Sowing Seeds in Trays

Growing crops from seed is simple and economical, and sowing in trays is a good idea since trays are easy to clean and fit into propagators or on bright windowsills.

Sowing Seeds in Trays is Inexpensive

Sowing Seeds in Trays is Inexpensive

Growing crops from seed is economical, and sowing in trays is a good idea. It may take longer, but the wait will be worth it.

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Step 1: Clean Used Seed Trays

Clean Seed Trays Before Reusing

Clean Seed Trays Before Reusing

Clean used seed trays with hot water and detergent and rinse before using seed trays again. Fill seed trays with multipurpose compost, and use a second tray to gently firm it, removing air pockets.

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Use hot water and detergent or soak in a sterilizing solution and rinse before you begin sowing. Fill a tray with multipurpose or seed compost, and use a second tray to gently firm it to remove air pockets.

Step 2: Scatter Seeds Evenly Over Compost

Carefully Scatter Seeds Over Surface of Seed Tray

Carefully Scatter Seeds Over Surface of Seed Tray

Scatter seeds over the surface of the potting soil following the directions on the seed packet for sowing depth and distances.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Pour seeds straight from the package or sprinkle them from the palm of your hand. Sow thinly to prevent waste and overcrowding, which results in spindly seedlings that are more prone to diseases.

Step 3: Lightly Cover Seeds With Sieved Compost

Water Tray of Planted Seeds with Fine Spray

Water Tray of Planted Seeds with Fine Spray

Lightly cover seeds with compost, label tray with plant name and date. Use a fine spray of water to avoid disturbing seeds.

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Label the tray with the plant name and date. Water gently with tap water using a fine rose to avoid disturbing the seeds; avoid stored rainwater which can cause damping off disease.

Step 4: Place Tray in Propagator

Propagator Tray with Lid Generates Warmth for Seed

Propagator Tray with Lid Generates Warmth for Seed

A greenhouse propagator is a must have piece of gardening equipment to extend the growing season. They come in many varied shapes and sizes but all are designed to create a warm micro climate ideal for germinating seeds.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Place the tray in a propagator or cover it with clear plastic to create the warmth and humidity needed for germination. Keep in a light place, such as on a windowsill, but not in strong sun. Remove the cover as soon as seedlings emerge. 

Step 5: Transplant Seedings

Room to Grow

Room to Grow

Pricking out plants is the process of transferring recently germinated seedlings that are growing closely together into containers where they have more room to grow.

©2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

When the seedlings have a few leaves transplant them into seed trays or small pots. To do this, water the seedlings, then hold a seed leaf and loosen the roots with a dibber or pencil to gently tease each one from the compost. 

Step 6: Get Trays Or Pots Ready

Fill Seed Trays with Seed Compost and Firm Down

Fill Seed Trays with Seed Compost and Firm Down

Purchase a supply of seed trays and mini pots to use for seed starting. Commercial seed starting mixes, usually composed of vermiculite and peat, without any true soil, are recommended for the needs of germinating seeds and tiny seedlings.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Have ready seed trays or small pots filled with multipurpose compost, then water and allow to drain. Dibble a hole in each compartment, insert a seedling, and gently firm using the dibber. Water and label. 

Step 7: Harden Off Seedlings

Move Hardened Off Plants to Larger Home

Move Hardened Off Plants to Larger Home

Harden plants off gradually, then plant them in larger pots once the weather is consistently warm at night and before roots become restricted.

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

After a few weeks, harden off the seedlings by gradually exposing them to the outdoor environment. Place them outside during the day and bring them in at night, or place them in a cold frame and gradually increase the ventilation.

Keep Reading