Can You Reuse Seed Trays?

It’s nearing springtime, and you have started rooting around in your garden shed, preparing to start this year’s sowing and growing. You spot a stack of seed trays from last season, and you are wondering if they’re something worth holding onto. 

Can you reuse seed trays? Sure, you can! Reusing seed trays has the best results if you spray with a vinegar/water solution, rinse and air dry between uses. When storing for the season, make sure they are in a cool, dry area. Seed trays can technically be used as long as they still hold dirt, seeds and water.  Once they crack or break, it can be time to recycle them.

Those old seed trays still have a lot of life left in them. No need to buy new. But there are some best practices for ensuring you’ll get the best results out of round 2. Let’s find out about how to reuse your collection of plastic seed trays to get growing! 

How to Reuse Plastic Seed Trays

It is not uncommon to reuse seed trays. As a gardener, you are closely connected with the earth, making you sensitive to the detrimental impact humans and their waste are creating. We are basically running out of landfill space. 

This is exactly why reusing and recycling as much as possible is so important. Or, maybe you’re just trying to save money. Either way, good for you. No matter what the reason, the point is that by giving those seed trays another go, you are doing your part to reduce the number of materials thrown away.

Now, let’s think about the trays themselves. Often times they are made out of thin, flexible plastic, aren’t they? The average seed tray can seem to be a one-use type of plastic, but that is not necessarily true. It’s all in how you care for them.

Though they are not the most durable containers ever made, they can definitely be reused. The only thing that would stop you from using them over and over would be if they were to start cracking or deteriorating. Filling a cracked box would create a dirty mess, and possibly cause the roots of your plants to be exposed and die.

If you want to reuse your trays, think about this as you care for your trays. Here are some tips for reuse:

  • When you remove your seedlings, carefully lift them out, rather than “pop” them out and risk cracking the plastic. 
  • Support your trays from underneath, when full of dirt, to avoid cracks and tears.
  • When you clean your trays, handle them carefully. A strong hose can crack that plastic.
  • When it comes time to store, put them in a place where breakage can be avoided.

Tip: Are you replanting the same type of seed immediately after you transplant your sprouted plants? If so, you wouldn’t really have to wash, dry, and store the trays away. Just fill with fresh soil and seeds as you normally would. Don’t forget to add sunlight and water!

Storing Your Seed Trays for Reuse 

Don’t toss it! Keep your seed trays until a later date. Follow this how-to guide and put them away for next season. Because there’s nothing quite as frustrating as taking a trip to the store to purchase the same item that you just recently disposed of.

The best way to store them is in a cool, dry area that is out of the way so that you can access the rest of the items in your storage area. The ideal place would be in the corner of your basement, or out in your tool shed.

Make sure the seed trays are clean and dry before stacking and storing.

  • Dilute some white vinegar with water and pour it into a spray bottle. 
  • Lay the trays out on your lawn and give them a good spritz with your all-natural cleaning solution.
  • Follow that up with a vigorous rinse with your garden hose. You want to remove all of the old dirt and debris. 
  • Allow them to air dry, if not mold and mildew can form while they are in storage. 

It is suggested not to store anything on top of your stack of seed trays. They are fragile and could break. Should you be limited on floor storage space, you could suspend them from the ceiling or from a hook on the wall of your storage area.

Maybe Someone Else Can Reuse Your Seed Tray

If you do not have a use for the seed trays, perhaps you would consider finding them a new home. Surely, there are gardeners in your neighborhood or in your circle of friends that would find joy in having a stack of seed trays.

If you don’t know someone who can use them, you can always give them away through a local sharing app or social media marketplace. 

Should your search for a new home hit a dead end, local nursing home or preschool class may find them useful. They often use the growth of plants as activities in these facilities.

You could also return the used seed trays back to the store. Most garden centers and nurseries accept them and will reuse them. Rinse them off and let them air dry before you load them into your trunk.

You may also want to give the store a call to tell them how many and what size seed trays you have, just to make sure they will take them off of your hands.

Repurposing Your Seed Trays

Don’t have plans for reusing your seed trays for sowing future plants? It’s time to get in touch with your crafty side and search Pinterest for ideas. Surely there is something you could do with them, other than throwing them away.

Clean them up really well and you can use them for craft supplies. As long as the supplies are larger than the drainage holes in the tray, you are all set!

Though it may not be an elegant and crafty idea, you can use your used seed trays to catch your caged pet droppings. Getting one (or two) more uses from them is better than chucking them straight into the bin.

If you come up with a clever way to repurpose your seed tray, perhaps you will consider sharing your idea with other gardeners.

Recycling Your Seed Trays

Though not all plastics are recyclable, an easy way to tell is if the product is made of 100% recycled materials. Manufacturers are often proud of this fact and will label the packing with bold lettering, making it easy to spot.

If you have not found this label on your plastic seed tray packaging, you can find out if your seed tray is recyclable by checking the bottom or side for the internationally recognized recyclable symbol stamped directly onto the seed tray itself.

Along with the symbol of the triangle formed from arrows, you will see a number. The number is a code that helps to differentiate different types of plastic. All recycling facilities do not accept the same materials. 

If your container has the recycling symbol, but you cannot find a number on it, that means that it is a material that is deemed an acceptable material at any recycling center. To find out which ones your community collects, contact your city hall or your trash collection service.

Click here for an article we have sharing more in depth information on recycling seed trays if you wanted to read more about it.

Growing Alternatives to Plastic Seed Trays

Growing tired of buying and using plastic seed trays for your sowing needs? Well, have we got the solution(s) for you! Creative, fun, and different.

  • Egg carton- This is the most popular alternative to the plastic seed trays we are used to using.
  • Toilet paper tubes- Seed trays are just one of the many ways to reuse toilet paper tubes.
  • Eggshells-  Eggshells that have been cracked (and not smashed) can be used as an all-natural seed tray.
  • Avocado peels- Halved avocado peels are the perfect shape and vessel for your seeds and soil.
  • Ice cube trays-  You may have come across this idea before. And it does work!
  • Newspaper or cardboard- A great way to recycle old newspaper or cardboard, Form into a tube and secure with tape or paperclips.
  • K-Cup-  Usually, a piece of plastic that is tossed into the recycle bin can now be used as your new upcycled seed tray.
  • Milk/soup carton- Once washed, you can reuse your cardboard milk or soup carton for seed sowing.
  • Ice cream cones- It may sound silly, but it works…and makes for a great Instagram photo once they start sprouting. So cute!!

Just make sure what you choose has proper drainage so your baby seedlings don’t drown!

Have fun and good luck!

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