Now, I'm not a big fan of plastic pots for starting seeds. For one thing, they are a pain to find space for and keep organized when not in use, for another they can harbor diseases from one year to the next. AND you can end up with icky little, root bound, unhappy seedlings. At least, if you're like me, and may or may not have time to "pot-up" and move the plant into successively larger pots until you are ready to plant out.
The solution? Soil blocks!
Essentially, these are mud pies for plants. The potting mix contains perlite, peat moss, and compost, and is mixed with water until it is the right consistency, and then a "blocker" is used to squish out the water and shape the dirt into little blocks. Professional grade blockers can run anywhere from $30 to $200. Instructables also has instructions for making your own- like this one- oooor, you could do what I did.
I was wandering through a craft supply store, and saw a cake decorating tool on an endcap display. It was on clearance for $10. I bought it.
The finished soil blocks are visible in the upper right, above and upper left, below. It's ok if they aren't all exactly the same size. At first, the blocks are going to be a bit fragile, but as the seedlings grow the roots help hold the blocks together.
One of the main benefits of soil blocks is that the root systems of soil blocked seedlings tend to be much healthier than their pot started counterparts. When a root grows to the edge of the block and is exposed to air, it stops growing. The plant puts energy into branching its root system, rather than growing longer roots that grow around and around in circles between the edge of the pot and the soil.
Now I just have to decide where to keep my seed tray until everything germinates. Last year I tried the front porch, but it doesn't get quite enough sun. The interesting part will be finding some place with enough sun that the barn cats won't think of. . .