I sometimes like to get a head start on the gardening season by starting seeds indoors before the risk of frost outdoors has passed. There are plenty of ways to go about starting seeds. You can plant them in plastic drinking cups, or you can plant them in plastic nursery pots saved from previous years. You can even plant seeds in used toilet paper or paper towel tubes that break down once they’re planted in the garden. Or, if you want to grow seedlings like what you find in garden centers, you can also purchase plastic grow trays that are perfect for cultivating entire flats of plants.
Most of the major dollar stores sell plastic seed starting trays among their gardening supplies. When I visited my local Dollar General recently, they had several sizes of seed starter trays to choose from, including a large one with individual pods for 72 plants. I purchased a smaller tray that has 36 cells and includes a special seed starting medium, so I didn’t have to buy any kind of soil to get started.
The NK Lawn & Garden Seed Starter cost $4 at Dollar General at the time of publication. The package states you can “grow quality plants like a professional!”
The package adds that “each individual pot has its own drainage, and raised ridges on the bottom of the watertight tray keep plant roots above the waterline, providing maximum air circulation to encourage healthier root development.”
The lightweight soil mix in this tray is a blend of sphagnum peat moss, horticultural grade vermiculite, professional grower’s grade of perlite, and other ingredients. It’s designed to retain moisture to help tender roots grow.
To plant seeds in the tray, start by wetting the soil mix thoroughly. Warm water is best.
With the blunt end of a pencil, make a slight depression or dribble hole in the soil in the center of each pot to accept seeds. It’s best to sow two seeds in each depression. Cover lightly with soil or follow directions on the seed packet. Spray the surface with water to ensure seeds are moist. Always keep moist, or the seeds will not sprout.
The package also offers a few growing tips:
- Cover the tray with a plastic film for a greenhouse effect to keep in essential moisture. Keep the plastic from touching leaves of newly sprouted seeds. (If you do this, you’ll have to buy the plastic film separately, and to the best of my knowledge, the dollar stores don’t sell covers that go with this seed starter.)
- Keep in a warm area until seeds sprout. Soil temperature of 70 degrees will make seeds sprout sooner. Provide plenty of air circulation.
- Expose flats or pots to sunlight after seeds have sprouted by placing near a window.
- Fertilize with a half strength solution three weeks after leaves appear.
- Before transplanting outdoors, harden off seeds by gradually increasing daily exposure to outdoor temperature over a two-week period. It’s best for outdoor temperatures to exceed 40 degrees before exposure. Transplant outdoors after danger of frost is past.
The package recommends starting plants indoors before the last frost date in your area. Starting plants indoors before this date gets plants off to a head start. They are more mature when planted outdoors and will bear fruit or flowers sooner. As a general guide, sow flower seeds 8-10 weeks and vegetable seeds 4-5 weeks before the outdoor planting date for your area. (The back of the package features a zone map showing when to plant outdoors based on where you live.)
This seed starter package states it is a product of Plantation Products, LLC, based in Norton, Massachusetts. This appears to be the same company as Green Garden Products, which is part of Central Garden & Pet, known for brands such as American Seed, Better Bird, Cory’s, Draconil, Comfort Zone, and Ferry-Morse.
Using the Seed Starter:
After removing the cardboard instruction sleeve and the plastic wrap, I added some water to this seed starter. It’s not easy to wet the soil mix because the water tends to puddle and pool. I had a lot of water collect in the bottom drainage tray, and I dumped some of that out. The soil does have a fine, soft texture that should be ideal for seed sprouting.
Once there was a bit of moisture in the soil mix, I added approximately two seeds to each growing cell. I used portions of five packets of different seeds my kids helped pick out for $0.25 each at Dollar Tree: sunflowers, onions, beans, snapdragons, and zinnias. There are six individual trays with six grow holes each within this larger tray, so I dedicated one small tray for each type of seed, with one additional small tray for more sunflower seeds. I labelled the seed type in each small tray using some wooden plant label sticks I bought last year at a garden center.
I don’t have a cover to help hold in moisture at the moment, so I’ll just try to keep the surface well watered. It helps to water with a small spray bottle of water rather than using a watering can. Spraying a light mist over the surface keeps the water from puddling.
Right now, I’ve got the seed starter in my kitchen window and I’m just watching and waiting for my seedlings to sprout. So far, I like that this is a tidier way to start seeds versus planting them in random cups. I’ll update this post later with new developments.
The NK Lawn & Garden Seed Starter features six small trays that each have six growing cells for starting seeds. The six smaller trays all sit inside a larger tray that collects water drainage. A perk with this seed starter tray is that it also comes with growing medium so you don’t have to buy potting mix or seed starting mix separately. We’ve just planted this seed starter and are watching to see how our plants do in it. We’ll update with new developments later this spring.