Yes, I’m repeating this photo from the last post because I had several inquiries about my seed starting “Facilities.” See that tall rack? I built it over thirty years ago out of scrap lumber and some aluminum sheeting. A few finish nails and lots of wood glue and Voila! You may note that the third from top shelf is beginning to sag. Well, that happens as we age, but I think it will last as long as I do! The lights are just standard 4′ shop fixtures. Last year, I did replace a couple of the bulbs that had burned out with “Plant and Aquarium” bulbs, which are more expensive. Not sure that it made a difference. The seedlings are only under there for a few weeks, not their entire life. The stand can hold 4- 10×20″ flats on each shelf, so that’s 16 (There used to be a 5th shelf, but it fell apart six years ago and I haven’t made a replacement since I don’t really need it that badly anymore now that I’ve downsized.) The lights are so bright in the photo, it almost looks like there are domes on the flats in the lights stand, but there aren’t. Each flat is just filled with rows and rows of baby seedlings, waiting to get big enough to transplant. If you look carefully, you can see cipollini onions at each end of the second from top shelf. One batch is Bianca and the other is Gold Coin.
This set up is in my basement, in what used to be the laundry room, so there is water handy. When I closed the herb farm, I moved one of the 4’x8′ plant benches (in the foreground above ) to this area. It’s generally my work/transplanting/seeding “table”, but until I get the greenhouse “improved” and the temps quit dropping into the teens at night, it is being used for transplanted seedlings. It also holds the heating mat (it’s orange, under the domed flats) This is a commercial sized one that holds 4 10×20″ flats. I’ve had it 26 years, so even though it was $60, it’s been worth it’s weight in gold many times over. Notice that each flat on the mat is covered with a clear dome….that’s because all these seeds need light to germinate. If they needed darkness to germinate, I’d cover them with an overturned solid black flat. (That means you should group seeding rows in a single flat by their light/dark requirements, too.) The domes stay on until the seeds germinate, when they immediately get moved to the light stand shown at the top of the post. Note in the upper right hand corner of this photo is the thermostat that controls the temperature of the heat mat. I can plug 4 mats in at once, but I don’t need that many any longer. I try to group my seeds according to the temperature they need, as well as the date they need to be started, since you can only select one temperature, but you can increase or decrease the temperature with each batch of flats as needed.
Now, back to that light stand. Notice how very close those flats are to the light bulbs? With artificial light, they need to be VERY close, like 2-3″ from the tops of the plants. I can adjust the shelves and group taller seedlings together as they grow. In reading many blogs of beginner gardeners, I see lights that are far, far above the flats. Or, maybe there are no lights at all, just a bit of sunlight (on whatever days it may choose to be sunny) for a few hours. This results in stretched seedlings that will never produce the way a well-grown, compact seedling will perform. When I first began gardening, I moved my seeding flats from a “sunny” window to my kitchen counter every night. I’d put shoe boxes or baking pans under the flats to raise them up to within 2-3″ of the under-counter kitchen lights. Keep in mind that it takes at least 2 hours of artificial light to equal 1 hour of direct sunlight. If a baby plant needs 8-10 hours of SUNLIGHT a day, that’s a lot of artificial hours. I use a Christmas tree light timer to give my light stand 18 hours of light a day. Buy them at the after Christmas sales cheap!
So far, I’ve transplanted 955 seedlings, so I’m about on schedule even with the late start due to traveling. But, because of the greenhouse snag and our record low temps this coming week, I’m getting a backlog, so I’ve had to set up another shelf in another part of the basement. Hopefully, the weather will settle and I can get the temperature problem resolved SOON, or I’ll have to add more shelves and lights 😦 And before you think I am TOO organized, I’ll let you peek at my poor winter-overed plants crowded in front of the sliding glass doors. They get shoved out onto the
patio whenever it is warm enough, but otherwise, they have to endure these conditions. You can see the lemon tree is still producing lemons and even has some new blooms, and the dwarf pomegranate is leafing out merrily, but some of the others are NOT happy. Warmer days will come, children, and then you can all go out to play.