Whether it’s to get an early start, try unique plants, or just to watch them grow, many gardeners choose to start their own seeds. This is a very delicate part of the growing journey – one that requires skill, patience, and the right materials. To help you assemble everything you need for successful sprouting, we’ve sought out the best seed starting kit for every gardener.
Seed starter kits vary in what they include, but they all come down to little pockets of growing medium that hold a single seedling. When the plant has outgrown its pocket, it’s transplanted out into the garden. Since the seed starter kit is that plant’s first home, you’ll want to make an informed choice that results in healthy, happy plants.
So let’s kick things off with our best seed starting kits. For insight on why we chose what we did, stick around afterward and we’ll explain the elements of good seed starter kits (it’s something every master gardener should know!).
Reviews Of The Top 8 Seed Starting Kits
1. Epic 6-Cell Seed Starting Trays
Your starter kit shopping will begin and end with our 6-cell trays because they literally last a lifetime. The polypropylene won’t break through normal use, so you can sterilize them and reuse them season after season. Durability isn’t all they have going for them though. Each cell has slots in the side that allow for root overgrowth, which prevents balling and knotting of the roots.
The most convenient feature of these trays, though, is the finger-sized hole at the bottom of each cell. Transplanting will be a breeze because you can simply push out each seedling from the bottom. That means no more crumbling soil!
12 of these trays are perfectly designed to fit into a standard 1020 tray, enabling you to have up to 72 individual plant cells per tray. They’re food-grade, BPA-free recycled plastic, so using them will be safe and eco-friendly year after year. Just add your preferred starter soil and plant! These hold up great under grow lights and on seedling heating mats, too.
- Durable material
- Slots for root overgrowth
- Easy transplanting
- Can easily be sterilized and reused for years
- Slightly higher price point than other seed starter kits
2. Super Sprouter Premium Propagation Kit
If you’re an avid gardener that’s serious about seed starting, this all-inclusive kit is perfect for you. The Super Sprouter not only has a sturdy tray and humidity cover but also a heating mat and T5 grow light. Each of these features will help you create the ideal growing environment for your plants.
- Includes heating mat and grow light
- Sturdy enough to reuse each year
- Reputable brand
- Heat mat thermostat sold separately
- Doesn’t include seed cells (but would work great with our Epic cells!)
3. Jiffy Peat Pellet Seed Starting Greenhouse
If you’re looking for convenience, we found it! The Jiffy Seed Starting Greenhouse makes planting and transplanting a breeze, which is perfect for either busy or beginning gardeners. The kit includes peat pellets that quickly expand with water. The pellets keep their shape as the seedling grows so they can be planted straight into the ground.
This seed starter kit comes with a tray for the cells as well as a humidity dome. It’s advertised for reuse each year and you can purchase additional peat pellets as needed. However, some gardeners have reported that the plastic doesn’t hold up to years of planting and needs to be replaced.
- Very easy to use
- Mess-free filling and transplanting
- Replacement peat pellets available
- Will only last for a few seasons
- Closed cells may result in root balls
4. ACT Biodegradable Seed Starter Kit
Peat pots are popular for a good reason – they’re easy on plants and easy on the environment. Because they can be planted directly in the ground, you don’t risk shocking the root system when transplanting. You’re also reducing plastic waste since the cells quickly return to the earth.
This nifty kit comes with biodegradable cells as well as some larger peat pots. You’ll also get three trays to hold the cells and three clear covers to keep things humid. All you have to provide is dirt and seeds.
- Easy transplanting
- Environmentally friendly
- Single-use peat cells will have to be replaced yearly
5. SOLIGT Manual Quad Soil Blocker
Why bother with disposable cell trays when you can do away with them altogether? A soil blocker is a zero-waste option for shaping the medium into plastic-free cells. All you do is press it into a tray of wet soil, tamp down the handle, and remove it to reveal perfectly shaped cells – complete with a seed-planting divot! Each unit keeps its shape well without a container, but it needs to be handled with care so it doesn’t crumble.
