This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he thought the garden was his, even though I did all the work. But Skippy always stood by me and was a great friend. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps and garden with me. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees and berry bushes, chickens and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

planning for a seedling shelf system

I meant to look into a shelf system for seedlings this weekend. Best of intentions ... But my cold is still getting the better of me.

I was feeling good on Saturday and maybe over did it with a nice hike. After doing the school-sport-cheering-Mom thing, I took some kids and some dogs hiking. The local Boston trails are covered with a foot of packed powder. Fantastic for hiking. Unusual here. Usually we get melting and end up with icy slick paths, terrible to walk on. Packed powder is beautiful, the hike was lovely. But today I'm "under the weather" again....

Anyway, the plan is to buy an inexpensive metal shelf system (I'm hoping for good sale at Target or Costo). I have a wall area cleared and ready. A south facing window to make use of what sunlight there is. I'll buy lights and attach them to each shelf. (Someone left me a comment here with nice plans for a shelf and light set up. I hope I can locate this comment.)

Last year I tried to go with only window light and this was not enough. I then used my fish tank light and my tank didn't do so good. I'm looking forward to a nice seedling shelf. I enjoy watching the seedlings grow. I'm sure I'll end up with photos to post....

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17 Comments:

Blogger Liisa said...

For an inexpensive shelving unit, check CraigsList and Freecycle! Good luck!

January 25, 2009 7:43 PM

 
OpenID wendyusuallywanders said...

When I lived on my farm I built two massive shelving units with multiple shop lights for starting seedlings. Now that I live in an apartment, I have been planning to make a unit with prefab shelving and shop lights. I am also considering cement blocks and wooden boards for shelves. I look forward to seeing whatever you concoct. I'm going to build my set-up next weekend or later. Shhhhhhhh.....I'm supposed to be resting :-P

January 25, 2009 8:36 PM

 
Anonymous Ann-Marie said...

I'm creating one on the fly -- one of those heavy-duty "wire" shelving units you see in professional kitchens (not terribly expensive at the MegaHome stores), with three clip-on shop lights (really cheap at the MegaHome stores) and a couple of Ott Grow-Bulbs (rather expensive at the MegaHome stores). The shelves aren't affected by moisture, the clip-on lights have plenty of places to perch, and I can stash the supplies on the bottom. I bet clear plastic shower curtains wrapped around the whole thing would make a great vertical greenhouse, too.

January 25, 2009 8:47 PM

 
Anonymous Kat said...

We did this today; bought a shelving unit at Home Depot, shoplights and tubes. I'll report on it on my blog once it's up. Might be a while still... If you find that link, can you let us know?

January 25, 2009 10:16 PM

 
Blogger tj sondermann said...

I set up a DIY system myself last year, basically as described in the comments above.

Pic here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tsondermann/2387478155/

It's worked out fairly well.

January 25, 2009 11:56 PM

 
OpenID livinginalocalzone said...

I'm sorting out plans for seed starting too.... are you thinking of a free-standing setup or are you mounting to the wall? I'm considering a bookshelf kind thing with no back to it with lots of space between shelves and grow bulbs mounted under each shelf....

January 26, 2009 3:20 AM

 
Blogger pjkobulnicky said...

Kathy ... try to do it so the shelves are adjustable. The lights need to be right above the plants when the plants are tiny otherwise they will get spindly reaching for light. As they get older and more mature, the distance is not as critical. Another option is to have one shelf for flats that are just sprouted that is right under the light and the rest spaced with more separation.

Paul

January 26, 2009 11:45 AM

 
Anonymous phyllis said...

We have a seed starting set-up in our garage made from Home Depot metal shelving, seedling heat mats and grow lights on S-chains. Here is a blog post and photos of it from last spring:

http://greenuniverse.wordpress.com/2008/04/21/seeds-are-underway/

We live close to Boston on the south shore and last year I started seeds with this set-up on March 1, and it works so well that this year I think I will move it back a week even with this cold.

January 26, 2009 9:04 PM

 
Blogger kathy said...

I'm thinking also of a free standing metal shelf unit. (I thought I saw $39 at Target and I got a $10 coupon in the mail today.) Adjustable shelves as Paul says. The lights will attach to the under side of the shelves and I'll need to move the shelves to get the right spacing from the seedlings. Another option is like Phyllis and tj. Both have nice set-ups (and nice photos) with S-chains holding the lights which make the lights adjustable without moving the shelves.

Mine will be inside (65-70*F) so I won't need the seedling heat mats. (Only the peppers will need a warm spot during germination 78*.)

I want to measure the seed trays so I get a good size shelf unit probably for two adjacent trays per shelf.

I like the idea of adding plastic shower curtains. Don't think the seedlings need this, but my orchids would love this in the winter.

As Ann-Marie says, I think the expensive part here is the bulbs. Sounds like this may add up. Looks like Phyllis has four 48-inch bulbs per shelf and tj has two per shelf. I think plant bulbs run about $10 each.

January 26, 2009 10:36 PM

 
Anonymous phyllis said...

I'll check when I leave the house today, but I'm pretty sure we have a single tube in each 48 inch fixture (we got the least exepnsive ones); I do use two units per shelf though because with a single fixture the seedlings will bend towards the light and I want to keep them growing straight and stocky. I agree you won't need a heat mat if your set-up is in the house. The other supplies are a power strip, a timer, swing set chain, s-hooks and some old carpet underneath the seed trays to absorb spilled water.

January 27, 2009 6:59 AM

 
Blogger jj said...

Hi Kathy,

I emailed you the idea for the shelves a few weeks ago along with a question about winter sowing. Although you didn't respond to my winter sowing question (no matter, I found your blog entry and also the winter sown website), I am glad to see that you liked the grow light set-up idea. As I mentioned before it is from a book called "Designing the New Kitchen Garden, An American Potager Handbook" by Jennifer R. Bartley. I have also seen it done on the web with cement blocks and wooden shelves with the lights attached under the shelves with screw eyes, s-hooks & chains. My set-up with the metal shelves (Lowes) and 4' florescent fixtures with chains & s-hooks included (Home Depot) cost about $160.

January 27, 2009 11:32 AM

 
Blogger kathy said...

Thank you. That's the design I knew I saw and forgot where. I have trouble keeping up with things.

BTW All of the winter sowing info I have is here. Here are lists of hardy annual and perennial flowers that you can winter sow. I tried the method with onions, but wasn't successful.

January 27, 2009 12:43 PM

 
Blogger kathy said...

Phyllis, I'm glad to hear you don't have as many bulbs as I thought. I'm thinking to get two bulbs per shelf. And just start with lights on one shelf, add more if I need it.

January 27, 2009 1:01 PM

 
Anonymous Kat said...

Hi Kathy
we paid $25 for a box of ten light bulbs (32 Watts, 6500 K color temp). We bought four light fixtures, at $9 each (cae with chains and S hooks). The large and sturdy shelf was the kicker ($88). Timer, $12. The shelves have holes in the uprights and in those we inserted those round wooden sticks ($1.50), on which we hang the fixtures: we can adjust the lights' height by either the sticks or the length of the chains. I'll post the setup with pics soon.

January 27, 2009 6:37 PM

 
Anonymous Kat said...

Hi Kathy,
I put up a post with our system:
http://blog.bolandbol.com/2009/01/27/germinating-and-growing-seedlings-under-lights-chamber-set-up/
I like the shower curtain idea a lot! We'll probably have to "weld" two together to get a seamless enclosure...

January 27, 2009 10:45 PM

 
Blogger Susie said...

Check out my system . It is made of mostly repurposed materials.

January 28, 2009 10:33 PM

 
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