Friday, February 12, 2010

Seed Starting Shelf

Well, you can't tell much from the photo, but we are slowly getting our propagation rig set up. Sunday night, we put together the steel storage shelf that we bought last week. I had hoped to buy something used, but we never found anything that was the appropriate size. At least this shelf is made in America. The boards are press board that we will need to replace in the next few years. When we do, we'll probably use planks of red cedar from the local mill. The structural support seems sturdy and should last a long time. We also hung some black plastic that we found in the garage up behind the shelf to protect the wall from water damage when we mist the plants. We finally got around to putting the fluorescents up last night. Right now, we can't afford to go the T5 or halide route, so we're using 2 4' T8 fixtures on each shelf. We put two 32 watt cool white lamps in each fixture, and it seems to be providing a good bit of light to cover the width of the shelf. For the moment, we're only using two shelves for growing, but I'm thinking about buying a few low profile fixtures to go on one of the short shelves in an attempt to extend our growing space.

Because the cost of large propagation mats is pretty high, we're going to be trying this system for providing bottom heat during germination. We bought a 24x24x12 cardboard box and cut it into two 24x24x6 trays. Each tray will be filled with a few inches of sand, a coiled rope light, a few more inches of sand, and topped with the seed flats and cells. I bought a lot of 4 18' rope lights from ebay for $20 shipped, the box was $4 and the two bags of sand were a little under $4 each. The total cost was under $35. If we decide to heat another shelf, we can use the other rope lights from the lot, another box, and two more bags of sand for a total cost of under $45 for 16 feet of heated growing space. The two large heating mats that it would take to cover that amount of space are 79.95 each, before shipping. If this works, we stand to have saved ourselves quite a bit of money.

What's left before planting? We need to fill the trays, get worm castings, mix up our medium, buy more flats and cell packs, and I need to finish the seed database that I've been working on all week so that we will know how many seeds of each variety to sow. Hopefully, we'll get all of that done this weekend and we'll be able to seed the trays next week.


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