How To Start Vegetable Seeds In a Seed Tray

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One of the quickest and easiest ways to start vegetable seeds is by using a seed starting tray. You can start seeds for most, if not all of your vegetable garden by using a couple seed trays. There are many different styles of seed trays and many different ways vegetable gardeners start seeds, but here is one way I like to start seeds. My method is very simple and results in a high germination rate most of the time.

The Seed Starting Tray

You will need a couple very inexpensive items to get your vegetable seeds started right. How many trays you need really depends on how many seeds you plan on starting. The first item I use is a simple plastic tray to hold the seed starting pots or cells.

Seed Starting Tray

I bought two of these trays at my local garden center for about $2 a piece. These trays will be used to hold the seed cells which are biodegradable.

Biodegradable Peat Seed Cells

I purchased eight of these all together since the plastic seed trays will hold four of the seed cells each. This will give me a total of 64 seed planting cells. If the peat seed cells do not contain holes in the bottom, make sure to use a knife to poke holes in the bottom of each cell. This will help to keep each seed cells moist for proper germination. We will get to more on that in a minute.

Next, place all the seed cells in the plastic trays. It’s a snug fit, but they all go in the trays nicely.

Place the Seed Cells Into the Seed Trays

Fill The Seed Cells With Seed Starting Mix

The next thing to do towards getting your seeds started is to fill each seed cell with a high quality seed starting mix. You can also use potting soil or coir to start the seeds in if you can’t find seed starting mix.

Fill the cells up all the way to the top. If you overfill them, that is just fine because the seed starting mix will settle some as you wet it.

Seed Tray Filled With Seed Starting Mix

Wet The Seed Starting Mix

Once you have all the cells filled with seed starting mix, take the water hose or a cup, and thoroughly wet the seed starting mix and seed cells with water.

Wet the Seed Starting Mix

You may need to go back and add seed starting mix to some cells after they settle down a bit. I was out of seed starting mix so I’ll use what I have.

Here’s the reason why I use the black plastic seed trays. It is used to hold water and act as a reservoir for the seed cells. It is best to water seeds from the bottom up. This causes the roots to grow down, resulting in stronger and healthier root systems. This is very important for healthy and productive plants.

Fill Seed Tray With Half Inch of Water

I also fill the black plastic tray with about a 1/2-inch of water. Using this reservoir tray eliminates the need for worrying about watering your seeds each day. Just check the water level periodically and refill if needed.

Sowing The Vegetable Seeds

Now for the fun part – sowing the seeds into the seed starting mix. I like to simply take my finer and poke a small hole about 1/4-inch deep into each cell. I found this is the quickest and easiest way to create the perfect hole. Make sure to follow the instructions given on the seed packet for the appropriate planting depth.

Create Holes for the Seed In Each Seed Cell

Continue poking the holes with your finger until you have a nice hole indentation in each seed cell.

Holes for Seed In Seed Cell

After I have finished creating all my seed holes, I begin sowing seeds in the seed cells. I start by placing at least two seeds in each seed cell and continue placing two seeds in each cell until I have completed the row. I sow at least two seeds in each cell to make sure at least one will germinate and grow. If both seeds end up germinating, I thin the weakest looking seedling and keep the best looking one.

Sow Two Seeds Per Seed Cell

Once I have all the seeds of one particular vegetable sown, I began covering the seeds with the seed starter mix. I use my finger to scoop a little seed start mix from the corner of the cell and smooth it across the seeds. I then gently press down the seeds to make sure the seeds make good contact with the seed starter mix. I make sure to do this lightly. There’s no need to press it to the bottom, just a light poke is all that’s needed.
Cover The Seeds With the Seed Starting Mix

Label Each Row Of Seeds

After I’m finished with the row of seeds, I then create a label using a plant label, or a plastic knife. I write down the name of the vegetable and the variety.

Completed Vegetable Seed Tray

Then I continue the whole process until I have sown all the seeds I’m starting or run out of cells – whichever comes first.

That’s it! Just make sure to check the water level in the plastic tray and refill once it starts getting low. In a couple weeks (depending on what type of vegetables you are starting) you will begin seeing some seedlings pop up out of the seed starter mix and begin growing into transplants.

How do you start your seeds? What type of trays do you use? Please share with us!

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Comments

  1. I had a tray like that but its in bad shape after 2 seasons of use.

    I use to start my veggies from seed, but now I just buy seedlings. It in the long run it cheaper and I don’t kill them off or go out of town on buisness and they dry up under the grown lamps in my grow closest.

    Next year, I will start some peppers and tomatoes from seeds since I am trying exotic plants that you can’t find at local nurseries.

  2. Hi Tee — Good idea to pre-moisten the seed starter mix. I used to water from the top after putting the seeds in –without water the starter mix first. As a result, the seeds would float around. Not good. You’d never know exactly where they’d end up in the cell.

    Have you ever tried starting seeds in paper pots? What do you think of the idea?

    • Hi Bill! I’ve found that watering from the top can be a pain LOL Watering from the bottom works much better for me because it ensures the roots are well watered and it seems to keep the seed starting mix more evenly moist.

      Starting seeds in paper pots is a very economical solution! The only problem I’ve had with using paper pots is keeping them well watered without the pot coming apart. I’m sure I was doing something wrong because a lot of people use them with no hiccups. If you use them this year, please let me know how they do!

  3. Excellent advice. Also for starting seeds outside you can use row cover to keep seed from drying out while you wait for them to sprout.

  4. The one year we saved all our little water bottles with lids. I got a funnel poured in my starter dirt and then added seeds and marked the outside of the bottles with what seed was in it. we added enough water to moisten the dirt and left them on the dashboard of an old car we had but didn`t use in our driveway where they got alot of sun. I checked the moisture every 3 days and soon enough we had beautiful vege plants starting. When they grew to the top of the bottle we cut the top off and let them grow a little more until it was warm enough to plant. It was Great. The kids had alot of fun with this project. It was great seeing the Green House effect in little bottles. After we planted we recycled the bottles and did it again the next year…Our veges were the best that we had ever grown..

  5. catherine hally says:

    Great idea.must try that with my kids.Sounds like a lot of fun.

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