The 3 Best Microgreen Growing Trays You Need To Use For Great Results

In this day and age, gardeners and microgreen growers have access to so much equipment that it's hard to know what to turn to, especially when it comes to microgreen growing trays.

The selection, both commercially produced and those at our disposal, is vast.

After growing microgreens for several years now, I follow a criterion when choosing equipment, including microgreen growing trays.

This article will outline these criteria, give you many options for microgreen growing trays, and provide my recommendations on the three best microgreen growing trays available.

The article contains a video and podcast episode with my thoughts and recommendations.

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Options for Microgreen Growing Trays

This article is the first in a series of articles and podcasts inspired by a listener to the Microgreens Podcast talking about growing microgreens' basics.

Would you spend some Podcast time discussing this issue and the very basics of growing microgreens.  Thank you!

Randy E. - Podcast Listener

If you have a topic you'd like me to discuss, send me an email, and I'll see what we can do for you. We will continue to produce content on microgreen basics, including the equipment, supplies, and growing tips.

Listen to an Audio Version of the Article

We don't just read the article word for word in the audio version; it's a stand on its own piece of content that includes more details on the topic. These can include more tips, opinions, details, data, and information on this and related topics. 

The Microgreens Podcast Episode 006

Microgreen Growing Trays: The Planting Tray & Watering Tray

In our first Basics of Growing Microgreen articles, let's start with the growing tray.

We feel the microgreen growing tray is two trays or containers.

The planting tray is the container in which the microgreens will grow. The watering tray is the container used to water microgreens from the bottom.

Planting Tray

This tray or container must contain bottom holes that allow extra water to drain and are large enough to uptake water into the soil media when it's dry.

The hole spacing should be even across the bottom with a reasonable diameter that allows some of the soil media to contact the water but not so large that it falls out. Media with strands work best, like coconut coir and peat moss.

Microgreens grow better in trays that exclude light from the roots. So transparent or opaque trays aren't as good as dark or black trays. We aren't sure why; maybe the roots sense light and don't grow toward the trays' edges.

You should be able to use the trays repeatedly year after year.

microgreen trays

Watering Tray

A watering tray must be larger than the planting tray or allow the planting tray to slide into it. The watering tray must be solid to hold water with sides high enough not to let water flow over when the planting trays are placed into the watering tray.

Also, a useful watering tray has ridges (ridges can be on the bottom of the planting tray) that keep the planting tray elevated. This allows extra water to drain out and away from the soil media. Flat bottom watering & planting trays work, but not as well.

Again we rely on the soil media to wick-up water against gravity. Coconut coir does this well, as does pre-moistened peat moss. Dry peat moss is not as good.

You should be able to use the trays for years.

watering tray

Using Water Trays

From our observations, the way to water your microgreens depends on the watering tray. 

Larger Watering Tray than Planting Tray

When you water microgreens in a tray (container) larger than the planting tray, regardless if there are one or more planting trays in the watering tray, you have to either guess how much water the soil will uptake or be around to dump out the excess.

Three soil media test

In most cases, you end up adding more water than needed. It's best to discard the extra water and let the trays drain the excess away.

Watering Tray Same Size & Shape As Planting Tray

Water volume is much more forgiving in such cases, such as with the Home Microgreens Planting and Watering Trays.

It's almost impossible to add too much water as it will flow over the top when the planting tray is placed into the watering tray. 

We also found that as the planting tray displaces the water, it causes pressure to build up, forcing water up into the planting tray. This is ideal.

bottome watering a tray of plants

The Good and Bad Microgreen Growing Trays

There are so many microgreen growing tray options that it's impossible to list them all here. But we will go over several categories of growing trays and discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Video of Microgreen Growing Trays and Recommendations.

Pin This Image to Your Microgreen Pinterest Board

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The Not So Good Growing Trays

I love Pinterest; it's an excellent platform for both the user and the one placing new pins on the site.

However, some of the craziest ideas ever are posted on the boards. I'm not even going to link to them.

But they include growing microgreens in cracked eggshells, in the egg containers themselves, in yogurt containers, or even in pots made from newspapers.

