The watering tray

Watering tray

It’s funny how almost random objects can become practically indispensable tools. Like this rigid gray tray, given to me a while back, just the one, amongst a mixed bunch of plastic flower pots from bedding plants, passed along by a local gardener. For four seasons, I’ve used it to water the seedlings (all parsley in the pic): in goes a plug sheet in its webbed tray, sit for 10-15 minutes, then out to drain for a bit over the sink, and it’s back to the grow racks, good for another few days. I’ll keep this up until the seedlings are well-established, three weeks or more, depending on the crop. Perfect, except, at one point I’ll have maybe 50 plug sheets going at once, which means a lot of moving trays and tracking soak time. Not too efficient. I’ve been meaning to build a bigger watering tray, that can handle four or six plug sheets at a time. But I haven’t yet. As odd as it sounds, I’ve grown…attached to the one-at-a-time approach, and this particular, perfectly sized, always reliable gray tray! Every planting gets its own bit of focus each time it’s watered, developing its own little story on the way to the field. It’s part of the fun. Doing batches will be much quicker overall; the attention to what’s in each tray will be slightly less. Not a bad thing, there’s always lots to do with any extra time—continually improving by increments is also a main part tiny farming. With more seedlng starts this year than ever, I suppose I will build that bigger tray… Progress… ;)

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4 thoughts on “The watering tray”

  1. In my nano farming endeavour I currently have all of 2 seed trays with about 20 varieties of veggies growing under some lights (not working out so well due to variable growing speeds/heights).

    I’ve been trying something different for the watering, and maybe you’ve tried something similar and can tell me to cease and desist. Or maybe you’ll find it useful…

    So basically I figure out about how much volume of water it takes to re-saturate my seed flat and every three days (or however long it takes for flats to be starting to get dry) and dump that amount into the tray (just lifting a seedling tray to pour under).

    The water gets wicked up, plants seem happy, and I haven’t washed any nutrients down the drain. One concern is that maybe planting mix doesn’t dry out enough? but the stuff I have is peat based with loads of perlite, so doesn’t ever feel soggy…

    Anyhow, thoughts are appreciated!

    btw, thanks for feedback on rotting squashes…

  2. klaus: Thanks for the suggestion. That sounds pretty efficient, it certainly conserves every last bit of nutrient inputs, and keeps the concentration consistent. I do have a problem keeping track of nutrient (fish fert, liquid kelp) levels, because I’ll add more water after each tray, but not top up the inputs for a few trays. Offsetting that is that I use very little in the early seedling stage, and top water when the seedlings are more established, it’s much quicker. I also like a high level in the trays, to speed up uptake. Of course, I have a lot of refinement to go… What I’ll try is premixing a certain amount, and topping up the trays from the mix. I’d want to use it all at once, though, so more measuring and estimating, because diluted fish fert left for a bit gets pretty funky… It’s amazing how some little changes work out great, and others just seem to get in the way. Trial and error…!

  3. My dream for watering trays is a 45 gal barrel and a number of trays similar to yours with a web of small tubes carrying water pushed by a small pond pump to the trays and out again. A tray similar to this one at Lee Valley http://www.leevalley.com/garden/page.aspx?c=1&p=10553&cat=2,51603&ap=2
    would work very nicely but the bottom of these trays rises in the middle which means your seedlings will not get fed or watered evenly. The tray you have looks ideal.
    I have just started to plant annuals and since we only do personal garden size it will not take me long. I do however have a ton of flowers to start so hope to get that all done soon.

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