We can tell Spring is here because both the jobs that keep the bills paid and the jobs around the farm have really gotten busy! Almost a month since my last post tells that story.
One of the things that we’ve been working on is getting our garden ready. Though the weather has been unseasonably warm the past few weeks, we still have some frost in the forecast and we even woke up to a light dusting of snow this morning. Last year, we got hit with a snowstorm on April Fools day.
But, that doesn’t mean we can’t start planting, especially because my parents didn’t need their seed starter this year, so they gave it to us. My dad made it, and if you’re looking for a relatively simple project, you might consider building one yourselves.
- One metal rolling audiovisual stand
- Four sheets of 30″ x 14″ sheet metal (he used galvanized ducting sections, that are bent in 90 degree angles)
- Four 24″ florescent light fixtures with grow bulbs
- Eight lengths (about 2′ each) of light chain
- Four pieces of chicken wire, cut 9.5″ x 19.5″ (to fit in a 10 x 20 planting tray)
- Four lengths of 5-6′ each of insulated soil warming cable (this is not cheap to buy new!)
- Six lamp cords/plugs and wire
- Lamp timer
- Six-outlet power strip
- Assorted screws, washers, and nuts.
Dad took the galvanized sheet metal, folded the short edges to keep them from cutting hands (the long edges were already folded for the joints), overlapped each pair to make the center double-strength, and bent the sides down to form two simple reflectors. He then mounted a pair of florescent lights on each.
They’re suspended from the shelf above by four chains, allowing you to move them upwards as the plants grow. He spliced the cords for each set of lights into a single plug just for convenience (you could also use a second power strip).
The soil-warming wire is fastened in loops to the chicken wire grids with zip ties.
The simple lamp timer saves a small bit of electricity – we’ve got it set to be off during the day later in the growing cycle when the plants should be getting some natural light through the windows.
That’s “it.” The soil warming grids fit nicely into our 10×20 seed planting trays. We’ve currently got a flat of tomatoes, a half of peppers, 4 basil plants taking up a corner, and a few “empties” waiting for some seeds we need to start in a week or so. We’ll start two more flats a bit later.
Hopefully, we’ll get a good jump on the garden this year, since last year’s was a bit of a bust until very late in the season.