Garden Myths Sowing Seeds

Garden Myth: Place Seed Trays on the Refrigerator

Set your seed trays on top of your refrigerator: a really bad idea! Ill.:  &

Some gardening techniques far outlive their usefulness and really ought to be put out to pasture. Yet they continue to circulate on the Internet, apparently forever and ever. 

That’s the case with the old suggestion that the best place to put your seed trays after you sow seeds in them is on top of the refrigerator. 

That Was Then

This was once a valuable piece of information. Yes, the seeds of most plants germinate best at higher than normal indoor temperatures and since the top of the refrigerator gives off heat, wouldn’t it make sense to put seed trays there?

Yeah, but … why not touch the top or your fridge before you try this? Since the 1960s, refrigerators are much better insulated than they used to be. The top of a modern fridge is no warmer than the air around it. The back might be, but not the top. In fact, it’s sometimes cooler! 

Unless you have a really old refrigerator, the top of the fridge is probably the last place you’d want to put a seed tray. Doubly so, since many seeds need light to germinate and there usually there isn’t much light on top of a refrigerator.

What About On Top of the TV?

Maintaining a seed tray on top of a flat-screen TV is quite the balancing act! Ill.:  &

Yes, you still hear that the TV too is an ideal place to put a seed tray, and that’s even more surprising. After all, when was the last time you saw a television set with a flat top you could actually put a seed tray on?

I mean, I held on to my old TV forever—a massive, extremely heavy one—but the picture tube behind, the part that gave off the heat, sloped downwards. No way a seed tray would fit there.

And how would you balance a seed tray on a modern flat-screen TV? That doesn’t give off heat at any rate!

Bury that idea too!

Where to Get Extra Heat for Germination?

Everything in our homes today is so wonderfully insulated that there really are few sources of heat, at least not something you could put a seed tray on. So, try this:

1. Try to find a place in your home that’s just a bit warmer than the rest. The ideal temperature for germination for many seeds is about 24°C (75°F), not such a stretch. 

Heat mats will give your seeds the heat they want on any flat surface. Photo: Stokes Seeds

2. Failing that, get a seed heating mat. They’re available in garden centers and online, don’t cost much and last for years (after all, you probably won’t be using them more than a few weeks each season). Just place them on a flat surface, plug them in and set your trays on top. It couldn’t be simpler.

By the way, you only need extra heat early in the process, while the seeds are germinating (sprouting). Once they come up, they’ll actually do better at normal room temperatures: 20–22 °C (68–72 °F). In fact, many appreciate nights down to 15°C (60°F). 

Put anything you want on top of your fridge, just not seed trays! Photo:

So, save the top of your fridge for cereal boxes, cook books, pots and pans or whatever kitchen devices and products you can’t find room for elsewhere in the kitchen. Just don’t put your seedlings there!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

2 comments on “Garden Myth: Place Seed Trays on the Refrigerator

  1. Margaret

    Back in the day, when I was young (and the dinosaurs walked the earth), refrigerators weren’t as tall as they are now. The refrigerator I have now is almost 6 feet, so I can’t see the top of it. What I don’t see, I forget!

    • I hadn’t noticed that, but then, I’m one of those (nearly) 6-ft tall guys. I’ll have to ask my wife: less than 5 ft tall… and still won’t tell me how tall she really is!

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