Creative Play,  Imaginative Play,  Outdoor Play,  Tuff Tray Play

How to grow grass in a tuff tray

We’ve all seen those inspirational Tuff Trays, lined with real grass.. But how do you actually grow grass in a Tuff Tray? Is it straightforward? Is it quick and easy? After some research, I found exactly how to grow grass in a Tuff tray, what type of seeds you need, how to encourage it to grow fast, and some tips to make the most of your lush green grass! I then put these tips to the test, having a go at growing my own grass in the Tuff Tray – I found Cat Grass to be the most effective and easiest grass to grow in a tuff tray (I did also grow cress which grew quicker but didn’t last very long before it wilted) and I discovered that lawn seed (rye grass) to be the least effective way of growing grass in a tuff tray So let’s dive straight in and talk about how to grow grass in a tuff tray successfully! This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link. Please see my disclosure for more details

What Do I Need to Grow Grass in a Tuff Tray?

Aside from the obvious Tuff Tray (you can use any similar plastic tray), this is what you will need to grow grass in a tuff tray at home:

A variety of hardy grass seeds or cress seeds

We’re obviously aiming for a tray lined with lovely green grass that we can use for lots of fun tuff tray activities – but as this is for children to play with, it doesn’t matter how we actually achieve this – so we have a couple of options when it comes to what seeds to plant. After doing some research I discovered that there is a wealth of options when it comes to grass seed and it can be a little overwhelming to begin with! However, I found that the key is to look for indoor grass that grows quickly, and with little help. The best types of grass seed for growing indoors are:
  • Ryegrass (also known by its fancy plant name as Lolium multiflorum!)
  • Tall wheatgrass (another fancy name – Elytrigia elongata)
  • Cat grass (apparently goes by the name of Dactylis glomerata!)
All of these grasses are easy to grow indoors and should be easy to get hold of – especially since I’ve given you their fancy names… Cat grass is a little different in that it isn’t actually a specific plant but a mix of seeds such as wheat, barley, oats or rye. It is, as the name suggests, intended as a safe grass for cats to eat and so it makes for a great indoor grass. The other option you have is Cress seeds. Like I said earlier, it doesn’t actually matter what you grow if all you are hoping for is a grassy backdrop for your tuff tray play and so cress is a great option as it’s really quick and easy to grow.

What I used:

I wanted to test a few different options to find out which would be the quickest and the easiest, so I divided out Tuff Tray into sections and planted: I decided to get these to see how different each would be and see what worked best – we’ll get to the results in just a moment but first, let’s take a look at how to get started!

So How Do I Grow Grass In A Tuff Tray?

How to Grow Grass in a Tuff Tray

1. Prepare your tray

If you’re using a standard tuff tray and it’s going to be indoors, then you need to decide where it’s going to live for the foreseeable future. For the grass to grow well, it will need to be in a sunny and warm spot. If you don’t have the room for the tuff tray to stay indoors then provided it’s warm enough you could move it outside (update: I initially tried growing my grasses outside but I couldn’t seem to get anything to grow, even in June – the weather has to be really good, not to wet and not too hot!)

2. Fill your tray

Now, this may seem really obvious, but depending on what your end goal is, what you fill your tray with will differ. If you want to have a tray full of grass then go ahead and fill the tray with about 2 inches of soil ready for the seeds. If you only want patches of grass, then consider using a shallow container and fill this with soil. Alternatively, if you have decided to use cress seeds, then you can use damp cotton wool to line your tray where you want to grow the cress.

3. Plant seeds

Take your chosen seeds and sprinkle them over the soil or damp cotton wool depending on which you have chosen. If you are using soil you may want to sprinkle some more soil lightly over the top of the seeds as this is thought to help them grow quicker.

4. Water

In order to give your grass or cress the best start, you need to make sure you water it well. Don’t overdo it (especially given that there is no drainage in a tuff tray). One of the best ways to water indoor grass is to use a spray bottle as this gives a good mist for the grass but not too much. The soil needs to remain damp for the grass to grow so regularly water the grass

What I did

I brought our tuff tray inside on our stand (if you want to build your own tuff tray stand the check out this post with really easy to follow instructions) We filled it with 2 inches of soil as recommended and scattered a good helping of seeds which we topped with a small layer of soil to help them grow The kitchen seemed the best place to put it (mainly because we don’t have space anywhere else!) but also because it gets warmer in the kitchen with the oven and other appliances giving off extra warmth – it also meant we didn’t forget about it!

