Seed Starting Kit Reviews: 10 Best Ways To Start
A seed starting kit is essential to preparing for the next season's garden, but how do you choose? We explain how to choose the right tools!
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!).
|Our PickEpic 6-Cell Seed Starting TraysOur Pick||Check Our Price|
|Good For Big SeedsEpic 4-Cell Propagation TraysGood For Big Seeds||Check Our Price|
|Germ BoosterGermination Domes & Bottom Trays For Epic CellsGerm Booster||Check Our Price|
|Smarter StarterEpic Garden Starter KitSmarter Starter||Check Our Price|
|Most AdaptableUniversal Bottom TrayMost Adaptable||Check Our Price|
|Briana's PickLadbrooke Soil BlockerBriana's Pick||Check Our Price|
|Flower Gardener's FriendCambro Fiberglass Soil Blocking TrayFlower Gardener's Friend||Check Our Price|
Reviews Of The Top Seed Starting Kits
1. Epic 6-Cell Seed Starting Trays
Your starter kit shopping might 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 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, and 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. Epic 4-Cell Propagation Trays
If you’re starting plants that often have deeper root systems like tomatoes, you’ll love our 4-cell trays. These trays have the same super-sturdy construction as the 6-cells, but in two depths. The 3 inch or 4 inch deep cells allow for much deeper planting, as well as handle the big seeds like pumpkin or other squash admirably!
Another great feature of these is that they’re a bit larger than the 6-cell trays. If you want to pot your 6-cell starts up into the next size pot, you can use a set of 4-cells to quickly enable that upgrade and continue seedling development without compromising root integrity.
- Same great longevity of the 6-cell trays, but in a larger format
- Two depths to choose from: 3″ or 4″
- Perfectly fits inside a 1020 tray for larger seedling quantities
- May not be necessary for plants that don’t need a lot of starter space (but great for those that do)
- Only 4 cells, so you’ll need 3 of these to up-pot two 6-cell trays into more space
- No domes/bottom trays included (but also unnecessary in most cases)
3. Germination Domes & Bottom Trays for Epic Cells
Maybe you already have our 4-cells or 6-cells, and you want to make them even more effective than they already are. Enter, our Germination Domes and Bottom Trays for Epic Cells.
These allow you to provide your seeds the humidity they need for germinating, and give you the ability to water them from below. Bottom-watering keeps your seedlings safe from damping off and other diseases that can arise when watering from above. So if you want to improve your germination rate and time, these are for you.
- Prevents water bourne seedling diseases
- Improves germination rate and time
- Durable materials that withstand the elements
- Only adaptable to Epic 6-Cells
- In this form, sold separately from Epic Cells
4. Epic Garden Starter Kit
Want to level up those 6 cell trays we mentioned above? Add the germination domes and custom trays to bring these up to speed. There’s no need for a larger 1020 tray if using these, and a smaller number of seeds can be started with ease.
With these kits, you have the flexibility to start a multitude of different seeds and optimize to their particular needs. For example, fast-growing seedlings like tomatoes or squash often have to have the tray removed quickly, whereas slower-growing seedlings like onions may need it for longer. This enables you to start similar plants in the same tray and be sure they’re all ready to go when it’s time to pop off the lid!
- Durable material
- Slots for root overgrowth
- Easy to transplant from
- Can be sterilized and reused for years
- The dome and bottom tray are slightly less sturdy than the 6-cell that fits perfectly in them
- While tall, the dome will need to come off when the seedlings are about 2.5″ to 3″ tall.
5. Universal Bottom Tray
Every home gardener gets excited about starting seeds in late winter or early spring to plant out in the spring garden. One excellent tool to have at your disposal is the Universal Bottom Tray, which fits twelve Epic 6-Cell Trays or eight Epic 4-Cell Trays.
Combinations of both work, too! Try six 6-Cells and four 4-Cells together in the tray, to maximize your starting space. The 4-Cells that are 4 inches tall are much taller than the 6-Cells, but they are easy up-potting destinations for your 6-Cell seedlings.