This blocker is healthier for your young seedlings because the roots can be air pruned instead of tangling into each other. It also makes transplanting easier on the plant since you don’t have to wiggle it out of a container.
- Durable and reusable
- Easier on plants
- Eliminates the need for plastic pots
- Cells may crumble
- Doesn’t work well with coconut coir or other loose mediums
6. Burpee Self-Watering Seed Starter Tray
If you’re as forgetful as I am, you’ll appreciate this self-watering tray. It has a reservoir at the bottom with a mat that draws water up to the soil. Depending on the humidity and water needs of your plants, you’ll only have to water at most once a week!
- Bottom watering prevents bacteria
- Reputable and trusted brand
- Humidity cover doesn’t snap into place
- Cells must be removed to refill the water tray
7. NEWKITS Seed Starter Tray Kit
Gardeners are raving about one simple feature on this kit: the lid. At 3.7 inches tall, you’ll be able to fit almost any seedling under it. More space also allows for even sun exposure and better aeration, preventing bacteria (the adjustable vents lend a hand too). This kit is also fairly durable, affordable, and quite a pretty color!
- Tall humidity lid
- Vents that adjust humidity
- Best budget item
- Perfect for a feng shui window garden
8. MIXC Large Cell 10 Set Seed Starter Kit
If you’re planning to grow some larger seedlings, such as tomatoes or peppers, you’d do well to use large cells. The extra space will allow the plants to mature more before transplanting so they have a better shot at surviving. It’ll also give the roots more room to prevent root balls.
Not only does this kit have ten trays of 2 inch wide cells, it also comes with an adjustable humidity cover. The dome has a valve for air flow that you can adjust to suit your seedlings. Also, the cells are clear so you can watch the roots grow!
- Large cells for big seedlings
- Cover with humidity vents
- Clear seed cells
- Made from cheaper plastic
Why Do You Need Seed Starting Kits?
Just as you don’t send a 5-year-old to kindergarten and expect them to know calculus, you can’t stick seeds in the cold, hard ground and expect a beautiful garden. Like children, seeds need to be slowly introduced to the world and encouraged to grow at their own pace. Think of seed starters as a way to help your seeds as they start their growth journey. Your work here is what will set them up for success later.
The right tools also allow us to control the environmental conditions our seeds will sprout in. Instead of being exposed to the harsh elements outside, we can start seeds indoors and tailor the conditions to the type of plant. Yes, plants didn’t evolve in seed-starting kits, but most didn’t evolve in your backyard either. The controlled conditions we provide mimic what the seed’s DNA expects from its surroundings.
You don’t have to use a premade kit to start seeds, but we recommend them because of their convenience. It can be hard for new gardeners to build their own without knowing all the factors that go into a successful germination process. With these kits, the prep work is taken care of. You can sow your seeds knowing they’re going into the best conditions for this growing season.
What You Need In A Seed Starting Kit
As you may have noticed from our reviews, the products out there are similar yet wildly different. To choose the right one for you, you’ll first have to decide what you – and your seeds – expect from the kit. We’ll break down the important features of seed starter kits to get you “started”.
Cells can get pretty beat up from all the planting and transplanting, especially single-use cells like the type that starter plants come in at the garden store. If you want to invest in a kit you can use every year, look for a durable material that won’t bend or crack. However, if you don’t have the storage space for the off-season or can’t clean and sanitize them after each use, disposable or compostable are the way to go.
Most seeds need a fine-grained and well-draining medium to germinate in. Seed starting mix, coconut coir, and peat moss are all excellent options. Some kits, like the Jiffy greenhouse, come with peat moss. Others you’ll need to choose and fill in the medium yourself. Just be sure to check if the seeds you’re growing require something specific first.
