Helpful Equipment - Seed Starting Basics

March 12 14 snow 2 400

NOOOO!!! More snow, more cold, and more mud. AAARAUGH!!!

Dear Mother Nature,
It is the middle of March. It is obvious you have a sense of humor. Please, stop laughing – enough already!  Could you give serious consideration to no more snow, warmer days, and workable garden soils?
Fran, a frustrated gardener
P.s. Come on!!! Enough!

I have already started spring clean-up in the herb garden. I trimmed old growth from the day lilies, anise hyssop, feverfew, and mountain mint (Pycnanthemum).  I cut the  hops to the ground and untangled the old vines from the arbor. I started gathering leaves into a pile ready for the compost. I even managed to pull a few weeds. I was so excited to be busy in the garden and feel the sun on my head.  Then . . . weeding interrupted . . .

early March clean up 400

Meanwhile back in the house . . .  I am feeling blessed  that my wonderful husband Greg has built a basement work area that allows me to start seeds and grow them on under lights when my garden is barren and frozen. There is a spacious work table . . .

work table 2 400

And  . . . a three shelf light unit for seedlings.  Each shelf has two side-by side 4 foot fluorescent lights suspended by chains and S hooks.  The chains and S hooks  make it easy  to raise or lower the light as needed. Greg mounted a strip plug on the outside of the unit. The plug allows me to plug in one or more shelves as the season progresses.

light unit 2 400

The entire unit is covered in plastic to keep warmth in and allow me to manipulate the temperature. Tuck the front plastic in (always at night when the lights are off) and the unit stays warmer or tuck the plastic on top of the unit and the unit cools down. I try to keep the unit 50-60 at night and at least 70 during the day. You can see I have hung a thermometer in the back of the unit. The lights are plugged into a timer and are on 15 hours a day. Also, you can see in the picture how close the seedlings need to be to the light – close but not touching the bulb.

light unit 3 400

Our basement is cold (meaning we live in a very old farmhouse) so I germinate my seeds upstairs with bottom heat. I use a styrofoam box with a 15 watt bulb in the bottom. A tray of seeded containers rests over the 15 watt bulb and the whole thing is covered with a plastic top. Seeds germinate well with the bottom heat and then I move them to the basement light unit. My heat unit was purchased at the local hardware store but I think, if you are creative, you  build one out of a styrofoam cooler, a simple light socket with a cord and plug, and plastic over the top. You would need to find a flat to fit the top of your cooler.

heat unit up 400

If you live in northern Ohio it is time to start you cabbage, broccoli, tomato, eggplant, lettuces. I already have my onions, leeks, celery, early lettuces, and peppers germinated and growing under lights. Get organized – Go Garden!

One other sure sign of spring  . . . Asian lady bugs . . . all over our bathroom window, walls, everywhere! This picture does not begin to show you the number of ladybugs that have overwintered in the wall and mistakenly come inside looking for a way out. Poor things! I admit to a lot of flushing to control them. Greg says that they do NOT taste good if they find their way into a PBJ sandwich!

lady bugs march 2 400

Hey from the snowy farm,
Fran       The Country Cousin

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