It’s the best time of the season – the days are getting longer, and we have spurts of spring mingling with snow, but hard winter is done. The water and septic line heat tapes are unplugged – the next electric bill will be considerably lower!
Last year, I’d thrown this leftover vapor barrier plastic over an extra set of shelves, but it had been past that time I really needed them so it sat in the shed until last week. We brought it in, added the cheap LED lights I’d picked up, and planted the seeds.
In very little time (3 days), we had cabbages (2 varieties) sprouting, and 2 days after that, the tomatoes (3 varieties) made their appearance. Yesterday (day 6), I saw a bit of green popping up in the artichoke tray and they’re slowly unfurling this morning. The onions are still quiet.
I’ve got a good look at what is happening this year, and I opted to only start what I can do in containers, because with reseeding the fields, putting in fencing, gates, shelters, etc for goats and chickens, and getting said goats and chickens, we might not have time to work on the in-ground garden dirt. The area it will be in, it’s still all clay with a tiny bit of top soil. It needs a lot of amendments tilled in.
This shelf setup is working very well. The plastic keeps the bit of heat the LEDs put off, and the humidity, in and the seedlings are loving it. Last year, I’d trialed a color spectrum grow light and it just didn’t work out. For as much as those cost, they should sprinkle magic fairy dust to get your plants going!
The lights go off at night, on in the mornings. I water them just enough to keep them damp but not wet, which works out to once a day right now. The plastic keeps the humidity in so they aren’t drying out in our super dry house.
The best part was the cost. We already had the shelves (about $50 from Costco) and about $20 each for 3 lights from Home Depot, which will be usable for many years to come. So for this year’s, I only needed new seeds (yes, you always, always need new seeds) and dirt.
There’s a bonus benefit to this setup: I’d bought houseplants this winter, and they’d stayed alive (I’ve never been great at keeping non-vegetable plants healthy), but weren’t thriving. Just not enough daylight no matter where they were. I put the seedling shelves along an open wall which was about 2′ from the houseplants. In only a couple days, I saw remarkable new growth on the 3 closest plants, so I started rotating them. Even the spider plant that the kitten got a hold of (apparently, spider plants get cats high) that I thought I’d never be able to save, started going crazy.
So today is their first day directly under the lights. I’ll give them a few hours a day and just maybe they’ll finally grow enough to need the new planters and macrame plant hangers that I’ve got saved in my Amazon cart.