I had an ah-ha when I learned about a method of starting seeds without containers.
The term most often associated with this method is soil blocks. Farmers have been using “potting blocks” for years, and they’re catching on with adventurous home gardeners.
They’re made from lightly compressed cubes of soil. The blocks not only serve as the growing medium for seedlings, but also as the container. The blocks are pressed by a form and molded into a cube.
With the proper moisture, combined with a fibrous growing medium, the soil block will easily hold together. The bigger the roots get, the sturdier the block.
Another nice advantage of using soil blocks is that the roots do not encircle the block as they grow. Instead, they stay within the growing medium because of the air spaces between the blocks. If you’ve ever heard of “air pruning,” this is an example. The beauty of roots growing in this fashion is that when the blocks are transplanted into the garden, the seedlings establish quickly into the surrounding soil, with little risk of transplant shock.
You can find more information at www.pottingblocks.com, www.johnnyseeds.com and other websites.