You’ll greatly increase the germination rate and decrease your watering time if you add some sort of humidity dome to the tray. Most trays come with one that snaps in your place. Some of the best also have aeration holes to prevent bacteria growth. You’ll find that covers are also handy for protecting seedlings from drafts or curious pets.
If you decide to go with a cover like this, first consider how tall your seedlings will grow before transplanting and choose the cover accordingly (we don’t want squished plants!).
Many sprouts, particularly microgreens, benefit most from bottom-watering. This method is when you set the seed starting cells inside a tray of water so the medium can absorb moisture through the drainage holes. This gets the roots watered well without getting the leaves and medium surface wet, which helps keep bacteria growth at bay. If you’re going to use this method, you’ll need to choose trays with drainage holes.
So just how much time and effort do you have for seed starting? If you want it done fast so you can focus on growing your garden, go for convenience. Look for cells that will be easy to pop the young plants out of without breaking up the soil. This is also where the pelletized peat works very well, although it’s best to cut open the bottoms of those for planting purposes.
How To Use Your Seed Starting Kit
Choosing from the several trays we’ve reviewed is probably the hardest part of this process. The rest of the seed starting method is simple, but we’ll give you a quick head start with these instructions.
Prep the Soil
If your seed starting tray came with dried pellets, simply place them in the cells and add hot water. In just a few minutes they’ll expand to fill the cell, although you may need to prod them a bit to shape them. Otherwise, evenly load each cell with your chosen soil. Moisten the soil starter, tamp it down, and make divots for the seeds.
If you’ve chosen a soil blocker, grab at least two trays and fill one with wet soil. Place the soil blocker on top and tamp it down firmly to create the cells. Then, remove the cells with the blocker and place them in the other tray. Fill the tray so that the cells stay upright without squishing together and losing their shape.
Plant the Seeds
How many seeds you plant depends on what you’re planting in the first place. For small seeds that produce delicate sprouts, put 2-3 seeds in each cell. If more than one ends up sprouting, you can thin them down to the strongest one. Large seeds will fit one seed per cell. Brush a bit of dirt over the top and give the newly-planted seeds a misting of water.
Raise the Temperature
Most seeds germinate best when the medium is 75-90°F (check the seed packet first though!). Ensure you place the seed tray in a warm spot. If your seed starting tray came with a heating pad or you have one already, slide it under the tray and turn it on. Once the seeds have germinated, remove the heating pad so the tiny plants don’t overheat.
Light it Up
Give your growing plants a spot in indirect sunlight, like a sunny window sill. One of the kits we reviewed, and many other kits out there, come with a grow light that can replace the sun for now. Switch on the light for 6-12 hours a day, depending on the produce or flowers growing.
Add water whenever the growing medium starts to dry out. Water from the bottom if possible and try to keep the stems and leaves dry. Take care not to overwater since root development is such a vulnerable phase.
Transplant Your Crop
When the seedlings have dominated their cells, it’s time to move them outside or to a larger pot. Carefully remove each pocket keeping the medium as compact as possible. Durable plastic trays usually have holes that you can push the pocket out from. For more stubborn trays, run a butter knife along the sides to detach the dirt and press the plant upward, or invert the plant while holding around the base of the stem. Immediately plant the sprout into its new home. If there’s a big temperature change between the old and new locations, harden off the seedlings before transplanting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is seed starting mix worth it?
A: If you want healthy plants, then yes! The best seed starting mix is fine-grained in texture and holds moisture evenly so the intricate seeds don’t get lost in large gaps. Whether you choose a traditional seed starting mix like Espoma or opt for coconut coir or peat moss, a fine-grained, absorbent growing medium is exactly what you need.
Q: What is the best thing to start seeds in?
A: This depends on what plants you’re growing and your personal preferences. Generally speaking though, the ideal kit includes small pockets of growing medium with adequate moisture. The rest of the features, like grow lights, heat source, etc. are up to you!
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Last update on 2022-01-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API