Homemade wood seed starter tray

Written by shane grey
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Long before peat pots and plastic seed trays, nurseries, farmers and gardeners employed a durable, reusable and inexpensive seed-starting container--the wood seed-starter tray. Not only does the wood seed-starter tray still hold a place in modern gardening, but with novice-level carpentry skills and simple or scrap lumber, it can find a place in your greenhouse or backyard. Compared to mass-produced, throwaway alternatives, a homemade wood seed-starter tray adds more “green” to your garden.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 1-by-6 untreated lumber
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Framing square
  • Circular saw
  • Drill
  • Pilot drill bit
  • 1 ¼-inch outdoor screws
  • Gloves
  • Safety goggles

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Lay out the cuts for a wood seed start tray’s rectangular frame --a simple 14- by 12-inch box frame. Use a tape measure and pencil to measure and mark two pieces of 1-by-6 lumber at 14-inches and two pieces of 1-by-6 lumber at 12 inches. Place a framing square at each mark and run a pencil along the square’s edge to create a straight line across the board’s face. Repeat for each marked board.

  2. 2

    Cut the boards at the lines using a circular saw. Place a board on a saw horse or stable table and hang the end to be cut over the surface’s edge. Position the saw’s blade at the board’s mark, activate the saw and use the line as a guide to create a straight cut. Repeat for each board.

  3. 3

    Mark positions of pilot holes for screws at the each end of both of the 14-inch boards. Use a tape measure and pencil to mark pilot hole positions: 1-inch in from each edge and 3/8-inch in from the ends. Attach a pilot bit to the drill. The pilot bit should be no thicker in diameter than the screw’s shank (threads excluded).

  4. 4

    Butt the end of a 12-inch board against the unmarked face of a 14-inch board. Position the 12-inch board opposite the 14-inch board’s pilot hole marks so that the bit will drill through both boards. Firmly hold the boards in place, activate the drill and drill a hole at least 1-inch deep through the marks. Repeat for each joint between long and short boards so that every board receives pilot holes.

  5. 5

    Attach the boards with screws at their predrilled joints. Firmly hold joints in position, place a screw’s tip in a pilot hole and fasten the screw through both boards. Repeat for each predrilled pilot hole, a total of eight fasteners.

  6. 6

    Create slats to run across the bottom of your wood seed starter tray. The slats should run across the short dimension of your frame’s rectangle and will measure approximately 12 inches plus twice the thickness of your 1-by-6 lumber. Use a tape measure to check the length. Mark boards for cuts. Cut enough boards to span across one open side of your frame, leaving 1/8-inch gap between boards.

  7. 7

    Cut boards using the same method as previously and attach them to cover one open side of the frame using the pilot hole and fastening methods used previously.

  8. 8

    Flip over the completed seed-starter tray so that slats face down. Aid the tray’s retention of moisture and soil by covering its interior with a thick layer of newspaper or dried leaves. Fill with seed-starting soil and plant seeds.

Tips and warnings

  • Always wear gloves and safety goggles when operating power tools.

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