In gardening, as in many other endeavors, we strive to make our tasks easier and more efficient through the use of tools for starting seeds is no exception.
For many gardeners no tools other than the ones attached to our wrists are necessary. Since we usually plant thousands of individual flowers and vegetables we use a few more.

The most important tool we use is the potting bench. Ours is about 3′ by 4 feet and it is about the height of our benches. We can site easily on a long milk crate while we do tedious work. There is room for a 6 gallon bucket of ProMix and the flats or pots we are working on. The sides are about 8 inches high and made from red cedar and the bottom is made from MDO board so the whole thing is impervious to water and does not need to be painted. This size works well for starting flats and transplanting seedlings.

If we are working with gallons we wet the ProMix in a large wheelbarrow and use the same milk-crate stool.
Another tool we use for starting seedlings is a 8″ wide plastic taping knife.

This tool is great for leveling off the soil in the starting flats. When held straight up and down it will make perfect little rows for the seeds. After we put the seeds in the rows we cover them with a small amount of dry ProMix and wet it with a small watering can that has a soft sprinkle head.

If we are concerned with keeping the seeds moist we cover them with a piece of plastic wrap. It is just wide enough to cover a flat but we watch to see that the sun does not make the soil too warm, which could ruin the seeds. On a sunny day we uncover the seeds making sure they stay moist, and we cover them at night. Since we have warm air circulating under the propagation bench the seeds get a good start.

When we are finished it cleans up the inside of the potting bench. It is important to keep things clean to inhibit contamination from diseased plants or pests and the plastic knife is easy to clean. Plus is does not rust.

We use wooden craft sticks to mark the rows and write the name of the plants using a black sharp marker. The marking will last through the winter, covered with snow. The plastic markers are very expensive and not very ecologically sound. We are forever tilling them up when we do the rows because the do not break down. I don’t suppose they do any harm to the environment other than the indirect problems associated with plastics production. The real reason we use them is the low cost.

We use the commercially available 12″ by 18″ starting trays with drainage holes in the bottom and these fit inside a daisy tray for added support. Once the seeds are starting and have a second set of leaves we transplant them. We used to start all the seeds in the trays but found that it was a waste of time because most of the seedlings will do fine when started right in the 6 packs or where ever they will be sold from.

The exception are the tomatoes. We like to start them in the flats so we can transplant them very deep, up to the leaves, after they have started. Using the trays does save space in the beginning but the place fills up anyway in short order. Thankfully a lot of the plants can take cool weather and so they go out into the secondary greenhouse fairly early.

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