Sustainable Seedling Flats

Another week and it’s time to start some seedlings assuming I can find enough plastic bottles for my greenhouse.  I may have to skin it in sheet plastic for this season.

So, last weekend I went home to my family farm and worked on seedling flats with my brother.   I was thinking we could rip up some pallets and decide the sizes from the wood we had available.  My brother, in his overachieving way had other ideas.  He had some pine he had just made into boards on his saw mill stored away in the old hog house.  They were out there drying out so we grabbed four of them, threw them on the wagon and went back to the main house where his workshop is.

He asked me what sizes they should be.  That’s a fairly good question.  I somehow feel the need to just make wood into things and not worry about measurements so much.  I thought well about the size I want to carry I guess.  I looked it up in Rodale to see if there was a recommended size, but all I could find were scribble notes my three year old apparently needed to put in there.  The one thing I do know is you need to leave cracks in the bottom for water to get out.  Stuff the cracks with something permeable like sphagnum moss or coffee filters before you put dirt in.

OK, so we decided on a size and set to work.  We decided to make them twice as long as they are wide.  We cut a bunch of long boards and short boards.  We had planned to make a ton more than we ended up making, but there are things to do an distractions to be had.  One major problem was a grain wagon that had a stuck axle.  So my husband and my dad worked on the axle and my brother and I started in on the boxes.

We made the frame by nailing the long pieces on the outside of the short pieces.  Next, we took a few long pieces and cut them down the center and nailed them to the bottom leaving 1/8 to 1/4 inch gap between each piece.  Then we took one of the long newly narrow pieces and cut it in half and nailed it to the ends for handles.  We discussed routing in dents for grips, but we decided not to get any more tools out.  I think that would be a good choice if you want to take the time to make nice boxes.  The cut pieces work pretty great too.

Here is one without handles on it:

From the back, and the completed pile!

Now, we stopped here.  The wood was just too green yet.  I don’t know how long they will last, but considering the wood was harvested and milled without transport I’m pretty happy with them.  I don’t have to carry them very far either.  Hopefully I can keep them in working condition for a few years.  It’s also nice to have trees from home.  They are pretty rustic, but I’m very happy with them.    I think my brother is going to use some pallets he has laying around to make his.  Hopefully, I can get up there to help him with them.  He ended up not keeping any out of the day.

If you would like something a little more concrete measurement wise, I put this together:

So good luck on getting together your flats.  Plastic flats tear easily and don’t break down, please consider using something a little easier on the environment.  There are plenty of sources of scrap lumber out there.   Avoid plywood and particleboard though.


2 responses to “Sustainable Seedling Flats

  1. It should be noted that the tree was standing dead, in a line of standing dead trees. I left a larger bare pine next to it as a raptor perch, and took this one before it fell into the pond. In fact, there was some concern that it would land on the ice as I cut it last winter. The limbs were piled next to the pond as cover for wildlife, though they are deteriorating quickly.

    We originally cut the pine thick hoping to make tree swallow nesting boxes. Due to my own inexperience, the lumber stack fell over during a raccoon olympic gymnastics event in the hog shed and the boards are all twisted and warped. At this point we just have to salvage what we can out of them. Using pallets would have been cool but using this lumber was appropriate.

    Though I have a long-standing feud with the local Osage Orange gang and the Honey Locust family (they nearly have me surrounded!), I’m anxious to start adding to my living, non-thorny tree collection. Maybe I’ll put a “Trees Planted” counter on my blog. It could get to be a big number if I added in the acorns, walnuts and hickory nuts I step in.

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