seed germination box

Make a DIY seed box out of a recycled wine box

Growing a plant from seed requires some patience, but it’s also fun because you get to see and monitor the entire lifecycle of a plant. You really only need some basic essentials to start, and if you want a seed box with a little “classier” appearance, then stop by your local wineshop for an old wine box.

I don’t drink wine. But I didn’t share that tidbit of information with my local wineshop when I went in looking for a wine box. Luckily, the gentleman was sweet enough to go into the back of the shop to see if he could find one. “Most wine is now delivered in cardboard boxes these days,” he said. Lucky for me there was one wooden box left and he was willing to part with it. Good, sturdy wooden boxes can be used for myriad purposes, but in this instance, I wanted to use it for a seed starter box.

Stages of seed development

There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re starting seeds indoors. Firstly, there are really two stages when it comes to seeds: germination and growth. Germination is when the embryo bursts forth from the seed casing and emerges as a seedling. The growth phase is when the seedling starts to leaf out and becomes a more mature plant. Water, temperature and oxygen are particularly important for germination, and sometimes lightness and darkness can trigger germination as well, though requirements for each depend on the plant.

You’ll need different conditions for germination versus growth. I’ve found that seeds—like lettuces and herbs—grow best when temperatures are a little bit higher than your average room temperature—say around 65 ° -70 ° F. You can “manufacture” a higher temperature a few different ways. Firstly, you can place plastic wrap or empty black plant trays over the top of your seedlings and begin creating a greenhouse condition or you can even place your seed box on top of your dryer, for instance, since that heats up quite nicely when you’re using it. Like a mama bird with her brood, you’ll want to ensure those little guys (and girls) are nice and warm, or else they won’t sprout.

Soil type

Seeds are like little lunch boxes. They have all their nutrients packed right in their own containers, so they really don’t need any nutrients or fertilizer from their outside medium. The peat pellets or see starter soil that you’ll be using is merely a medium to carry water and keep seeds moist and warm. You want something that is fluffy and light and doesn’t get too water-logged or doesn’t drain too quickly.


Most of the seeds I’ve started in my home, which range from mustard greens to herbs to sunflower greens really don’t need light to start. It’s pretty much the warmth and moisture that is most needed. If you have a vermicomposter in your home, you’ll see that this is the case there too, as you’ll often see seeds starting to sprout. However, once the seedlings emerge, they’re going to need light—and lots of it! Seedlings are sun hungry. If you don’t give them light, they’ll be pallid and spindly. Plants require somewhere between 14-18 hours of good solid light to grow. Even a south-facing window doesn’t always provide that much light throughout the day, especially if it’s obstructed by buildings or trees, which is common in New York City. You may want to consider a wide-spectrum light that gives the seedlings a strong start. For instance, in addition to my south-facing window light, I have an Agromax Grow Light that I use for my plants, which is on a timer, so it turns on and off automatically. As your seedlings begin to get larger, you should consider moving them from your seed box to a proper growing medium and larger pot. But in the meantime, enjoy seeing your seeds grow! 🌿

Sometimes it’s more fun to watch a plant sprout from a seed. especially when you can eat it after! Here’s a simple and ingenious way to turn an old wine box into a seed starter box\u2014and it’ll cost you less than $20.

Stop by your local wine shop to see if they have any extra wooden wine boxes on hand. They serve as a perfect, upcycled DIY seed box.

How to Build a Box to Sprout Seeds Early

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Avid gardeners cannot wait to have young seedlings to plant outdoors. It is a race against time to be the first neighbor, friend or family member to have lush blooms or tasty vegetables. You can build a box to plant seeds in and be the first with transplants. Planting seeds gives you many more options in varieties than choosing plants later in the spring from a garden center. A germination box is fairly easy to make for any DIY gardener, is inexpensive and when you build it with the correct materials, it will last for years.

Place a one-by-two board that is 6 feet long on the work surface. Measure and mark your cutting lines for four 4-inch pieces, two 16-inch pieces and two 12-inch pieces. Put on safety glasses and cut each piece out of the board with a circular saw. These pieces will create the frame for the seed box.

Arrange the one-by-two board pieces on a flat surface to make a 16- by 12-inch rectangle. Drill galvanized screws into the corners to fasten them.

Slide one corner slightly off the work surface and support it with one hand. Place a 4-inch one-by-two on top of the corner standing up. Hold it in place and screw in a galvanized screw from underneath the corner. Repeat this step to attach the additional three 4-inch upright corners for the framework.

Lay a piece of pressure-treated plywood that is 16 inches by 48 inches on a flat work surface.

Measure and mark two pieces of plywood that are 12 inches by 4 inches, two pieces that are 16 inches by 4 inches and one piece that is 16 inches by 12 inches. Put on safety glasses and cut each piece out of the plywood with a circular saw.

Match each of the four sides to the sides of the box in the same size. Attach each side to the framework with a galvanized screw at each corner of each piece. The box is now framed with four sides.

Turn the box upside down and place the 16- by 12-inch piece of plywood on the bottom. Drill screws into each corner and every 4 inches around the bottom of the box.

Place a 1/8 inch drill bit in a drill. Drill holes in the bottom at 2-inch intervals across the entire bottom surface.

  • Calculate when to plant seeds by the germination rate on the seed package or from consulting a germination table. For example, if your seeds take two weeks to germinate, count backwards from the last expected frost date in the spring and plant them on that day.
  • You can stain or paint the seed box to dress it up, but you don’t have to if you use pressure-treated plywood.
  • Take the seed box outdoors to water the seeds when the soil is dry to the touch. Allow it to drain and take it back indoors.
  • You can place plastic wrap over the top of the box and tape it in place to retain moisture and warmth and germinate seeds quickly. You will not need to water seeds as often if you use this method, as it works like a terrarium. As soon as seeds start germinating, remove the plastic wrap.
  • These dimensions make a 12- by 16-inch seed box that is 4 inches tall. You can adjust the measurements to make any size you want. Be aware that larger boxes filled with soil are heavy, making it harder to take them outdoors to water them and let them drain.
  • Bella Online: How to Make a Wooden Planter Box
  • Oregon State University Extension Service: How to Start Garden Seeds Indoors
  • Fine Gardening: 10 Seed-Starting Tips
  • Seedman: Table II. Germination Data for Home Garden Vegetable Seeds
  • Purdue University Cooperative Extension: Starting Seeds Indoors
  • Grow Organic: Seed Starting 101-Easy Steps to Seed Germination
  • Avant Gardening: United States Average Zone Frost Dates
Photo Credits
  • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
About the Author

Mary Lougee has been writing for over 10 years. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree with a major in Management and a double minor in accounting and computer science. She loves writing about careers for busy families as well as family oriented planning, meals and activities for all ages.

How to Build a Box to Sprout Seeds Early. Avid gardeners cannot wait to have young seedlings to plant outdoors. It is a race against time to be the first neighbor, friend or family member to have lush blooms or tasty vegetables. You can build a box to plant seeds in and be the first with transplants. Planting seeds …