",you will find some debate regarding this topic. also visit the rose propagation forum.
    If you are satisfied with a corner store(garden) magazine definition of sanitation,feel free to approach such issues as you see fit...
    I'm off-line for a time,but will return ...
    regards

  • baci
    18 years ago

    I just use water, a toothbrush, and soap if necessary. I do not use bleach simply because of environmental concerns, and the need for clean works for me. I avoid disinfectants because I do not want to contribute to resistance. I can understand why commercial growers would use them, and have tried bleach experiments for seeds that are very hard to germinate. I reuse my soil and kill pathogens by putting it on the hot asphalt & letting it dry for a day or so. I also use a soiless media for propagation that is not prone to disease and no manure fertilizers.
    As far as disinfectant controversy  why is this argument even on forum? The purpose is just to keep plant pathogens down. LetÂs face it  gardening in soil is not sterile technique. Some of the cleanest growers are hydro growers, and although they may use bleach to clean out their system if there is a problem, they usually do not go to great extremes.

  • garden_witch
    Original Author
    18 years ago

    Wow, I had no idea that bleach was such a touchy subject with some ppl!
    Pickwick, if you know of any sites or books that elaborate on phytotoxicity, plmk. No need to dislocate anything, to each her own.

    Unfortunately we can not all afford new supplies, so we use what we have. I do use new potting mix for starting seeds, and save my 'used' mix for filling containers and pots when I pot up my "deck garden" and big pots in the spring. I have given up on seed starting indoors, I simply don't have the space, or extra money for the nessesary equipment and electicity. Plus, nearly everything I have tried indoors under lights thus far has damped off, or just not done well for me, no matter how carefull I am. I tried doing tomatoes, peppers, etc. in new flats, new soil, misted with peroxide solution, with a fan for circulation. Nearly every last seedling damped off, very disappointing.
    So next spring I will be starting construction on the greenhouse, hoping for better results.

    Raehelen, I have to be organized, or DH will toss it all!

    Tyshee, "Spider Mites lay eggs on dry soil and will live the winter even under the rims of the pot. Whitefly can survive. Fungus, black spot and other things can wipe out your plants from dirty pots and used soil." Exactly! Also, I am conserned that these nasty little buggers would be living in my house while I have everthing in storage until needed. Uck!

    ljrmiller, You mean I am not the only one who likes the smell of bleach? Thank you for making me fell a little less wierd =)

    Weebus, the bleach doesn't hurt the seeds or plants? Is it chlorine bleach they use, or oxy-type bleach (like you would use in the laundry for colors?) I have heard of using a peroxide solution for seeds, but never regular bleach.

    Trudi, My recyclables get about the same treatment for WSing, except for the dirtier things like meat trays and take-out containers. They get washed with the dishes before storing =)

    Baci, "I reuse my soil and kill pathogens by putting it on the hot asphalt & letting it dry for a day or so. I also use a soiless media for propagation that is not prone to disease and no manure fertilizers.
    As far as disinfectant controversy  why is this argument even on forum? The purpose is just to keep plant pathogens down. LetÂs face it  gardening in soil is not sterile technique. Some of the cleanest growers are hydro growers, and although they may use bleach to clean out their system if there is a problem, they usually do not go to great extremes." Too bad the only hot asphalt around my place is in the middle of the road =) Good point about gardening not being a very sterile operation in the first place! We do the best we can, but we are working with dirt, after all =)

    TY all for the input!
    *~Garden Witch~*
    -a "Corner Store" gardener and damn proud of it =oP

  • pickwick
    18 years ago

    thank you garden witch for your follow-up post.What is apparrent in my mind thus far is that the importations of the poster 'tyshee' (based upon presentation and content)yields a passing grade while the rest of us fail the grade...

  • garden_witch
    Original Author
    18 years ago

    I have to disagree with you Pickwick, no one here derserves a "failing grade." Each of us do things our own way, and we work with what works for us.
    For instance, if it were not for Trudi's way of doing things many of us would not have the gardens we have today (myself included.)

    Thank you all again, even Pickwick, for your input!
    ~GW~

  • pickwick
    18 years ago

    garden witch;I will respectfully disagree with your last entree.I determine (my opinion) that the more experienced members here are subject to accountability.This is a rather temporal debate, anyway... The positive contributions of others regarding this topic may not be carried forth from year to year.My failure to encourage you to consider other sources of information(other postings and credible references)) and your statement that you are proud to be a corner store gardener weighs quite heavily on my mind..Frankly,I am not through...