Now, they may look cute, ok, not so much for the newspaper pot, but they just aren't practicable. Containers like that use way more soil than the amount of microgreens you'd get from them.

These are great projects when the kids are driving you nuts, but not for the long haul.

That's what we are looking for here, growing for the long haul and not artsy.

Okay, Trays, I Get It, But I Think We Can Find Better Microgreens Trays

These clamshells, mushroom containers, and the like are repurposed. 

I get it, re-use things.

These can also be the gateway drug into microgreens. 

These are very popular with those just beginning to grow microgreens. These microgreen growing trays are cheap (free), seemingly always available in the refrigerator, and people hate putting them in a landfill.

Many have low sides that keep the soil volume low. Some are large enough, greater than 25 square inches, and they're free! Well, I guess.

But if you look and feel them, they're not going to cut it. They're too flimsy, generally clear, and the holes are only along the sides and quite large. The deeper clamshells use too much soil, or you struggle to cut the micros if you keep the soil level low.

We Use These Microgreen Trays

We use Bootstrap Farmer Shallow Heavy-duty trays when we plant 1010 or 1020 trays. We also use their deeper trays to plant peas or other uses.

These trays will never be damaged with normal use.

When we grow microgreens for ourselves we use the Home Microgreens Trays & Soil. We like the amount of microgreens these trays grow and we find we can either stagger plantings or double up trays to fit our microgreen needs.

Remember, we are looking for a dark container with many evenly spaced holes. A container we can use for the long haul, like for years, not just two or three times before it becomes too worn to use.

Re-using them is excellent and keeping plastic out of the landfills is great, but they will end up there sooner than later.

Instead, go to your farmers markets and buy produce in paper containers. Ask the grocery store produce manager to purchase garden produce packed in commercially compostable packaging (I'm using these now) and don't buy anything in plastic.

Also Included in This Category Are:

Plastic garden center trays are inexpensive and seem like the thing to use. I'll admit I started with them. I didn't want to invest in a thicker, sturdier, more expensive tray until two things happened multiple times.

First, they kept cutting me! Plastic cuts suck.

Second, they kept breaking or bending and dropping the microgreens when I tried to do more than one thing at a time. Eventually, I figured out a tray that cost $5 and lasted a lifetime was cheaper than a $1 tray that I was lucky to get a year of constant use out of it. 

I still have some, though. I use them for lightweight domes or watering trays for 3 or 4 Home Microgreens Trays. 

Once they break, they're gone, though.

I put aluminum cooking trays in this category too. However, I don't see that they have any redeeming properties - leave a comment if you disagree. We love feedback.

Functional Trays That Fit A Need

These include ceramic and cotta terra containers, especially if you can find shallow rectangular or square ones.

Even though they miss one crucial aspect (generally only one to three large holes in the bottom), these will grow microgreens well. They're long-lasting (unless you drop them), dark, hold moisture well, and you can get them anywhere.

However, they must fit a need; will they work on a narrow windowsill or shelf? If your counter space is limited, will they fit neatly up against the counter backsplash and out of the way?

You can also buy wall-mounted hangers that support these types of containers.

Recommend Microgreen Growing Trays

Below are my choices of microgreen trays. I use these trays over and over again. I've never had one break on me or dump any microgreens except when I flat out drop a tray off a top shelf...it happens.

Let's progress from smaller sizes to larger one.

Bootstrap Farmer 5 by 5 Microgreen Growing Trays

We only use these for specialty microgreens, although I could see why people would want to use them for growing everyday microgreens.

By specialty microgreens, we're talking about popcorn, a microgreen with a small serving size but a robust flavor and needs a tall blackout dome to grow tall without light.

microgreen trays

So we don't use 5 by 5 trays very often, but they're handy when we need them. 

People also like to grow many varieties of microgreens in smaller quantities. As eight of these 5 by 5 microgreen trays fit into a regular watering tray, they are popular.

The Home Microgreens Store usually has these in stock as does Bootstrap Farmer

Home Microgreens Growing Trays

These are our most popular sellers. The trays are around 38 square inches and can grow two or more ounces of microgreens. The dimensions are approximately 7.5-inches by 5-inches.