The UBT is perfectly designed specifically for our Epic Cells, but you can use it with any of your preferred seed-starting materials. It’s created from highly durable materials that can hold up to 25 pounds before warping. Add the BPA-free composite ensures you’re gardening hazard-free.
- Fits perfectly with Epic Cells, making bottom-watering a cinch!
- Long-lasting, BPA-free trays
- Adaptable to other seed-starting tech
- Comes in a pack of 10
- Relegates gardeners to starting seeds in dimensions of 20-1/2″ x 10″ x 1″
6. Ladbrooke Soil Blocker
Maybe you’re done with starting in trays due to the risk it can sometimes pose with tender seedling roots. Alternatively, you might be interested in trying a new technique, catered more toward smaller seeds or flower gardening. We carry the Ladbrooke Soil Blocker for these very reasons — and because it was suggested by EG teammate and flower gardener, Briana Bosch!
This basic 4-blocker will make 1.5 inch blocks that air prune sensitive roots as they meet the outsides of the block. This ensures they experience minimum disturbance in the process of transplanting. With the attached dibbler, starting seeds is much easier.
We have a great piece that covers seed blockers and their benefits, just in case you want more information about soil blocking in general.
- Masterful air-pruning tech
- Included dibbler makes planting seeds easy
- Great for small seeds, and flowers seeds
- Requires a certain consistency of soil
- Higher costs associated compared to Epic Cells
7. Cambro Fiberglass Soil Blocking Tray
If plastic trays aren’t your thing, and you really want to get more into flower gardening, the Cambro Fiberglass Soil Blocking Tray is a great tool to have at your disposal. However, you can still use this tray with our Epic cells if that’s more your style.
This food-safe fiberglass tray is perfect for soil block, or as a flat where you sow full trays of wildflower or microgreens. You can bottom water plants in this tray without drowning them and it will last you years!
- Great alternative to plastic trays
- Sow full flats in the tray, or use it to bottom water soil blocks or Epic Cells
- Expertly crafted for avid flower gardeners
- More costly than other trays
- Doesn’t fit Epic Cells as neatly
8. Jiffy Peat Pellet Seed Starting Greenhouse
- Seed starting greenhouse: get up to 16 plants...
- As a bonus, get your seedlings started off strong...
- Includes: sixteen (16) 50mm diameter peat pellets,...
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
9. ACT Biodegradable Seed Starter Kit
- 🌱PERFECT GARDENING EVERY TIME - From now on...
- 🌱EASY TO USE - By using our new premium...
- 🌱PROFESSIONAL PEAT POTS - Our biodegradable...
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
10. Burpee Self-Watering Seed Starter Tray
- GROW LIKE A PRO: Complete indoor seed starting set...
- BIGGER, BETTER SEEDLINGS: Take the guesswork out...
- STAY ORGANIZED: Seed starting grow kit also comes...
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
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!
Q: What is best seed starter?
A: Of course, we’re biased. We recommend the Epic Seed Starting kit as the premiere mode of getting those seeds ready for outplanting.
Q: What month should I start planting seeds?
A: That depends! You want to consult your local extension office to see if they have seed starting guides for the plants you want to grow in your region.
Q: What is the third mistake people make when starting seeds?
A: Most people tend to use the wrong soil for seed-starting. This is especially true with soil blocks, which require a certain consistency to hold up over time. Try looking at seed-starting mixes to see if you can develop your own.
Q: What is the easiest seed to grow?
A: Most cucurbits are viable enough to grow and germinate.
Q: What seeds can I start indoors in March?
A: You want to start your summer and fall crops in spring. Whatever those are and your regional climate determines which plants are best.
Q: How early is too early to start seeds indoors?
A: You probably don’t want to start them more than 6 weeks before you plan to transplant them.
Last update on 2023-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API