Last week, I sorted out a whole bunch of options for starting seeds that don’t involve plastic. But those soil cubes and compostable pots have to sit somewhere and, for most of us, that is a flimsy plastic tray built only to keep the water in and not much more. They certainly aren’t built to hold any sort of weight or last more than a few seasons.
Again, I’ve happily and, surprisingly, easily found plenty of options (these are all metal for practicality’s sake) at a whole range of practical price points. This is also where I think it pays off most to be creative in what other products can be used to fit this need- if it can hold water and a few pots of plants, it can be a tray.
My favorite option (that I will be ordering post haste because my luck means they will be sold out or discontinued if I wait until I need them) is a galvanized boot tray from Target. At around $25 the price is right and it will last forever since it is made from iron. The dimensions are very roomy and this would be a perfect companion to a soil block maker or small biodegradable pots. The shape and size of these would fit really nicely under grow lights and on top of heat mats and it is more than deep enough to handle the sort of watering soil cubes need.
Target has another, much more decorative, option that I think would still work well and is made of zinc. I like the built in handles and the looks of it, but the price is closer to $50 and the tray isn’t as deep as the first option. But, if you are starting seeds or housing seedlings in your living room or kitchen or anywhere readily visible, this looker might be well worth the extra cost. It certainly got heart eye emojis from me when I first saw it!
More options can be found using a simple search for “metal tray” at places such as Terrain, Wayfair, Amazon, and Etsy. With the popularity of farmhouse style everything there is an abundance of decorative trays on the market that are perfectly functional for this purpose. And clearly, there are sizes aplenty to fit your needs.
There are also much more pragmatic items you might already have around your home. Old jelly roll or roaster pans (glass or metal!). Aluminum disposable roasting plans will hold up for years and are easily tossed in the recycling bin when they get too wonky to use again. Restaurant Supply stores often have inexpensive metal trays (look for steaming or transport pans) at affordable prices and most are stackable for easy storing. Last year I even found some old metal trays from deli/bakery counters (here are new versions) and scooped them up just to serve as pot trays. Mine currently live out in the greenhouse as they are just the right width to house 4 terracotta pots. There are some new, enamel coated butcher trays on Amazon that would work quite nicely and be nice to look at as well.
I personally think squares and rectangles are the best way to maximize prime real estate under grow lights or sunny windowsills, but there are plenty of round and oval options available too. Think about old pie tins or serving platters- both of which are easily sourced at thrift shops or garage/rummage sales.
The only advice I’d give is this: make sure the container is deep enough to handle a bit of overflow (especially true if using with soil cubes/blocks) and accommodate your watering needs while also maximizing the space you are using.
Clearly there are dozens of options that will easily fill the void of those flimsy plastic trays that we all secretly (or not so secretly) loathe. These metal options have the added bonuses of durability, strength, and ease of cleaning. But seriously, the strength and ease of transporting a tray full of pots and plants alone would make switching over to these more than worth the cost if you ask me! I’ve got more heart eye emojis just thinking about how much easier it would be to move trays in and out of the house during hardening off.
As always, I’d love to hear what you are doing and any other clever ideas you might have up your sleeves.
Next week: Watering Cans and Trugs