Our Favorite Germination Trays

Your average germination tray is pretty ubiquitous, and cheap. And yes, you can get ones that are more durable or maybe a different color, they are basically all the same.

Except for the self watering ones.

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I hate taking care of things. Usually I’m out the door by 6am, so remembering to pop in and deal with plants is low on my list. The problem with germination as well as keeping your seedlings going is that you need to keep them well watered or they don’t pop, or die. This is where the self-watering trays come into play.

Burpee Self-watering germination tray

I’ve seen two easily available self-watering trays. Burpee makes a nice one. But it looks like the media is a bit of a pain to replenish. So I prefer Jiffy’s Self Watering Greenhouse.

Why it’s great

The germination tray works by using a felt pad as a wick to continually keep the peat pucks watered. This means I can pop 10 days of water in this thing, not be particularly religious about checking in, and come back to seedlings that are ready for their first nursery pots.

The pucks are cheap and easy to get. While this tray does come with a plastic insert to keep the pucks in place, they are completely unnecessary. You can use any sized pucks, or spread out the plants a bit if you need to (like for cloning).

Peppers in self watering germination tray. Some are sprouting

Finally, these are amazing for stubborn seeds, like super-hot chilies. Since those plants can easily take 3-5 weeks to germinate, these trays greatly increase the likelihood you won’t screw it up.

Why it’s not great

Jiffy didn’t really build a whole lot of anything into this product… some would call them… flimsy. Don’t try moving this with water in it, or if you do, put it on a sheet pan. Without additional support, it won’t work so well. As you can also guess, they respond poorly to being mishandled.

How to make your own self-watering germination tray

Time needed: 30 minutes.

  1. Gather your materials

    a.       Felt
    b.      a thin but relatively stiff sheet of plastic
    c.       some of those 2Oz condiment cups
    d.      a normal 10×20 nursery tray with humidity dome
    e.      a hot glue gun
    f.        some peat pucks

  2. Make the puck table

    Cut the plastic sheet to fit inside the nursery tray with about 1 inch on all sides.

  3. Cut your felt to cover the table

    Cut the felt to drape over about 2 inches on all sides, then cut the corners out

  4. Prop your table on the condiment cups

    Hot glue 9 condiment cups on the bottom of the plastic sheet. Poke holes in the cups so they don’t trap air in them and float

  5. Put the table in the tray and drape over the felt

    Make sure the felt is touching the bottom of the tray on all sides so it wicks up water

  6. Add water

    Pour water over the top until the felt is soaked and the water is almost to the height of the table

  7. Hydrate the pucks

    Put your pucks on the table and they will hydrate over the course of an hour. You can speed it up by adding additional water right on them

Once you’re done with the grow, you can machine wash the felt, and clean the tray like you normally would

4 years ago