Are you tired of spending too much on starter plants, and having difficulty getting your own seeds to sprout? Well, seed starting trays may be your answer. You can get a head start on the spring season, and begin planting early before the weather warms up. Not to mention, there's something special about starting a seedling and growing it into a full plant. You have to nurture the seeds from the very beginning, which makes the entire process very hands-on. Imagine starting a seed and diligently working at it until it blossoms into a beautiful flower or a tasty vegetable; the result is very rewarding.
If you already understand how great seed starting trays are for gardeners, you know that having the right one can make all the difference. However, if you do not like the idea of starting indoors, you should reconsider. Many experienced gardeners work inside and outside to grow the plants they want, and both methods provide a unique experience. But the question is, do you think seed starting trays will work well for you?
Purpose of Seed Starting Trays
Seed starting trays are specially designed to hold numerous seeds that start at the germination stage until they're ready for transplantation. Using the trays helps to ensure that each seed gets its nutrients, and it also dismisses the need for multiple plantings. Seed starting trays keep the seeds contained as well. The trays are typically plastic, and certain ones come with a dome to help increase humidity, while others include heating pads which help to speed up germination.
There are many different reasons as to why gardeners use their own starter seeds, but there are a few common reasons. One primary reason is to have the ability to plant rare and hard-to-find vegetation. You'll probably find less than a dozen variety of unique plants at a garden center, but you'll find hundreds of seed options. It also saves you money as well. Packets of seeds are cheap, and they contain dozens of seeds. But, often a single starter plant will cost a great deal more than seeds. Using seed starting trays is also a good way to get your gardening fix through the winter months. Plus, it gives an even better sense of accomplishment to take care of a plant from the very beginning.
Furthermore, there are a few seeds you can try out that are awesome for beginning indoors. The most common seeds are peppers, basil, tomatoes, marigold, and cosmos. You can also try zinnias; they're one of the most simple flowers to grow from a seed. But, all of these tend to germinate and grow rather quickly. Once you've gotten the hang of these, you can move on to more complicated plants.
When to start seeds
Timing means everything when you're starting your seeds indoors. You want to grow the seedlings to the perfect size for transplanting to the garden at the right time. The date you begin sowing depends on your approximate last spring frost date, the conditions preferred by that type of plant, and how fast the seed germinates and begins growth.
If you don't know the last frost date, ask a local gardener or a staff member at a gardening center. The exact date of the last spring frost differs year to year, so you probably won't know the actual time, but finding out an approximation will help.
Type of seeds to use
You can begin your seeds in anything with decent drainage. Seed starting trays drain freely, which helps to prevent rotting. You have the choice to use biodegradable pots or reusable trays. However, all-in-one seed-starting systems are the easiest.
The Steps to Help Your Seeds Grow
Your main goal is to get your seeds to grow so that you can successfully transfer them into your garden, but you have to make sure you're following the right procedures.
Find the right seed starting tray
Start by finding a seed starting tray that's two to three inches deep with drainage holes. Next, you need a soil mix designed for germination. You should not use soil from a pot or from your garden if at all possible. For one, it's not ideal for germinating seeds, and for two, it's possible that there are diseases in the old soil. It's best to start fresh.
Prepare the potting soil
Also, before filling the trays, dampen the planting mixture. You don't want it soaking wet -- that will starve the soil of oxygen and promote disease. Then, fill the trays in tightly with the soil. You should also be aware that most soils don't have enough nutrients for the seedlings, so add some fertilizer once the plants have grown a bit. Often, seedlings are transplanted from a seed tray into four-packs or other pots that are using a different, pre-fertilized mix of soil.
Be sure to read the packaging or consult other resources to determine how deep in the soil you should place the seeds. Every plant germinates differently. You can sprinkle small seeds on top and bury the larger seeds. Place the seeds in the pivot and cover them. Be sure to water the seeds, too, once you plant them!
Give the seeds light
Seeds require tons of light. If you're going to sprout them inside, be sure and choose a south-facing window to make the most out of daytime sunlight. Also, rotate the pots on a regular basis to keep the plant from leaning towards the light. If you're doing them indoors and using lights, place them a few inches above the seedlings. The goal is to emulate springtime sunlight to encourage germination, so 15 hours a day of light is a good place to start.
Slowly move the plants to your garden
Lastly, you should gradually transfer your seeds from indoors to your garden. They have to go through a slow transition which is often referred to as "hardening off." So, before putting them in your garden, put them outside in a partially shaded area that's away from the wind. You should still bring them inside at night, but make sure they get a few hours outside during the day. Over about 10 days, slowly expose them to more time outside. Your goal is to "harden" the plants against the elements, primarily wind, so that they do not die upon transplant.
What Happens If Your Seeds Didn't Grow
The first possibility is poor germination. Certain plants tend to have low germination rates, and often that warning is stated on the seed packaging. The information will usually indicate to plant more than one seed together to improve your chances of successful growth. Soil that is too wet or too cold can cause bad germination, which causes the seeds to rot. Dry soil can also interfere with growth and prevent germination. Plus, sometimes seeds are out-dated or haven't been properly stored, and that keeps the seedling from growing as well.