  • baci
    18 years ago

    Pickwick, we all come here to learn. Garden Witch has gone out of her way to be diplomatic in this posting, and posters such as Weebus have made tremendous contributions to this and other forums. Garden Witch & others would not use my techniques, but we live in different climates so the needs are different, & her disagreement is just fine with me. More exotics are grown in my area probably than any other area of the country, and I have learned my best tips from novice or cold climate growers. I never waste an opportunity to learn.
    If you want to disagree, disagree once, say why, and let it go. If not, it becomes an issue of debate without content. It is unnecessary to undermine the contribution of every poster, and it only hurts the forum. Nobody wants to come here to be picked on nor will they be willing to post when they see all this "polite" argumentative nonsense. It undermines the learning process, and quite frankly the posters credibility.

  • pickwick
    18 years ago

    I refer to Thompson and Morgan's (site-map)factsheets on plant pathogens "Damping-Off" and leave the interpretation of 'hygiene' to the individual.I also suggest utilizing the GW's search engine:keyword: "disinfectants"and take note of what appears in two entrees.The Rose Propagation Forum and the Greenhouse and Garden Structures Forum.
    Topics here either die or continue on their own accord-encompassing themes not presented in the original query.Therefore,my suggestion of using new cellpacks for sowing and my statement that I do not use bleach (when dealing with plants ),suddenly must consider any rebuttal and/or suggestions of other applications and related themes:i.e.cuttings,seed treatment, media re-use,any precautionary statement which has merit: pesticide use in the home environment,and whether we have really thought deeply enough about employing our dishwashers to clean plant containers which may have been subject to pesticides and fertilizers, ect., are all beset with their own issues.Therefore,to advise a member with a particular interest in such topics with credible references to come to:" disagree once,say why ,and let it go" is not conducive to continued debate in my opinion..
    But...
    I also make an attempt to honour any follow-up inferences by the original poster to end my own participation regardless of my own disatisfaction of what has been said...

    Furthermore,I stated that is not my intention to discredit anyone. I am after information here and I am here to learn as well...(my grading system is quite subjective,ephemeral,and,hopefully harmless:it means nothing)...
    my best regards

  • garden_witch
    Original Author
    18 years ago

    "I also make an attempt to honour any follow-up inferences by the original poster to end my own participation regardless of my own disatisfaction of what has been said... "
    Pickwick, I won't tell you to hush and go away =) Your input and opinions are appreciated, by me at least ;) I have been looking at other threads on bleach and other disinfectants, and will continue to research the subject. However, all the debate in the world cannot stretch my budget, and I will continue to reuse my flats and pots. I also have a hard time throwing out something that is still in good condition and usefull!
    I do have a dishwasher, but it is waiting for DH to repair *sigh* But, most dishwasher detergents do have bleach in them. I also wonder if the cellpacks would come out mangled or melted... Its something to think about, at any rate!

    I encourage the debate to continue, civilly, and know that in the end at least we can agree to disagree ;)

    Shannon aka garden witch

  • baci
    18 years ago

    Pickwick, since you commented on my "debate without content," & "say it once & let it go" comment, I meant the following:

    All you said before your last post was to use new pots, avoid bleach due to its phytotoxic effects & search other forums for information. It is one sentence of content. It was not until your last post I understood your stance, & quite frankly I do not disagree with you  other than the fact that not everyone can afford new pots.

    When I said say it once & let it ago, I meant (prior to your last post), the following comments could be perceived as offensive:

    "If you are satisfied with a corner store(garden) magazine definition of sanitation"

    "What is apparrent in my mind thus far is that the importations of the poster 'tyshee' (based upon presentation and content)yields a passing grade while the rest of us fail the grade..."

    "you are proud to be a corner store gardener weighs quite heavily on my mind"

    "the more experienced members here are subject to accountability."

    And when you write, you usually scale the language to the audience. You are more likely to be heard if you do so. When comments such as "are you writing with a thesaurus" are seen - maybe some of the language is unnecessary. Technical information can in many cases be scaled to lay language when words unnecessary to its understanding are put aside. There is also something to be said about brevity.

    I have said enough, & if the topic is to continue, hopefully it will go back to the original topic.

