Wednesday, February 11, 2009

'Tis The Season

Kate and I vowed to get serious about seed starting a couple of seasons ago. Before that, all of our experience was with transplants from Burpee or (gulp) Home Depot. Enticed by the staggering array of heirlooms available, we took the plunge into uncharted seed-starting territory. As with most new endeavors, our first foray into plant rearing yielded mixed results. Ultimately, we ended up with lots of leggy seedlings and too few light fixtures. We moved the transplanting date up as much as possible simply due to a lack of resources. Our garden did flourish, but not before many hours of scrambling and nail-biting.

Last year, we made the same seed-starting resolution. This time, we bought fluorescent shop lights and hung them from the basement ceiling. Tray after tray of hopeful seedlings were crammed onto a utility table beneath the lights. After an auspicious start, we soon discovered that we had still overrun our lighting capacity. As it so happened, we had greatly expanded the scope of our planting from the year before, and four shop lights with two 4-foot bulbs apiece were simply insufficient. It got to the point where I built a precarious tower out of coolers and boxes in order to raise some wild-looking onion flats up close to a spare ceiling fixture. The space constraints caused us to once again rush the season and transplant too soon. We didn't lose any plants, but I think some were stressed by the sudden temperature change.

Needless to say, we're making our annual pledge to ourselves (and our future seedlings) to get serious about seed starting. We have invested in a state-of-the-art utility shelf that is way too big for the room we put it in. The shelf can hold eight light fixtures and at least eight seedling trays, possibly more.

Although the shelf is indeed a monstrosity, Kate asked me to point out that, thanks to my ingenuity, it is no less attractive than this "grow-light system" from Gardener's Supply, and our homemade version cost us a fraction of the other's $550 price tag. This sounds like slavish praise to me, but I'll take it. An added bonus: the spectral glow from our 'grow lights' creates a lovely, potentially felonious vista at night. Build yours today!


Matt said...

That looks like a great starter shelf! Hmm, you have me thinking about that now.

Mark said...

The shelf was $90 at Lowes and the light fixtures were $12 apiece. It's not a bad looking shelf, it actually has more capacity than most of the so-called 'seed starting shelves' I've seen in catalogs.