Seedling Tray Insert

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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.

Supplies

Newspaper
Ruler
Scissors
Marker
Stapler
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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32 Comments

0
sawdustagain
sawdustagain

1 year ago

Very clever idea! I'm curious how big you let the plants get in the honeycomb and how get the individual plants out of the honeycomb for transplanting.

0
DanaW54
DanaW54

Reply 1 year ago

We planted all our seedlings a little over a week ago, so I thought I would let you know how it went. I did use a spoon to scoop out the seedlings around the edge, my husband just used his fingers. Then it worked really well to just pull the newspaper in the from one end down the tray (same way I stapled on) and it just peeled off, leaving my seedlings standing as I show in the picture. The first row tore one by one, but as I reached the center of the tray, the whole newspaper strip would come off, leaving the row of seedlings standing. I just picked up the column of dirt with the seedling in and planted in the ground.

Plant.jpg
0
sawdustagain
sawdustagain

Reply 1 year ago

So kind of you to share a description and photo of how you removed the seedling from the honeycomb. Happy gardening!

0
DanaW54
DanaW54

Reply 1 year ago

This is my first time doing this honeycomb insert. The last few years I had them planted closer together than this allows. The Peppers Plants were about 3 inches tall when we transplanted them to the garden. So my plan is to leave them in here until then. I plan to use a spoon to scoop the plants out along the edge. Then I plan to tear the newspaper along the edge of each cell and remove the plants. This is my first year doing this.

0
AmyGraceL
AmyGraceL

1 year ago

How do you get those delicate seedlings out?

0
DanaW54
DanaW54

Reply 1 year ago

We planted all our seedlings a little over a week ago, so I thought I would let you know how it went. I did use a spoon to scoop out the seedlings around the edge, my husband just used his fingers. Then it worked really well to just pull the newspaper in the from one end down the tray (same way I stapled on) and it just peeled off, leaving my seedlings standing as I show in the picture. The first row tore one by one, but as I reached the center of the tray, the whole newspaper strip would come off, leaving the row of seedlings standing. I just picked up the column of dirt with the seedling in and planted in the ground.

Plant.jpg
0
DanaW54
DanaW54

Reply 1 year ago

I let the seedlings grow until ready to plant in the garden. Then I plan to take a spoon and scoop out the seedlings around the edges first. Then I plan to tear the paper cell open and take out the soil and seedling out with my spoon.

0
Hey Jude
Hey Jude

1 year ago

Really cool idea! I actually assumed you'd just used the paper honeycomb that is inside doors, and IKEA tables... but either way, really clever hack! (Not sure if they use glue which is no good, but perhaps an alternative to staples). Nice post =)


hc.jpeg
0
DanaW54
DanaW54

Reply 1 year ago

Nope, I've never purchased IKEA, so I didn't even know something like that existed already. Yes, the glue they use would be something to consider before using it. Thanks!

0
WORMSS
WORMSS

Question 1 year ago

Anyone know if there is an alternative to Staples? I know there used to be a funky way to cut the paper and intertwines the two together, but I don't think it will work with this technique?

0
working2hard
working2hard

Answer 1 year ago

How about bobby pins, just pull them up and reuse them.

0
DanaW54
DanaW54

Reply 1 year ago

I think that would work if you can find a way to keep the bobby pins from sliding when you are opening up the honeycomb. Maybe if you fold the areas where I stapled first. Then they would already have the shape needed.

0
Zargon
Zargon

Answer 1 year ago

It might depend on how the paper is folded or how many layers.. but my first thought was Hot Glue Gun. But in the end... the staples aren't really that objectionable. They will recycle a lot faster than a plastic bottle and even if you put the paper in your compost, it shouldn't be an issue. Caveat: Wear Gloves.. I do always. Ya never know what might be lurking in the dirt. :D

0
DanaW54
DanaW54

Answer 1 year ago

I have a funny stapler that cuts and folds the paper together so it doesn't use staples, however the newspaper only got stuck in it. Works well with copy paper thickness of paper up to 5 sheets. But I couldn't get it to work with newspaper. So if you think of an idea I would love to know.

1
dollywild
dollywild

1 year ago on Step 8

Great idea! I have some old plastic seedling trays I will try this on. Thank you so much!

0
DanaW54
DanaW54

Reply 1 year ago

Thank you

0
ToddW_00
ToddW_00

1 year ago

Definitely. Going to attempt it with "school glue" first and if I have to also wood glue instead of staples.

0
DanaW54
DanaW54

Reply 1 year ago

Let me know how it works. I would think if you can get it to the stage of holding soil, the soil would force it to keep it's shape even if the school glue let loose once wet.

0
jsolterbeck
jsolterbeck

1 year ago

Won't the newspaper just compost itself?

1
Mad4400
Mad4400

Reply 1 year ago

It will break down but by then it's purpose will have been served.