How to Build a Seed Tray – Be Frugal and Practical!

how to build a seed tray

30 years ago, my dad showed me how to build a seed tray out of scraps of lumber. These were something he was doing for his own greenhouse, and I was just a helper (I got the tedious job of sanding).

When Dad finally decided to give up gardening in order to travel, he gave me his greenhouse and all of his supplies. By this time, those seed trays were 10 years old, and still in great condition.

When we moved to the farm, the greenhouse itself wasn’t in good enough shape to move a second time, so I just packed up all the gardening equipment and moved them. The other day, I realized that Dad and I only built three trays, and all of them were still going strong, 30 years later. I really wished I had about ten of them.

Let’s face it. If you are a gardener, you probably have stacks and stacks of those plastic seed trays they give away at nurseries. I will also bet that you have thrown away just as many, as they tend to break after a year or two. Or, let me guess – you picked up a tray to move it, and the flimsy plastic twisted and bent, and dumped all those freshly bumped up plants on the ground.

Been there, done that. Which is why I prefer to use the wooden seed trays like Dad and I built. Allow me to help you out. Learn how to build a seed tray, and not only protect those plants, but make some more space in your greenhouse by tossing at least one stack of the plastic trays. The Shakers would have been proud – practical, resourceful, and frugal all in one project!

how to build a seed tray - supplies

How to Build a Seed Tray – Supplies

Before we go any further, the seed tray the Country Boy and I built measures 12” x 20”. You can build a seed tray any size you need, but making them much bigger than this makes them heavier and harder to move around.

You can buy pre-cut slats, but the cheapest way is to cut your slats from a 2”x4” treated board. (Did you know? A ‘ 2” x 4” ‘ board is actually 1-1/2” x 3-1/2”!) We ‘rip’ the board lengthwise into approximately 5/16” strips, then cut the strips into the 20” length.  Keep in mind – we use lumber that we have left over from different projects.

If you do have to purchase a board to build a seed tray, you can buy a full length (1”x4” boards usually come in 6’ or 8’ lengths), cut it to length, and use the rest of the board for another project, or ask the store where you buy it if they can cut it to length for you.  Just keep in mind, normally you still have to purchase the whole board, so you still get to keep the other part – but some places do charge ‘per cut’.

List of Supplies

  • 8 – 5/16” slats – Cut a 2”x4 x 20” board lengthwise (use treated lumber)
  • 2 end pieces – Cut a 12” piece of 2”x4” board in half, lengthwise (treated lumber)
  • 1/2″ Staples or small nails (We use an air Staple Gun)

How to Build a Seed Tray

Lightly sand all the pieces. They don’t have to be super smooth, but you do want to remove any roughness and splinters.

Set the two end pieces on your work table. Place 6 of the strips across the ends, and adjust until the strips are even with the edge of the end piece. Space the strips evenly apart, with the two end strips 1/4″ in from the outer edge. Make sure the gaps between the slats are as even as possible.

build a seed tray

Using a staple gun or nails. Secure the slats to the end pieces. Stand the tray on its side.

build a seed tray

Use one of the remaining slats and bring it level with the top of the edge piece. Staple or nail into place. This will leave a gap between the bottom edge of the side slat and the bottom of the tray. Repeat on the opposite side of the tray.

Time to Use Your Tray

Did you think it would be more difficult than this? Surprisingly, this is one of the easiest projects we make for our farm.  It took less than 45 minutes, from start to finish to make one. You can make five or more in less than 2 hours, just by cutting all the pieces first, and then sanding and assembling next.

The beauty of these seed trays is that you can make them any size you need. Dad and I had a few leftover ‘drops’ (the pieces that were left and ‘dropped’ after cutting the pieces to size), and ended up having all we needed to make two smaller trays.

Another plus when you build a seed tray is that it may not cost you a cent. These are perfect to make out of left over lumber and a few staples or nails. This makes it a very frugal way to store your seedlings until they are ready to plant!

Ready for More?

Keep reading. Next week you will be able to add an additional layer of fun to your garden with easy to make whimsical trellises and row markers.

Get ready for the fun of gardening, and adding fun TO your garden!

Did you Miss any of the March Gardening Posts? Catch up here!

The Shaker Garden

Vegetables in a Shaker Garden

Herbs in a Shaker Garden

How to Make Seed Packets

Add Fun and Whimsy to Your Garden with a Scarecrow

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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