We love these trays' low profile; the angled sizes cut down the soil volume yet still produce a sizable growing area.

microgreen trays

These are the trays included in our microgreen kits. We also have several different buying options available.

Up to four Home Microgreens Planting Trays can fit into a 1020 watering tray!

The trays are made from food-safe materials and are very durable.

In addition, several ledges inside the tray can be used as guides for soil levels.

The Home Microgreens Watering Tray fits tightly around the Home Microgreens Planting Tray.

Bootstrap Farmer 1010 Microgreen Growing Trays

We use these trays all the time! We love them when we don't want to grow a large 1020 tray of microgreens.

1010 microgreen trays

All Bootstrap Farmers trays are:

  • Made from BPA free, food-safe polypropylene plastic (#5)
  • Guaranteed durability backed by a 2-year warranty
  • Dimensions are 10.5 by 10.5 by 1.25, and 2 fit into a standard 1020 tray or microgreen tray
  • Available with drainage holes or not.
  • Free shipping over $49.

We have never had one of these trays break.

And are they strong! Make sure you look at the video above as I put a 10-pound weight in a 1020 tray and could lift it one-handed and not have the tray bend. The 1010 trays contain the same material.

If you're looking for one or two, the Home Microgreen Store carries these trays. It may be less expensive to buy more from Bootstrap Farmer, though.

Bootstrap Farmer 1020 Microgreen Growing Trays

If you use a lot of microgreens, maybe the 1020 trays are for you. 

1020 comes from the size; the microgreen growing trays are about 10-inches wide and 20-inches long. The tray shown below is 1-1/4-inches tall. Perfect for microgreens.

microgreen trays

As you can see, the trays come both with holes and without. In addition, the trays are made of the same material and have the same warranty (if purchased at Bootstrap Farmer) as the 1010 trays.

I like these trays, which goes for the 1010 trays too, is that the bottom raised portion of the tray is beveled and not very high. However, it's high enough to let water drain if you're using the no-holes tray as a watering tray.

But if you use the microgreen growing tray with holes as a planting tray, the soil media comes out of the tray much easier and cleaner than the other 1020 trays. 

We use these trays to grow the microgreens we sell to retail customers every week. 

Take care of these trays, and they will last a lifetime.

These are great trays and very useful to have. You can purchase them right from Bootstrap Farmer with free shipping if your order is over $49 when this article is published. Click here to see the trays on Bootstrap Farmers' website.

There is also a full-depth heavy-duty tray that I often use from Bootstrap Farmer. The ridges are more pronounced, but this only makes the tray stronger. 

watering tray

You can see and purchase these by following this link to Bootstrap Farmer.

What Makes A Great Microgreens Growing Tray - Review

Here's what we look for in a growing tray -  both the planting and watering tray.

Durability - The trays need to hold up to everyday use year after year. So the tray won't break or crack if it's dropped or banged against something hard.

Strength - regardless of the size, you need to be able to lift the tray from one end while it's full of moist soil. You'll come across a situation where you need to take one hand off the tray, whether you trip, stub your toe, need to grab something else that is falling. The tray already in your hand needs to support its weight without breaking or bending.

Low Height to Soil Volume Ratio - Deep trays waste soil compared to shallow trays. Microgreens can grow in very little soil. Deep trays are unnecessary and only increase the amount of soil needed to fill the tray. A half-filled tray is harder to weigh down during blackout, reduces light to young microgreens, and makes harvesting much harder. Soil levels near the top of the tray eliminate all of those problems. Shallow is better than deep.

Evenly Spaced & Reasonably Sized Holes - Planting trays should have holes large enough to allow soil to water contact during bottom watering without much soil falling through. The holes should be numerous and evenly spaced around the bottom of the tray perimeter and across the bottom surface.

Bottom Ridges or Tight Fit -

Watering trays should either have ridges on the bottom, elevating the planting tray so extra water can drain. A tight fit doesn't allow one-time overwatering, forcing the water higher into the soil profile. Note: You may not be able to overwater with a tight-fitting watering tray with one watering event. Be sure the planting tray needs water before watering.

