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PermaNest Trays

March 4th, 2015

I have a love/hate relationship with those black plastic seed starting trays. I’ve been gardening long enough that I’ve used pretty much every type of seed starting tray there is out there. The black plastic trays work the best for me, but I really dislike how cheap they’ve gotten in recent years. I used to be able to use them for 5-7 years, now they barely last one season. After looking at PermaNest trays for a few years, I finally purchased a few this year to give them a try.
permanest 1
I must admit that I was very happy with the quality of them when I opened up the box. The tall domes with sliding vents are a very rigid plastic, the bottom trays are super heavy duty. I have read reviews on the internet with gardeners saying they’ve had them for 20 years.
permanest 2
They have bottom trays, thinner top domes and the very rigid tall domes with vents. They are all very high quality and I can see that they will last me many years to come.
permanest 3
What I’m most happy about is that I will be able to use my soil blocker with them. They are definitely strong enough to stand up to lots of wear and tear. I will no longer have to worry about cracks and holes in the bottom trays and water leaking out all over the place.

What’s your favorite seed starting tool?

14 Comments to “PermaNest Trays”
  1. Patricia on March 4, 2015 at 6:24 am

    my favorite tool is my warming mat. I had great & fast sprouting success when I use it. Last year I couldn’t remember where I put it & did not have as good of a yield.

    Reply to Patricia's comment

    • Susy on March 5, 2015 at 9:37 am

      The heating mats are worth their weight in gold when it comes to seed starting, I’d never be without one!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. Yolanda on March 4, 2015 at 8:31 am

    Those do look very nice. What kind of potting mix do you use and what kind of lighting? I’ve always been puzzled when people say they start seedings in the house near a sunny window. That has never worked for me. The most frugal transplant pot I’ve ever made is here:

    Reply to Yolanda's comment

    • Susy on March 5, 2015 at 9:37 am

      I sometimes mix up my own potting soil if I have compost, if I don’t I buy the soil mix from Johnny’s Seeds. I always use lights, we do not get enough sun here for seedlings to grow well in a sunny window. They will be leggy and not very healthy.

      Reply to Susy's comment

    • Nikala on March 6, 2015 at 12:01 am

      Interesting to hear you haven’t had good luck with starting seedling in the light from a window! Sorry to hear that. I started all my tomatoes (30 plants) and peppers (about 18) last year, and had no problems whatsoever! Mind you, we are in SE Montana and almost every single day is sunny!

      Reply to Nikala's comment

      • Yolanda on March 6, 2015 at 9:12 am

        I’m glad to know it actually works for you. We do have a lot of dreary days here in Indiana. Maybe, though, I will try again. What sort of set-up do you have? What soil do you use?

        to Yolanda's comment

  3. Cindy on March 4, 2015 at 8:45 am

    What exactly is a soil blocker?

    Reply to Cindy's comment

  4. Natalie on March 4, 2015 at 9:25 am

    Will you go into more detail on how you use the soil blocker and these trays together? I’m very interested, but I don’t have much experience gardening.

    Reply to Natalie's comment

  5. Nebraska Dave on March 4, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Susy, this year the new method of five gallon bucket growing is not really a seed starting tool but the seedling growing tool before outside growing can be done. I know what you mean about the flimsy trays that are sold for seed starting. I’ve purchased clear plastic storage containers for my trays. They are very sturdy but don’t have a dome lid. I’ve found that after they sprout on the heat mat the seedlings don’t really need a lid while continuing to grow under the grow lights. Most of my sprouting is done in smaller trays and transplanted to two inch square fiber pots until they are ready for transplanting again in the plastic drinking cups to wait for the final hardening off and planting in the garden. It seems to work fairly well for every thing except onions. I plant them directly into the fiber pots and don’t mess with them much until they make their debut into the garden. The Tulips are up so there’s hope for Spring to arrive soon.

    I have a few more cabbages that decided to sprout so I’m up to 18 out of 50 cells now. Since I only need about five or six plants that should cover the need nicely with plants to spare if a replant is needed. I’m going to give flowers a shot this year. I’ve never done that before so an easy flat of marigolds seems an appropriate way to make a maiden voyage into the flower seed starting.

    Have a great day watching the seeds sprout and the snow melt.

    Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment

  6. Justin on March 4, 2015 at 11:12 am

    I have two soil blockers from Johnny’s and I’ve never had great luck with them. Unless you’re buying Johnny’s starting mix, you have to get the mix just right and just wet enough but not too wet for them to even block correctly. Then, trying not to break the blocks when watering is difficult. I also find that it uses a lot more starting mix (maybe 2x as much) than just using plastic cell trays.

    Then again, I just plain suck at seed starting…no matter the method. :-) I actually have the best luck with the peat pellets. I just wish they weren’t so expensive.

    Reply to Justin's comment

  7. julie on March 4, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    I am also tired of the flimsy seed trays. It seems like I have to buy new ones every year. Thanks for posting about these! Can I ask where you were able to find them with the domes?

    Reply to julie's comment

  8. Josh on March 4, 2015 at 12:55 pm


    Where did you get your Perma Nest Trays? I saw some on Johnnys selected seed, but they don’t have the little domes. I like the idea of the domes…helps to keep the cats from eating the young plants.

    The last few years I have been using those aluminum turkey roasting trays you get at the super market. They work ok and are re-useable. The hard part is carrying them up from the basement when the soil blocks are soaking wet, as the aluminum trays are not rigid.

    Reply to Josh's comment

  9. Victoria on March 4, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    I bought a warming mat on a whim when I found one very cheap online. It’s like magic! I love it and so do the little seeds.
    My dad has been using the same PermaNest tray for decades. It has one cracked corner after all these years, but a piece of duct tape is all it takes to keep it going.

    Reply to Victoria's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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