Thursday, March 12, 2015

Seed Starting Station by Tina Ligon

Seed Starting/Growing Station

I love to start plants from seeds. Watching those tiny plants emerge from the soil is one of my favorite parts of gardening. However, trying to grow from seed in late winter/early spring with just light from a sunny window is not enough where I live. I don’t have the light nor temperature control for good germination and plant growth. There are some pretty pricey systems to be had but I have put together a seed starting station that is working quite well for me.
The basic wire shelving unit is 4’ wide x 2’ deep x 6’ height and is on wheels. I like the wire because it allows for great air circulation, doesn’t mind getting wet and dirty, and the open sides are great for running the electrical cords. The shelves are a great size for two regular 10”x 20” starting trays plus when you start potting things up you can squeeze 4 trays per shelf turning them the other way.
The lights are just florescent two bulb fixtures with hanging chains for adjustability. There are more options for lighting but this is what I had several years ago and all is still working so I haven’t upgraded. The florescent bulbs are fine for starting seeds; if you are going for blooms then you would probably want to go to full spectrum bulbs. You do need to keep the florescent bulbs close to the plants in order for them to get enough light. There are a total of 4 bulbs per shelf. This provides pretty full coverage for the whole shelf.
The whole shelving unit is wrapped in a plastic sheet on the sides and back. I have found that just attaching with some clamps works. There is a piece of rigid insulation on top of the unit and a plastic flap for the front. In my case this unit is in a fairly cool room and the plastic makes this a mini greenhouse. The front flap is quite flexible in that you can just let it down as much as you want to keep more heat in the top of the unit. Once the seeds have germinated most plants want to grow in a slightly cooler environment.
Front flap closed to cover only top, heated shelf
 Air circulation is important to this process and a couple of small adjustable fans seem to keep things moving just fine. This year, there is the addition of a heating mat on the top shelf. There is a piece of foil covered bubble wrap insulation under the mat to help keep the heat where needed. The one mat has been enough so far. The seeds start on the top then move down a shelf when germinated and not needing as much heat. There is a controller on the mat so that the ideal temperature for the seed being grown can be selected.
Heating mat with insulation underneath
All of the lights are plugged into an electrical plug strip that is on a timer. The fans and heating mat are on another plug strip so that they can continue to run at night. There isn’t a huge power requirement for any of the devices used and the plastic and insulation helps to keep the temperature regulated and is more energy efficient.
My only problem with this system is that I would like to have another one. The unit is currently in use for the onion starts and for growing microgreens while waiting for the real seed starting season to begin. It has worked great for the microgreens, a new growing venture this winter. It is so nice to have fresh greens all winter. Here are some links to more information about seed starting:

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