How Long Does Grass Take To Grow in a Tuff Tray?

So you’ve planted your grass or cress and now it’s a waiting game! There is no exact time frame for grass and cress to grow but depending on the seed and conditions we can estimate how long each will take:

How Quick Did My Tuff Tray Grass Grow?

Okay so let’s face it this is the bit you’re really interested in! Well here are the results for our lawn seed, cat grass, and cress seeds and how quickly they grew: As you can see we did actually grow grass with the lawn seed, but after 12 days it was still pretty sparse – it was quite thin too so it looked very patchy. If you plan to have grass in the tuff tray long term then this might work, and you could be more generous with the seed or re-seed after it’s had chance to grow The cat grass was a lot more successful – by day 12 it was really thick and generally in need of a bit of a trim – It really filled out the tray unlike the lawn seed and was a lovely bright green! I would highly recommend Cat Grass in a Tuff Tray as it was quick to grow and with a bit of a trim, would probably last quite a while if you continued to water it And finally the cress (I know it’s not technically a grass!) – this was super quick to grow, by day 7 it has reached its peak and had really filled out the tray – what I would say is that once it gets to a certain length it gets quite floppy and wilts quite quickly – so although it’s very quick to grow it probably won’t last long, especially when you add stuff to the tray for play

My Recommendation:

So based on my little experiment I would highly recommend growing Cat Grass in your tuff tray – I was super impressed and couldn’t quite believe how much of it grew!

How Can I Involve My Children?

The great thing about Tuff Tray Play is more often than not you can involve your children in the setup and preparation too. Growing grass is a great activity for kids and it’s exciting for them to see the seeds they plant grow! You can have them help with every stage if you want but probably the most important part is watering the grass to keep it growing – this gives your child a sense of ownership and responsibility. If you are using a spray water bottle this will also help develop their fine motor skills The grass will also need trimming from time to time to encourage it to keep growing, and so this is something with supervision that you could have your child be in charge of – this again is another great skill to develop fine motor skills Grass is relatively easy to grow and so it can be a great accomplishment for your child to help grow the grass and then be able to play with it too

Activity Ideas For Your Tuff Tray Grass

So you’ve gone to the effort of growing your own grass, now what do you do with it?! There are so many different small world setups you could try once you’re grass is grown, we had so much fun setting up a few of them here:
tuff tray grass small world play
How to Grow Grass in a Tuff tray
Previous Next
  • Fairy Land – This is a great Tuff tray activity to spark the imagination with stepping stones, miniature doors, mini pools and maybe even a fairy or two! We made some toadstools using bottle caps that we painted and glued together and some wooden log slices and a small mirror for a pool with glass beads around the edge (we used the cress for this play area)
  • Farmyard – If you’ve got some farmyard animals and a barn or house of some sort, you could have some fun with cows grazing in your very own farmyard! we used some of our Duplo farm set and added some dried outs for the cow to feed on! (We created this on some of the soil that we attempted to grow some wildflowers on but got impatient and wanted to play so we never saw them grow!)
  • Dinosaurs – This is great if you’ve got really tall grass for a wild dinosaur adventure – our overgrown cat grass was perfect for a dinosaur backdrop!
  • Football – Some nice trimmed grass makes for a perfect football field – we made some goal posts out of coffee stirrers and used lego figures and a small football for our patchy lawn!!You could also try out these ideas:
  • Jungle – A great tray for animal lovers which could be enhanced with some trees or twigs from the garden
  • Dear Zoo – This is a great book to base a tuff tray on, all you need is the animals found in the book to bring the book to life!
  • Park – If you’ve got a playground playset this would really well on the grass with some Playmobil type people or any toy characters that you have

How to Grow Grass In a Tuff Tray Recap

Growing grass in a Tuff Tray was much easier than I expected, and my children were excited to wake up each morning to see how much had grown and which was doing best, so it really was a fun family activity 🙂 here’s the important bits to take away:
  • Use Cat Grass if you want lots of thick green grass that will last a while
  • Keep your tray warm and moist by misting a couple of times a day (a great way to get children involved)
  • Enjoy setting up your small world play areas with this lush green grass!
And it really is that simple! ⇓ Save this pin for later and you can pop back when you’re ready to start growing your very own grass! Happy Gardening! Louisa | Mum’s Creative Cupboard How to Grow Grass in a Tuff tray