Seedybeans Blog

Celebrating the Humble Harvests of High Desert Homesteading

Wooden Planting Flats

Now that spring is right around the corner (next weekend) and I am sure you are as ready as I am to plant all those little seeds…. but where will you put them.  You have many choices, mostly plastic and styrofoam, what about wood?  This post is about my favorite reusable, renewable, really lovely….wooden planting flats. I learned this technique when I was a student of the famed Center For Agroecology at the UCSC campus.  The amount of abuse, use, weather and wear that these flats withstood was impressive!!  Because many of us will be gardening at schools we know you must build things to last.  And even if you don’t work at a school, don’t you think we the people are ready to stop throwing out practically everything!! Enough already!!!

I built these very boxes at Monte Del Sol last spring with my Botany class.  It proved actually quite a challenge getting them right, but the students worked hard and finessed the design to get some really great boxes.  It was essentially a math lesson, if you are wondering how to fit it into you busy school day.

Basics to Consider–

1.) How big are you tables?  Your boxes should fit nicely on them and make the most of the space.  This design fit 12 boxes  on a 6 ft table.

2.) Built to last –go for hard wood, I suggest (in retrospect) oak.  These are pine and could be a lot stronger.  I have also heard redwood have allopathic qualities (growth inhibating), though I have never had trouble with it in gardens, only great sturdiness and longevity in fact, I will try it when these wear out.

Are wooden flats right for you?


1.) Wooden flats provide larger area for the roots to grow in and thus little plants can remain in them for longer 

2.) Because of more room to grow seedlings are large and vigorous thus resistant to pest and disease pressure, and more tolerant of weather 


3.) Because there is so much soil in the flat there is substantial nutrient supply for each plant 

4.) These flats need to be watered less frequently than other containers


1.) Wooden flats take more soil than other options, is that something you have, can make or can afford?

2.) They can hold fewer plants than some speedling trays ( styrofoam)

3.) Wooden flats are heavy, especially when wet.  Will you be moving them often?  Who will move them?  If your main labor will be done by smaller folks, make them smaller.  Measure your table, divide and see what you get.  I have seen plenty of miniature versions work fantastically.

4.) When transplanting you will disturb the roots more than out of say a plastic six-pack.  If you are careful, or your helpers are you should be fine, but be prepared to transplant out of these containers before the seedlings hit the dirt.  

So you think you want o go ahead and make one– Good, next you will gather your goods.

Gathering materials:  You will need 

Lumber –13ft of 1/2 thick by 3 1/2 inch wide boards

These will be cut into 5 –2 foot long pieces for the bottom and sides

the rest will be 2— 1 foot pieces for the end pieces

You will need either 1 inch deck screws or 1 inch ring nails

Once your pieces are cut you will need to put them together.  This can be the tricky part.  I would do the sides first and then add the bottom.  That way you will have a frame to attach on to.  As you can see, I let the students figure this all out the hard way, so it depends on the ambition of your students.  If they like figuring task out on their on, let them discover, if they get frustrated guide them along.  Not a bad idea to make one of your own before you do it with a class, or simply right along side them. 

One key element you don’t want to omit is that the bottom slats need to be spaced apart the tiniest bit for water to drain out, without bringing all the soil with it.  By measurement it is about a millimeter, but use something like a quarter or a thin ruler, piece of cardboard etc.. to get the spacing consistent throughout your box.  Once they are all fastened securely you are good to go.  Planting time!!   

1 Comment»

  Seeds Starting Recap | Seeds & Stones wrote @

[…] you like.  My favorite are wooden flats so here is a link to making your own out of old pallets or new wood.  I also prefer to make my own soil, so here is  link to that, but of course find your method of […]

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