Dear T&M: The Mysterious Case of the Stinky Seedlings

Posted on September 21st, 2011 by Tonia 2 Comments

I am sorry, Rachel, that it took me so long to research and respond!! I think this problem is caused by a mixture of your hot and humid climate and the fact that you’re using a biodegradable material {egg carton} for your containers. The containers are actually beginning to rot slowly, which we all know does NOT smell nice {and why we all keep our compost piles outside!}

Do you have a sunny spot outside that you could move these little stinky guys? Get them out of the house if you can, so they get fresh air and you get relief from their smell. They should outgrow the egg containers pretty quickly, and at that point should be transplanted into larger plastic planter cups {gasp! Yes, plastic!}

Plastic planters is the way to go for several reasons: They don’t decompose, which means no foul smell and less chance that bacteria and disease can fester and possibly infect your seedlings. Also, you can buy them once and then re-use them year after year. The ones with little holes in the bottom will allow enough drainage to minimize the chance of over-watering.

I hope we’re not too late on getting this advice to you. Good for you for planting fall crops! Hope it works out and you get to enjoy the fruits of your labors this winter in the form of delicious potato and leek soup, kale and apple salad, and gnocchi with spinach and pancetta. Mmmmm! Good luck!


If you would like to air your dirty secret or ask a question, email us with “Dear T&M” in the subject line. Please indicate if you wish to remain anonymous.
toniasimeone {at} gmail {dot} com


  1. Rachel says:

    Yay, thanks! I ended up throwing them away & starting anew in plastic.

    I tried to put them outside first, but in NC we were still getting 85+ degree days the first week of September. My little guys fried out in the sun.

    My new seedlings are doing okay in their planters, but I think they might do better if I move them outside now that it’s cooled down. I don’t have a great spot in my house with natural light (where a cat won’t get into them), so I’m hoping outside they’ll get better sunlight.

    Thanks again for your help! Regarding my fall garden, I also direct-seeded carrots, golden beets & shelling peas. Super easy so far– definitely recommended for anyone who wants to give a fall garden a go.

  2. Tonia says:

    Rachel, you’re so lucky to live somewhere with a super long growing season. You could just wait a little longer every year to start your fall crops. I understand wanting to give them as much of a head-start as possible, but the slightly cooler days of mid-late Sept. will allow you to do all your growing outside, like you said. Nice work!

Leave a Reply