The Seed Starting Area – Part 1

It’s beginning! As I type this, seed orders from around the country are making their way to my door. I’ve made most of my other purchases, with the exception of my seed starting medium. Once I do that, I’ll likely do a whole post recapping what seeds I’ve purchased, what sort of equipment (lighting, heating, plant trays, etc) I went with, and what type of seed starter I’ll be using. To give people a realistic idea of what this all entails, I’m going to be listing the costs as well. I think it’s important to be honest about the fact that starting something like this DOES involve an investment. If everything goes according to plan (meaning most things grow and produce, I’m good about weighing and tracking things, and I’m able to preserve a lot of the harvest) I will hopefully be able to offset the start-up cost within one growing season. Heck, even if it took me two growing seasons, it would be worth it.

I bounce back and forth between being really, really excited and having moments where I panic and think, “what the heck am I doing?” I’ve never grown a garden on this scale before. I’ve never spent so much money on something that could totally backfire. I’ve also never been faced with the possibility of having SO MUCH FOOD in my own backyard. It’s scary to think of the garden not producing but it’s almost just as scary to think of how much it could produce. I guess I can always walk up and down the streets giving away vegetables if it gets out of hand, huh?

But, all of this is neither here nor there. I wanted to show off my light set-up! After trying to start seedlings in a “sunny” window and beneath a really janky clip lamp one year, I learned that you need much more intense, direct lighting or your little seedlings just won’t make it when you send them out into the wide world of the outdoors. I decided that I would try using three shop lights with growing bulbs installed, on adjustable chains so that I could keep the lights right on top of the seedlings while they grew. Jason purchased one of my lights and a set of bulbs for Christmas, I used a gift card to purchase  a second set, and my in-laws surprised me with a “real” grow light set-up, complete with a metal frame and a double-output bulb. I’ll be operating that set-up separately from the other two, mostly because I would like to see if purchasing a light specifically made (and priced!) for seed starting makes a difference. The other two lights are just plain old shop lights from Menards, outfitted with special bulbs. It will be interesting to see if it changes the germination rate at all.

The set from my in-laws had it’s own frame, but I knew I needed a way to hang the other two lights. Inspired by my many years of assembling frost frames at the Berry Patch, I took a cue from Dave and decided to build a light frame out of PVC pipe. I drew up an initial design and handed it over to Boo to tweak and do the measurements for. It was a fun project to brainstorm together; I felt like we each contributed different things and our areas of expertise complimented one another.

After heading out and purchasing said PVC pipes and connectors, Jason made the cuts on his circular saw, I cleaned up the edges, and we assembled them. The result was quite satisfying. It’s really sturdy, yet lightweight. It can be taken down and stored when I’m not using it. And it was fun to build it together!

Since I’m starting seedlings on the cold basement floor, I knew I needed some form of heating under the flats. After much researching and debating of cost, I decided to go the route of using incandescent rope lights in low plastic plastic totes, covered in sand. I decided to do this because a) it was a cheaper way of having more heating area than actual heating mats, b) from what I researched, you can produce almost the same amount of heat and c) I can use the rope lights and the totes for other purposes. So…here’s hoping it does the job!

I’ll do a “Part 2” post when I everything set up and ready to be planted! I also have an old table and stool to sit at for doing my “dirty” work, so to speak. I’d like to  hang some fun pages from my seed catalogs on the walls and make it a more pleasant place and less “Dingy basement-turned-seed-starting-nook”. Here’s hoping!

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