My Favorite Seed Starting Method

Channel tray with list

I discovered these channel seed starting flats several years ago, and liked them much better than the commonly used plug trays.  I even used to sell them in our eBay store, but shipping costs became too much (for the extra long box) and I am happily using the leftovers I didn’t sell.  Here is the “sales pitch” that was in the eBay listing–and every word is true.  LOVE these things:

These are 1020 size seed germination flats, each with twenty separate channels for planting, and pre-cut, self-stick labels numbered 1-40 to identify each row.

Closeup of channelsEach channel is 10″ long x 7/8″ wide x 1 1/4″ deep and has holes in the bottom for watering.

There are advantages to this system:

  • You have a permanent record of what seeds are planted where–no depending on sticks that can be lost
  • You don’t have to fill the whole flat at once; you can sow only as many rows as you need as the season progresses
  • You can vary the spacing of seeds in different rows, depending on the needs of each type of plant
  • You can adjust the method of sowing each row–seed depth, planting medium, fertilizer, type of covering (vermiculite, sand, soilless mix, etc.)–to suit the sowing directions of different seed packages
  • Seedlings that grow more quickly can be transplanted without disturbing the roots of seedlings in other channelsLifting seedling row with knife
  • Seedlings (with roots and soil intact) are gently lifted out from the row ends using a butter knife–no pushing the root up from the bottom (as in plug flats), crushing the root mass when pushing up the bottom of six-pack cells, or turning pots upside down and trying to catch the seedlings in your hand
  • There is no wasted planting mix left in the flat after transplanting the seedlings
  • The channels are easier to clean than the individual holes in plug flats

Each flat fits over a standard 1020 watering tray (not included) and under a standard humidity dome (not included). If you don’t have a dome or tray, it’s easy to improvise:

No dome? Enclose the flat in a clear plastic bag (like those from the dry cleaner or supermarket produce section) to keep in humidity until germination. Or just lay baggies on top.

No watering tray? A (clean!) kitchen garbage bag can be placed in the shipping box to hold water for bottom watering (see photo). Or pour a little water in a cookie sheet and water half the rows, then turn the flat around and water the other half.

Watering channel tray in cookie sheet

End of “sales pitch”——-

Putting number stickers on the rows allows me to plant many different types of tomatoes or flowers in the same tray, and put them all on a single heat mat.

It’s important to keep a list of what plant is in which row and (learn from my mistakes) put copies of that list in several places so you don’t lose it.  I now even type up the lists and keep them in a Word document–but don’t depend on that one copy either!  (Crashes happen.)

Here is a picture of last year’s tomato seedlings under lights.  Notice that row #7 had marigold seedlings.

Tray of seedlings under lights

I can’t wait to start tomato seedlings again this year–but not until April 1.  Meanwhile, look for the next post on winter sowing, which can be done right now!


About Nana's House and Garden

I am a retired baby boomer who was born and raised in New Jersey. Had a lovely, happy childhood in a surburb that was similar to what you would see in "Peanuts." Went with family EVERY YEAR to the Jersey Shore and believe me the people in that TV show..and in the Sopranos...are NOT representative of most NJ residents. Married a widower with three boys and then had two daughters. All are now grown, and I have several step-grandchildren and one biological grandson. I worked out of my home doing medical transcription while my daughters were growing up. Now that my husband is retired, I quit the part time transcription business to stay home and keep him company. One of our daughters is still living with us and we enjoy her company, also. I have started a sideline business with my college classmate. We discovered that we each had once had an elderly relative who was called "Nana" so we decided to name the business "Nana's House and Garden." We sell items on eBay that are related to home, gardening and crafts. This blog and our website "" will be companions to our eBay store. We hope they will be informative and entertaining.
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