  • pickwick
    18 years ago

    greetings;
    Sorry for the delay...I have been reviewing several of the (rather dated)investigations I have on conifer seed treatment using bleach as well as supplemental articles available on the internet. My conclusion in this case is that sometimes brevity without further elucidation can be misleading...
    I also visited some local growers to survey the retail price of cellpack inserts:($1.00 per sheet)and 2.5 inch pots:(05 cents each or 12 for the price of 10).I have found that in many instances the 32cells/sheet separated to 4 cells/with a saucer and draped with plastic wrap is a satisfactory modular set-up for indoor sowing whereby seeds are thinly sowed based upon the genetics and physiology of the cultivar.>Then pricked out to a more suitable cellpack or pot...This set-up also might help reduce cross-contamination of diseased seeds obtained through seed-exchanges.Also I would recommend the booklet on propagation published by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden...(regarding:seeds of dubious hybrid derivatives yielding weak seedlings and so forth...
    The 2.5 inch pot is one of the industry standards suitable for many outplanting garden situations. By surveying a local garden shop one can determine if more than one seedling/pot is feasible and note the poracity of the media that is used.A 2.5inch pot economizes media ,space, and overall expenditure...(32pots/1020 flat)which can then be halved/ spaced to 18 or less as the crop develops...If a larger size pot is required- that is rather understood...
    Much of the satifactory results with a 2.5inch pot are based upon timing;knowing the environment you are working with(light quality/duration)temp.growing lean(fertilizer/irrigation); proper fertilizer selection;air circulation and so forth found in any good book on seed propagation...

    the phytotoxicity of bleach when working with seedlings is from my own experience conferring with a senior grower long ago and reconfirmed by further reading.The information and citations at hand is modified from the original investigations > Nelson,P.V.(1978).Greenhouse Operation and Management;Moody,E.H. and G.E.Smith (1982)Sanitation:Plant Health from Start to Finish.Publ.286.Raleigh,N.C.North Carolina Extension Service:84-100

  • shrubs_n_bulbs
    18 years ago

    Hypochlorite bleach is toxic. It will certainly kill seed embryos. On the other hand, seeds are often dipped or soaked in bleach for various purposes including cleaning. Provided that the bleach does not penetrate the seed coat and is removed after treatment there is usually no problem. Orchid seeds, for example, are commonly bleach treated to break a dormancy. Different seeds have different resistances. Soak for too long and they are dead. Leave a small amount of bleach on the seed coat of some species and germination is inhibited. Germination problems have also been reported with some other soil and seed disinfectants.

    I don't use bleach on seeds although I might try it on some if I had only a limited quantity of difficult seed. I wash pots and trays in soapy water, a la toothbrush technique already described). I will bleach trays if I intend to keep them enclosed for an extended period, as with cacti that will live under plastic for months or even years. I will re-use soil for potting on sturdy species, or even for the bottom of pots for easy seeds. A few worms aren't a problem. There may also be pests but those vigorous species make it through by rapid growth or weight of numbers.

    The general "I don't clean and I have no problem" response of a few people here is of course meaningless. Nobody has a problem until some precious plants suddenly die. You may have been lucky so far. You may have had poor germination and not noticed or cared. You may have had no germination and thought it was something else (maybe it was something else, maybe not). You don't have to autoclave every pot and tray and there's certainly not much point sterilising a container that is going to live outdoors for a couple of months before anything germinates.

  • pickwick
    18 years ago

    thank you for participating here,shrubs as I am losing my interest...some of the seed treatment studies should be looked at to show decreased germination rates,emergent germinants still contaminated;seeds not recommended for bleach treatment;multiple and varying hours of clear water rinse after treatment with bleach(up to 48hrs.)still yielding a high % of contaminated germinants...
    I can't say that I agree with the second paragraph of your post,but I recognize you and welcome you....

  • fairydancer
    18 years ago

    I feel so bad for Gardenwitch!!!! I'm sure she wasn't looking for some lofty debate.....personally, I wish your corner store gardens all the luck (and germination) in the world.

    I dip my trays in bleach.....no scrubbing. Have had many years of success. But then again, I use peat pellets, plain ole shop lights on wire racks, an oscillating fan, and no fertilzer. There are soooo many reasons for you folks to have "issues" with my methods, but my results are fantastic! Oh, and I have a ton of fun to boot!!!!

    ~Deb

  • pickwick
    18 years ago

    ....coal in my Christmas stocking, then

  • pickwick
    18 years ago

    ...as I have suggested ,this is an issue that I have given thought to...There are certainly storm clouds on the horizon, and frankly, I care very little about whose toes I step on...