* Prices may differ from that shown
I was looking for some extra propagators at the beginning of the year as I was given some space in the greenhouse of the garden that I work in, to use for personal projects. At home I use hand made versions with poly bags over plant pots, as well as the "proper" kind in my little greenhouse and patio growhouse. The latter come from a variety of brands so I had a chance to see what I did and didn't want. In the end I bought 6 of the Stewart Essentials 38cm basic propagators for the great price of £1.99 each in Wilkinsons, after receiving a recommendation for this as a good value model. The price was a short lived pre season offer, as they are now £3.00 which is still good buy in my opinion.
Stewart is a brand available in many garden centres, as well as Wilkinson and my local hardware store also has a few items. They don't just offer propagators, but all sorts of gardening accessories.
WHY I CHOSE THIS MODEL
This is an unheated propagator - I find these sufficient for most of my sowing needs and can sneak the few seed exceptions into the heated ones at work! Having used a few models I knew I wanted a propagator that had a domed lid rather than one with an apex like a house roof, one that was 38cm in size, and with a clear cover lid that would not yellow or crack easily. The shape of the lid is important to me because the domed shape gives seedlings more headroom and so you have more flexibility about how long they remain inside. Most propagators I looked at were in any case of this type, with the exception of the very cheapest. The Stewart model is perfect in this respect and this is handy when using one of the propagators in the plastic patio greenhouse that I have. Slugs find their way into that easily but popping the seed trays or little pots into a propagator base and sticking the lid on overnight has reduced my losses there to zero, and it also of course provides a little more cold protection too. Increased head height means I can use the propagators in this way for longer.
In general I use these in the same way as everyone else - to sow seeds that little bit earlier or later in a more sheltered environment than the seedlings would experience outside. This is why I preferred a 38cm model as it fits the majority of seed trays that I have. The propagator base tray is genuinely sturdy and compares well to the more expensive ones that I have in all honesty. The rim is robust enough to support the lid with a genuinely good fit too. The lid has vents on the top as the majority do. The ones on this model are controlled by a disc that simply twists one way to reveal the air holes, and the other to close them. This does give a bit more humidity control than my plastic bag over plant pots method admittedly! The vents are appear to do their job as I have not noticed any of the problems associated with inadequate ventilation or a build up of condensation on the lid.
I bought my first propagator in March and the others shortly afterwards and they have never been empty since. I have dropped at least one lid and it did not crack which is a good sign. [It is in any case possible to buy spares in Wilkinson if need be.] The trays have not split and I doubt they would as they are thick and strong feeling. The vent covers feel to me to be the flimsiest part as it is made from thinner plastic but I can't say that they look any worse now than they did when I first bought them. The lids are still perfectly clear - some yellow over time which reduces the amount of light available to the seedlings. I do clean the units when I sow a new batch of seeds to prevent disease problems and as a result of perhaps some over zealous scrubbing I have managed to slightly scratch one lid. This is only visible close up and should be something easy enough to avoid if you are more gentle than I am. [At work our flower pots are actually inspected by the head gardener to make sure they have been put away clean so I am drilled to do this!!]
WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS PROPAGATOR?
I would as it is cheap and good quality for the price. Both the lid and base are solid - I have used a propagator from a poundshop whose roof buckled permanently when I accidently rested a small, empty clay pot on the roof so I do appreciate that the same could not be said of all low cost models. If you want a propagator, and especially if you may need several and want to keep costs down, this is a good buy. If you are wanting one to use on a windowsill though, this is probably too wide - it would stick over the edge of my sills anyway.
In Wilkinsons, the propagators are with the other seed sowing sundries and this one comes in a green and white cardboard box. Also available in garden centres and online stockists.