Garden Prep: It’s the Gear Post, plant nerds

Let’s review:

  1. you love to garden
  2. you love to get dirty
  3. you love to analyze things
  4. you love to fail and try again
  5. you LOVE new gear (or new to you gear… even if it is old school equipment)
  6. you LOVE to learn new methods (even if they are old as salt, tried and true rituals from back in the day… you CRAVE to learn something NEW to be BETTER)

EVERY ONE OF THOSE POINTS are woven into our gardener’s fabric of self. It’s almost a stamp on our souls… the minute the shine of the New Year has worn off (and the glitter swept up and holiday decorations put back into storage…) THESE system protocols kick into high gear.

We can’t help it.

We have passion, folks. DEEP passion. You are my people and I love how connected the new world of technology can keep us all… keep us inspired, instructed, and INVESTED in what we love. Those connections are awesome and available at the touch of a button.

This is a quick post just about seed starting gear. There are TONS of resources out there for you all to dig into but if you, like me, are 1. often pressed for time, 2. use gardening as a means to practice mindfulness and self-care, as well as 3. are a bit of a dork… I hope this post guides you to some great tools and resources that will help you plan, plant and prepare your garden appropriately.

Here’s a few looks at my setup, some minor fixes and prep for seed starting season, and some experiments on trying to revive some 2 year old root stock!

Now for the gear:

Greenhouses

Germination and Early Stage (aka indoor): This is the greenhouse that I use and I LOVE it. It was a bit of a challenge to plan around, though when I was only able to have ONE space for growing out my seedlings. This is a small g’house but it can pack in a good amount of trays for the hobby gardener or container gardener. It has 6 shelves and can easily fit 6 large 72 cell trays, or squish in the large trays along with a smaller 9 or 12 cell tray on one side to expand capacity. I add a small, low table in the center and add another tray there too (or keep water, food, other tools there for easy access.)

Once I move my germination to the workshop -oooh, this is a project I am so excited about! right now, I germinate in the home theater… which isn’t always the best for our movie watching experience….(my hubby is a saint…) BUT anyway, once I clear my 10×20 space in our workshop, I will most likely get the larger size of this (twice as deep… so 2 full large trays and a small tray per shelf.) This year I did a quick packing tape patch job on this greenhouse. She’s been through a lot… this might be her last year LOL.

Seedling Grow Out and Harden Off (aka outdoor): This was my Christmas present 2 years ago. And for two years it has sat, in it’s box, in our 4 seasons room…. MOCKING ME. Not this year, friends. NOT THIS YEAR! The next sunny and warm(ish?) day, hubs and I will be walking the property to find it’s semi-permanent home. It is not huge, and IS movable… so we have some play. The biggest issue I currently have is picking and choosing my battles: do I run a hose up to the top of the hill about 100 yards from the house if it lives up there? Do I buy a big water storage container and hand pump? Do I use a mobile solar panel we have lying around to power a pump? Do I create a rain catchment system and do some of all of it? OR…. do I set it closer to the house and just use the hose LOL.

This will be the first season using it, and I hope to accomplish 3 things: quicker and earlier produce from cold tolerant crops to get more than one planting, improve hardening off, extend grow season a bit.

Lamping: I use two different kinds of lamps, mainly due to the type of indoor g’house I have. I have several can lights and then on the shelves where I can mount light fixtures, I use 1 per shelf. It is not a pretty setup, but it gets the job done. My dream is to make a few small adjustments to the top shelf area to allow for another set of tube lights. Currently, there is no good way to rig them up, so I use the clamp on can lights. The link below is for a complete tube light rig. The clamp lights and bulbs can easily be found at Lowes, HD or TSC.

Heat Mats: These help with germinating the seed initially, and some seedlings really like heat until they go outside. There are many to choose from and I have a bunch from different companies as I’ve expanded each year. They all put out about the same amount of heat (just a small amount really) but the key is to make sure it is even and consistent. I use the below mats and haven’t had any issues… I currently have 6 mats and most get use as I germinate and grow in rotation (and lots of heat hungry veggies.)

Seeding trays: currently I use Hex trays with seed starting mix, or Burpee Greenhouse grow trays with refill peat moss pucks. Each year I buy a few more tray sets so at this point I have a ton of them that I can recycle with either just soil or the refill pucks. Next year, I hope to get into soil blocking. Im excited about the Hex Trays. It is a 3 part tray with the bottom layer being a water reservoir. This should help with bottom watering (one HUGE issue with starting seeds is early onset of fungus or pests… Watering top down can really hurt your plants. Even in the garden, watering at the base to focus that H2O on the all important roots is critical. That is where drip lines or soaker hoses come into play. Trays the garden centers will have. Once we get out into the garden, we will discuss watering systems! 😉

Seed Starting Mix: You can make your own pretty easily but it involves getting 3 components in quantity which this year I just took a pass on. I’m using Jiffy Organic Young Plant mix and so far, the lil ladies (and dudes) are loving it. Any garden center will have this.

Spray Bottle: important tool for the very beginning stages as you will need to keep the soil moist but not wet. Any of your garden centers will have this.

Small humidifier: not totally necessary, but if you live in dry conditions, it might be worthwhile. I seed start in a big house with multiple forms of heat (baseboard HW, propane fireplace, wood burning fireplace) so we require humidifiers for US … it is definitely helpful for the seedlings. The optimal range is 50% which can be tough, hence the lil humidifier… There is a fine line though, and reading up on the WHYs is helpful. I’d only suggest a small humidifier if you are in DRY CONDITIONS, but then supplementing with a small fan once your seedlings are about 1 -2 inches tall…. the balance of humidity & airflow around your plants is crucial to aid in how the plants breathe (plant respiration)… it is a balance between drawing up/in moisture and nutrients and evaporation. Too humid = bad. The plant can shut its stomata (pores on the underside of the leaves), no place for evaporation to occur and therefore nothing is drawn up from the roots and all sorts of bad things can happen. Too dry = bad. If there is not enough humidity, the plant overheats as there is no way for it to breathe/regulate temperature anymore. For most hobbyists and backyard gardeners, the knowledge of the why is enough and helps you keep a close eye on your moisture levels. If you are in a dry climate however, it might be worth having a small humidifier ready to go. While most houseplants like the humidity to be 30-40%, growing veggies/flowers like it between 40-70% (and sometimes higher in the summer) throughout their life-span. Each stage, plants perform optimally at different levels… and is a way to have better control over pests/disease.

When I say small, I mean small LOL. Even a travel sized fan and humidifier is most likely sufficient. I just bought the above one and hope to have it up and running in my prop house… currently my temps are around 70 degrees but with below 30% humidity. EEEEK!

These are my basics for seed starting…. what do you use? Are you upgrading? Just starting out? I would love to hear!

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