Starting Seeds for the Garden

From seed to seedling to bloom, fun to watch - fun to do.

The path from the workshop to the house

For those of us who like to garden and also live in places where winter means snow. This can be a hard view in February. Unfortunately this picture was taken in April of 2015. Usually we would be in the middle of lawn clean up and speculating on how long the crocusses would last. If the crocusses are up they are wearing snow hots and shovelling out little igloos. Snow was light until the end of January and then kept coming, and coming and ... you get the picture. What is a gardener to do? Get some seeds, trays and planting mix and get to play, or work or whatever starts dreams of summer.

20 slot seedling starting tray

For starting a variety of seeds, especially those I have saved from past years and am not sure of the viability, I like these 20 slot seedling trayr. They are used by the pros usually for one variety of seed but I am not supplying a commercial greenhouse, just a set of grow lights and my own garden. These are quite shallow and narrow to hold a lot of plants but really for germination and then into larger quarters. Because I plan to use this for a number of varieties I have marked one side 1 to 10.

20 slot seedling starting tray with numbered slots

OK, I know that I should be able to tell which row is number what from 1 to 10 on one side implying 11 to 20 on the other and numbering the other side is overkill, but sometimes overkill is under rated and I know me. I would mess it up. It only takes a second or two to make sure. O, if you have noticed the tools below, I am working in the workshop. A small room adjacent is for the plants.

tray ready for planting mix

Once the tray is numbered I am ready to add the planting mix

a 256 cell plug tray

A few years back I was using these 256 compartment trays to start seedlings. They were good although I am told they are more for commercial growers to start seedlings from cuttings before moving them to 6-packs or 9-packs or some variation on the theme. The problem is they are awkward to remove plants from them when some are not ready to be moved and others are. Not all seeds germinate at the same time nor do different types of seedlings grow at the same pace and need to be transplanted at the same time. Other gardens of mine called for over 200 seedlings of the same type of plant. So far this one is not that big and likely will stay on a small scale.

homemade shallow tray for plant trays

However, because I was using a few of these trays, I needed a solid bottom tray to hold them while waiting for germination. The trays are designed to fit standard K-1020 planting trays which are 10 by 20 inches inside. I like to stay with things that fit the K1020s because this is the industry standard and easy to get things for them. Besides, the huge professional demand keeps the price down and new inovatons up. The problem I ran into is thee plug trays and the slot trays are too shallow for the standard flat. I like to water from the bottom but the plug trays are designed to water from the top and to float the tray in the flat so as to allow the roots to be pruned by hitting air as the exit the drainage holes. Great stuff for the greenhouse grower but not great for me. I made some trays out of light, galvanized steel from the auto parts store.