Introduction: Seedling Tray Insert

We were looking for a way to start our seedlings without the commercial plastic trays. For the past two years we planted directly in these trays without any dividers. My husband thought we could make something like a honeycomb out of newspaper. Creating individual cells for the seedlings to grow in.


Spray Bottle of Water
Old Tray or Cake Pan

Step 1: Fold Your Newspaper

Start with a single section of newspaper. Like shown in this first photo.

Fold in half the long way (top to bottom) to get your center point, then open it back up.

Fold each edge in to to meet at the center fold.

Step 2: Cut This Folded Paper

Cut the paper down the original center fold so you have two sections.

Step 3: Measure

Measure where we will be stapling. This measurement decides how big the space will be for your seedlings to grow. This space also needs to be large enough to fit the stapler during the construction process.

On the first strip I measured out 3" from one end and continued to mark every 3" to the end of the paper, last space was 1.5". Don't be concerned if you have more or less space you can trim it off to be even at the end. Be sure to be working on the folded edge. This will be the top surface of your project from here to the end of the project.

On the second strip I measured 1.5" from the same end, and then every 3" to the end of the paper strip.

I only marked these two strips of paper.

Step 4: Stapling

Take the first strip of paper you marked up every 3" and one blank strip. Make sure both folded sides of the paper are together. Staple once at the top edge (folded edge) on your first 3" mark you made on the paper. Then staple once at the bottom edge and once in the middle, as close as you can to a straight line.

Then place the 2nd paper strip that you marked up starting at 1.5" from the end. Place this over the top of the two you have already stapled together. You will need to open the space between the two strips you have stapled and slip your stapler into this hole. Staple along the top edge. I found it easiest to only staple the top edge down the length of the strip of paper. Then work my way a second time through the length of the paper finishing up the 3 staples for each cell you are creating. Make sure you are always stapling only your newly added paper strip and one of the layers you have already stapled together.

Continue adding one layer after another.

I stapled a total of 12 paper strips together in my large green tray, and left the full length of the news paper.

Step 5: More Stapling

You will notice you have some bigger areas on each end. This part seems a little tricky at first but once you get the first one, it all comes together. Staple every other paper together to complete the seedling cells. You will have odd ones on the outside edge of one side, this is okay.

Step 6: Opening Up Your Seedling Tray Insert

You will quickly discover this newspaper will resist opening and continue to close back up. This is where the Spray Bottle of Water comes in. Lightly mist the newspaper you have stapled together. This will allow you to start opening it up. Try to hold open the seedling cells and mist more water inside. Don't get things too wet or your newspaper may start to tear on you. It will look a little long for your tray and it should. Once it is stretched to fill your pan the length will shorten up. If it is still too long, go ahead and trim off a few cell on one end to achieve a better fit.

Step 7: Fill With Potting Soil of Your Choice

Once the individual cells are filled with dirt they hold their shape. I start on the end that I have the most open cells. I take a handful of soil and just drop it on top of the honeycomb of cells and push it around letting it fall into cells. After about three handfuls of soil pushed around I start pulling the cells outwards to fill the pan and continue adding soil. At this point I don't try to add soil around the outside edge, leave that for last, but soil will fall in this area and that is fine.

You will want to press the soil down with your fingers into to each individual cell to compact the soil slightly. Continue until all the cells are full. Once you are happy with the individual cell you can fill in around the outside of the tray.

Step 8: Time for Planting

I like to water down my soil a little before planting any seeds. I tend to find if the dirt is dry seeds don't stay in place as well when I water the first time.

As you can see this is my second tray of seedlings. The first has been going for almost two weeks now.

We decided to plant two seeds in each cell and plan to thin down to one in each cell as they grow.

After planting your seeds, water well. Then we like to cover with a sheet of plastic cling wrap to hold in the moisture and we remove the cling wrap when about 50% of the seeds have sprouted. We keep the seedlings on a heat mat with an over head light. Make sure to keep the light very close to the seedling so they don't become stringy. The newspaper will hold quite a bit of water which helps to not over water. Just make sure to check daily that they don't get too dried out.

Step 9: Just an Update

Here is what the tray insert looked like when we transplanted our seedlings.

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