I don’t like tear apart flat inserts for seed starting! Given their flimsiness, its really tough to get more than a season of use out of them: there just isn’t a great way to consistently pop the seedling out without tearing the bottom of the 6-cell to pieces! I also find myself damaging fragile root systems as I inevitably end up needing to poke the bottom of the cells. The end result is a pile of plastic in the trash.
Van Wingerden Int’l Nursery, based Mills River, NC, had the same problem. According to them, “too much focus had been given to nurturing the top of the plant.”. Aart Van Wingerden, the founder of the nursery, wanted a better alternative for the hidden (but crucial) portion of the plant below the surface. He couldn’t find a durable, effective alternative so he decided to make one. The Winstrip Tray was the result, and over the past twenty years or so they have built a great reputation for a variety of reasons.
As mentioned above, the creation of the Winstrip had origins in making a flat tray insert that would encourage healthier seedlings with less root circling and greater aeration. Root circling is an inefficient use of a seedling’s limited biological resources which can result in stunted growth in the seedling stage and beyond. Unchecked root circling can also prevent good drainage and can even lead to root rot and other disease. Finally, circling roots can displace so much space that the seedling may not get much water to begin with! The Winstrip’s open design not only encourages good root zone aeration but also ‘air prunes’ roots before they start circling. Air pruning (the apical tip of a root dehydrates and dies, encouraging lots of fine, fibrous side branching) results in a more evenly dispersed root system that is very effective at absorbing water and nutrients.
Despite the atypical look of the Winstrip, they are incredibly easy to use. Simply lay them on a flat surface to fill, brush off the excess and drop them from 4-6″ to settle the soil and top off if necessary; all that’s left is to plant the seeds. The dimensions of the 72 cell Winstrips that we carry are designed to fit into a standard flat tray although they work even better set atop wire racks. For farmers with more automated seed sowing systems, these trays are compatible with vacuum seeders and the like, and can be nested for non-stick, space efficient storage.
In addition to being better for plants, Winstrips are better for the environment. They are manufactured from a high quality extruded polypropylene plastic that is UV resistant, resists breakage and can be reused year after year. Some of our farm customers have reported that they’ve been using the same trays for 10 to 15 years. This ultimately reduces both costs for the grower and waste in the landfill.
We are excited to carry Winstrips at Fifth Season Gardening Co. They epitomize our philosophy of providing products that are great for plants, people and the planet and we hope you’ll give them a try.
Note: While Winstrips come in several designs, we currently only stock the 72 cell (10″x20″) tray.