Health & Safety - You can throw durability and strength under H&S too. Still, more to the point, microgreen growing trays shouldn't have sharp edges to reduce the possibility of cuts to the fingers and hands. Also, they should be composed of food-safe materials.

Needs to Fit the Space You Have Available - Whatever microgreen growing tray you use needs to fit into your available space. Other people's recommendations aren't any good to you if those trays are too big or cause waste of space.

The Microgreen Growing Trays We Use Everyday

There are so many different microgreen growing trays that it is impossible to list them all.  

If you have a preferred microgreen growing tray, leave a comment below.

We always like to see what everyone is using and learn from your thoughts on your equipment.

If you're not set on any particular tray, give one or more of the trays listed below a try. We know you'll like them, they work great for us, and there is no reason they won't work for you.

The Home Microgreens Tray

These trays are made from food-safe, number 5 plastic and have a raised outside perimeter rim that allows the middle of the tray to drain.

The planting tray has 26 evenly spaced drainage holes.

The tray sides slope toward each other from top to bottom, reducing soil volume needed by over 40%.

The watering tray fits snuggly under the planting tray forcing water up into the soil.

The tray is strong because of the raised outside perimeter rim, and the rolled over top has angled supports.

You can see and purchase the Home Microgreens Trays at the Home Microgreens Store.

Bull's Blood Beet microgreens 13-days after planting

Bootstrap Farmer 1010 Microgreen Growing Tray

These heavy-duty shallow trays are made of food-safe, number 5 plastic and are a little over 10-inches square and 1-1/4-inches tall.

You can order the trays with or without holes. The tray with holes fits tightly into the tray without holes.

The tray with holes has 19 slits that alternate across the bottom of the tray. 

The top edge is rounded over, and the sides taper toward the bottom reducing the soil volume.

The raised bottom ridges are smooth, allowing water to drain if used as a watering tray and reducing soil from sticking to the bottom of the tray when changing the soil.

In the video, I placed a 10-pound weight in the tray and raised it one-handed from the end without the tray folding or bending.

These are heavy-duty trays that will last a lifetime if you take care of them. Bootstrap warranties these trays for 2-years.

You can purchase these trays from the Home Microgreens Store or directly from Bootstrap Farmer.

bottome watering a tray of plants

Bootstrap Farmer 1020 Microgreen Growing Tray

These heavy-duty shallow trays are food-safe, number 5 plastic, and are a little over 10-inches wide, just under 21-inches long, and 1-1/4-inches tall.

You can order the trays without holes or with holes. The tray with holes fits tightly into the tray without holes.

The tray with holes has 32 slits that alternate across the bottom of the tray. 

The top edge is rounded over, and the sides taper toward the bottom reducing the soil volume.

The raised bottom ridges are smooth, so they allow water to drain if used as a watering tray and reduce soil from sticking to the bottom of the tray when changing the soil.

In the video, I placed a 10-pound weight in the tray and raised it one-handed from the end without the tray folding or bending.

These are heavy-duty trays that will last a lifetime if you take care of them. Bootstrap warranties these trays for 2-years.

You can purchase these trays directly from Bootstrap Farmer.

microgreen trays

We hope you found this article on microgreen growing trays helpful.

Use any of the buttons or links to find out more information about the products recommended in the article.

If you have any comments or want to drop a line saying what trays you use, that would be awesome! The comment section is below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

There have been a lot of questions email to me on the topic of this post. Below are the most frequently asked questions and our answers.

Q: What trays are good for commercial microgreen growers?

A: Commercial growers need quite a lot of trays and it gets expensive to buy the heavy duty Bootstrap Farmer trays. But, you have to look at it as an investment. The cheap trays will not last, they will crack and you will end up cutting yourself. Also, think about the money lost when flimsy trays bend and end up dumping your microgreens or planted microgreen seeds. That is money saved by investing in any type of trays made from heavy plastic.

Q: Is your watering tray also called the bottom tray?

A: Yes, we like to call the bottom tray the watering tray because it reinforces watering microgreens from the bottom. Bottom watering doesn't allow you to give your microgreens excess water at any one time. It also uses less water than top spraying. It goes directly to the growing medium.

