As of today, Operation Seed Germination is in full swing! I spent the entire day setting up my germination station and planting hundreds of seeds. This year was planned, to the last seedling cell – unlike last year, when this Yankee was a little confused about the Southern growing season.
Last year I was so excited about planting my first spring garden in the South…in March! I had my seeds ready to go, and I was chomping at the bit. A week or two before planting time, I was sharing my excitement with a coworker who has a family farm. He asked me how big my tomato and pepper seedlings were. What? Seedlings? It’s so warm here, I was planning to direct sow my tomatoes and peppers along with everything else. Did I get a lesson! So, I started my tomato and pepper seedlings in March….two months late! Then, I didn’t fertilize them soon enough, not realizing I needed to. By the time they were old enough for the outside, they were leggy from insufficient light (my kitchen has light but not enough) AND it was May with summer temperatures starting to hit. Needless to say, not all of my plants survived. Thankfully, I had bought a few tomato and pepper plants from the nursery, just in case. It was definitely a lesson learned.
This year, I planned an actual germination station so I could start my seedlings off right. I researched grow lights and heating mats and worked with my “garden boy” to create an inexpensive set up. (Okay, some people have pool boys; I have a garden boy. LOL)
Here’s what my set up looks like:
I used two saw horses with an old door (32″ x 80″) on top. Two wooden uprights hold a 3/4″ metal electrical conduit on which I clipped two 85-watt CFL grow lights screwed into 8.5″ light reflectors.
The uprights were made from scrap lumber and two old 20″ round table tops. If you’d like to make them like this, here’s a diagram:
Here’s a closeup of the back of one of the uprights:
Here’s a closeup of how the uprights are attached to the table (door):
I also purchased seed germination heat mats.
They’re heating pads for seed trays that are waterproof and can be left on for long periods of time. The heat mats increase the soil temperature as much as 20 degrees above the room temperature, which increases the germination rate. I bought one mat that fits four flats and one that fits two flats. (The door will fit six standard flats – about 10″ x 20″ each.) Warning: Do NOT use regular heating pads under your flats! They are not waterproof and are not meant to stay on for hours/days!
After my germination station was set up, I began filling 432 cells (six flats of 72 cells each) with seed starter soil mix, and planted vegetable, herb, and flower seeds. (See a list of what I planted below.)
Here’s what my station looks like with the flats:
The veggies I planted are:
Specialty: Violetta Precoce artichoke (purple), Listada de Gandia eggplant (white/purple striped), Grande Rio Verde tomatillo.
Hot peppers: Rocoto (very hot Peruvian), Lemon Drop (hot, lemony Peruvian), Jalapeno, lots of Pepperoncini (for pickling), Fish pepper (medium hot), a mystery hot pepper (received these as free seed last year, stating they were sweet but they were hot – saved my own seed & hope they grow), Cubanelle (mild), and Sierra Chili (hot).
Sweet Peppers: Emerald Giant green bell, Mini Red Bell, and Small Red Heart.
Tomatoes: Blue tomato, Mortgage Lifter (large, slicing), Riesentraube (small, pear-shaped), Amish Paste, Mama Leone (paste). I saved space for Tiny Tim and Red Pear tomatoes that I’m waiting to receive in the mail from Ray’s free seed giveaway.
Herbs: French thyme, oregano (Origanum Vulgare), sage, Mammoth dill, cilantro, Summer savory, Genovese basil, Flat Leaf parsley, and Curly parsley.
Flowers: Old Spice sweet pea (a mix), Knee High sweet pea (a mix), Scarlet Green Leaf begonia, White Green Leaf begonia, White impatiens, burgandy impatiens, Rainbow coleus (a mix), Marine Heliotrope, Chianti Dianthus, Delphinium (Connecticut Yankee Mix – I just had to!), Lilac Pompom poppy, carnations (Chabaud Picotee Fantasy mix), and Amish Cockscomb.
And here are all my seedlings under the grow lights:
Grow, my little babies! Grow!