Mold and algae
If you notice white growth or green spots on the surface of the planting mixture, or on the outside of the pots, it's most likely mold or algae. It's usually harmless to the seedlings, but it's a good sign that the soil mix is too wet. Give it time to dry out a little between watering, and increase air circulation through the use of fan or better ventilation.
Seed Starting Trays Pros and Cons
The great thing about starting your own seeds is that it allows you to grow food and plants organically from your own hands. It's a long process, but if you like gardening, you'll enjoy every minute of it. Not to mention, it's less expensive to buy seeds than it is to buy organic fruits and veggies from the market. And if you handle your trays correctly, you can reuse them, which helps save you money. So it's a win-win.
On the contrary, nurturing your own seeds is tedious. For some people that might present a problem, especially if something goes wrong with the growth process. You could potentially spend weeks working on growing the seeds, and nothing happens. Not to mention, the initial cost to buy the trays is a little expensive, and they can rip or get a hole in them if you're not careful.
A seed starting tray will cost you between $11 to $40 depending on what kind you get. Some of them have more slots than others do, and some come with a plastic dome. You can find them at a local garden shop or on Amazon. On the other hand, if you want to be more economical, you can re-use yogurt cups, plastic cups or milk cartons to start your seeds. Do note that long-term use of cheap plastics can cause leaching into the soil, especially if they're in direct sunlight.
How We Reviewed
We found great seed starting trays with good customer reviews. We also considered the price of each product.
The Best Seed Starting Trays
We've compiled a list of the best seed containers we could find that had the best customer satisfaction. So hopefully, you can pick one that's well-suited for you and your gardening level of expertise.
- Ultra-Durable, Top-Quality BPA Free Plastic Trays No Holes. Will last you many years
- Perfect match to our other heavy duty trays and humidity domes. Outer Dimension: 21" x 10.75" x 2.5"
- 2 Year Warranty guaranteed not to break so you can focus on growing and not replacing equipment
4.8 out of 5 Stars
This tray consists of ultra-durable BPA-free polypropylene plastic and no drain holes. The flats are heavy duty and can hold heavy loads without breaking. You can use these for fodder, wheatgrass, hydroponic systems, sprouting, soil blocks, microgreens, and heat mats. Plus, it fits most cell plug trays and humidity domes.
The price ranges from $25 to $120 depending on the size you get and the number of domes included. It comes with a 2-year warranty, and the customers on Amazon rated it 4.8 out of 5-stars.
- GREAT FOR SAPLINGS & STARTERS - With a 1.9" diameter, KORAM Seedling Trays are perfectly sized for starting flowers,...
- EFFICIENT TRANSFER OF HEAT - With humidity lid and base allow heat to easily penetrate and keep soil at consistent...
- FLEXIBLE PLASTIC - allows for easy plant removal and convenient 6 cell packs make transplanting a breeze; Thickened...
4.5 out of 5 Stars
This Koram tray is perfect for starting flowers, herbs, and vegetable saplings such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and more. The humidity lid allows heat to easily absorb into the soil and keeps it at consistent temperatures, which is great for indoor home and greenhouse use. Plus, it contains six cell packs that make transplanting effortless. The thickened bottom edge material can hold up against pressure and doesn't lose soil or soak in too much water. Additionally, the drain holes help the plants grow faster, and this tray fits well in a germination station.
The cost is between $10 to $15, and customers on Amazon rated it 4.5 out of 5-stars. However, some customers complained that it was too humid in the dome.
- 100% SILICONE: FDA-approved, BPA free, food-grade silicone. Package quantity: 2, cell size: 2" X 2" X 2.25"
- STERILIZABLE - Dishwasher safe; steam clean or wash with hot water. Sterilizing your trays helps prevent...
- GREAT FOR HYDROPONICS - Easily fits 2" plugs of rockwool or any material. Large drainage hole in bottom ensures adequate...
5 out of 5 Stars
Sili-seedlings contain silicone which helps to regulate the temperature of the soil better than plastic or peat pots. It's smooth and durable and crafted to be resistant to breaking and melting. It's also FDA approved, BPA-free, and it never becomes brittle or melts, even in the hottest of conditions. Plus, they're eco-friendly so you can use them in your garden, or on the inside of your home.
The price ranges from $10 to $15 and the customers on Amazon gave it a perfect 5 out of 5-star rating! However, right now there are less than 10 reviews so that perfect rating may change.
4.8 out of 5 Stars
4.5 out of 5 Stars
5 out of 5 Stars
Are You Excited About Growing Your Own Plants?
Seed starting trays are a fun way to grow plants and veggies, and we feel like they're worth investing in. They're far superior to DIY solutions, minus cost -- and the cost isn't too high anyway. Most customers liked the seed starting trays that they bought and gave them high ratings.
So, are they worth it? Absolutely. These trays are for growing indoors, so unless something happens to interfere with germination, you're sure to get the results you're looking for. Plus, they're reusable. So you can continue to use them and repeat the growing process as much as you'd like.