Q: Is food grade plastics the same as bpa-free plastics?

A: Yes, food-grade plastic is bpa-free.

Q: Bootstrap farmers list shallow germination trays. Are these the same as your recommended trays?

A: Yes, their shallow germination tray is what we call the shallow planting tray.

Q: What growing media can be used in your Home Microgreens Planting Trays?

A: You can use coco coir, paper towel, jute fibers, and even use the trays for hydroponic growing microgreens seed. We think they are the best option for people to grow their own microgreens, especially in small spaces in their indoor garden. We also like the clear lid as you can see when the microgreens are ready to come out of the blackout. A tea towel covering the clear lid works well. We get great germination rates with that setup.

Q: Will using a grow light break down the plastic grow trays?

A: Yes, any light, be sunlight, or LED light, any photon hitting the seed trays will eventually break down the plastic. This is another reason to buy durable trays.

Q: How do you calculate the seeding density with the larger trays, from the outside dimensions?

A: No, when we say 1010 or 1020 these are the names of the standard trays. We need to know the actually planting surface area. Measure the length and width of the growing media. There can be quite a difference in the area. Not so important for say broccoli microgreens. But cilantro microgreens or basil microgreens that get larger leaves can become overgrown if seeded too densely. Each square inch wants about 20 seeds.

Q: can pea shoots be grown in shallow microgreen trays?

A: Yes, that is what we use. However, the depth of the tray can matter if you want to get more than a couple of cuttings. The extra soil in a deep tray will give you more cuttings.

We hope you see that there isn't a perfect tray or a perfect size tray. The best microgreen trays fit your needs. Whether these trays are of the standard size or you need different sizes based on your growing space. You also need the right trays for the microgreens or baby greens you want to grow. The good news is there are many excellent choices on the market.

Scroll up and you can see our favorites. For our personal use, we like the Home Microgreens Trays. They aren't too big or too small. It's an excellent choice for the person wanting to grow microgreens at home.

Here is a link to the Home Microgreens Store. We have our trays, Bootstrap Farmer 1010, and 5-by-5 trays. We also offer free standard shipping with a small minimum order.

Author of this Article is Todd

Todd is the founder of Home Microgreens & the Home Microgreens store. He also writes for several other websites, including MyViewFromTheWoods.com.

His microgreens have appeared in Better Homes & Garden magazine and other websites.
Todd worked at a large farm market, garden & nursery center for 20-years. Somehow he snuck off to become a geologist and professor before coming back to his senses to write & lecture about microgreens and gardening. He will be in the garden, trout stream, or on a mountain trail with his Springer Spaniel Caden when not at the computer.

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Home Microgreens Also Offers the Following

Microgreen eBook

A comprehensive microgreen ebook that details the principals of growing microgreens at home. Several different methods and processes are detailed.

The ebook comes in two versions, one version includes instructions to grow the most commonly grown microgreens. The second includes access the microgreen vault, a database containing more varieties and information with images taken throughout the stages of growth.

Video Courses for the Home Grower

The Home Microgreens Video Course is perfect for the person that wants to grow one or more trays of microgreens for home use. Trays of microgreens also make great gifts! 

The course includes short, easy to follow videos and checklist for each step along the way.

Step-by-step video instructions are included for the most commonly grown microgreen varieties. 

Grow for Profit Course

Do you want to learn how to grow microgreens for profit? Grow microgreens as a side hustle, retirement income, or maybe even as an occupation. 

It's possible to earn a few hundred to thousands of dollars a month. 

The Grow for Profit Video Course shows you what is involved to set up a microgreens business, how to setup your grow area, and instructions on how to grow many different varieties. 

The Home Microgreens Store

The Home Microgreen Store has all the supplies you need to grow microgreens at home. 

We stock complete microgreen kits, trays, professional potting soil, miscellaneous equipment and of course microgreens seeds.

Microgreen kits make great gifts, home school or rainy day projects, and are fun for the whole family.

Instructions are included as well as email support.

Our kit and seed prices are very competitive if not the lowest on the internet.

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