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. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees, berry bushes, chickens, and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Friday, April 01, 2016

my seedling shelves today

seedling shelves IMG_5316
My shelves are tucked in the corner of my garage this year. It stays about 60F out there. I think this low temp will be good for the seedlings. I'm thinking they'll grow a bit slower and end up a bit stockier and less leggy than when they were indoors at 70F. We'll see.

Here's the list of what I've planted so far: my 2016 planting list. I'm having more trouble than usual with failed germination this year. It's the old seed. I'm noting the ones that don't come up and throwing out the packages. Mostly it's the ones from back around 2009. (I suppose that's pretty old - I love to save seed.)



Blogger CHRIS said...

HI. Love your blog! So much info! And you're local! (I'm in Walpole, ma) Wondered if your current grow light setup fit the needs of the size garden you have. Do you start all your seedlings in there all season long? Just some? Wondering if it feels like you have to pick and choose what to put in there or not... I'm thinking of investing in one but am not sure what size would be best. Any tips/things to look for? What is the lowest temp environment you should set up in for spring veg vs fall veg? This would be my first grow light station! Also- speaking of old seed... So I can use your experience as a reference, how carefully did you store your seed that failed? I know that really impacts how long seeds last and I'm hoping I can draw a reference between what you do and how long they lasted for you versus what I do (not much!) and what I should expect. Your help is so appreciated! And keep sharing your garden experiences... They are so inspiring and one of the highlights of my week!
Happy gardening!

April 01, 2016 8:33 PM

Blogger Milena Damianova said...

Hi Kathy,
I am curious do you use the lights as a supplement only (mornings, evenings) while leaving the seedlings in a sunny spot during the day or do you keep them under the lights all the time and how many hours of darkness do they get?
Thank you for sharing.

April 01, 2016 8:35 PM

Blogger kathy said...


I'm starting to wonder about this question. My shelf system always fit the needs of my previous gardens. I had a 20x20 ft vegetable garden in my side yard and a 25x20 ft community plot. I also grew plants for my parents' 40x20 ft garden and lots of extras to give away. I grew everything from seed except a few things here and there that I forgot of that failed to germinate. With three shelves, I fit two 1020 trays (standard size) trays full of pots and seed packs per shelf.

Now my home garden is a bit bigger, well twice the size. I want to plant lots of flowers as well as the usual vegetables. I still have my community plot, my dad passed away last week, but I'll plant the garden for my mom and I'll give away plants to friends. I'm a little worried that my shelves are full already.

But, only a little worried. I don't really think it's a problem. I'll go through the season and see.

The plants do get shuffled around. I often leave trays in the house on the warmers temperature for germination. Then I put them on the shelves under lights. The plants on the shelves now are cool weather crops. Onions, broccoli, etc. in a few weeks, they'll be able to go outside in a sheltered location for a couple weeks to harden off before transplanting. That'll free up room on the shelves for the warm weather crops like cucumbers and squashes.

The real space hog is the solanacea, the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. I grow lots of these. I start them in little cells then transplant to 3 in pots. Those take up room. I think if they were all going to be under lights I'd need two shelves. Maybe I will get a second set someday since my garage has space. But my living room has floor to ceiling windows, my plan is to line up a row of trays along the edge of the room. (Don't tell my husband...). I did ok last year. Actually the transplanted solanacea were mostly out on the patio in a sheltered location up against the house area ft to move inside in cold weather.

And,yes, I start seeds on the shelves all season long. And, no, I don't pick and choose. At least not because of the shelves. I pick and choose a bit because off space. Though I do have so much. I could hardly tend or eat more.

I highly recommend the shelf set up I have. I've used this 8 or 20 years now and it's perfect. Just keep the lights very close to the plants.

I've only used room temp before, which was fine. A friend of mine raises seedlings at about 55F in her basement and they do very well. For some plants she uses a heat pad under the trays for germination. Peppers especially need it warm for germination.

Good luck with the seed shelves. It really expands your gardening options to be able to raise your own seeds. It gets very expensive to always buy plants and you're limited in your varieties. It'll take a few years to learn the most successful methods to grow seedlings, but it's really fun. Most important- use clean pots and sterile potting soil. And don't over water (or underwater). Good luck.

April 01, 2016 11:14 PM

Blogger kathy said...

So Chris, I think that was a multi part question. I mean like multi multi parts.

So about the seed saving. Most seed viability charts say seeds last about 4 years. Each type of seed lasts differently. Carrots and parsnips I know don't last long. I try to use them up in two years. Onions are second. I think for me five years. I had germination failures with my onion seed that was from 2010 this year. Oh well. Squash, beans, peppers last a little longer for me. The tomatoes last forever, well 10 years.

How carefully did I store them? Well they didn't get super hot and they didn't get wet or freeze. I store my seed at room temperature (65-75f) in an open box. Most seeds are best in paper envelopes but sometimes I put fully dried, hand collected ones in baggies. I collect all those little moisture absorbent packs that come in new clothes and shoes and I throw them in with my seeds. With my new garage, I'll be storing my seed box out there at lower temperature now, at least in winter. Ideal storage temp is about 45F I've read. Ideal humidity is about 30% I've read. If you can do that you can store some seeds for hundreds of years - again so I've read.

Mostly I do fine storing my seed 2-5 years. I just plant those older ones in case there's some viability left. And if I haven't used a package up in 5 years, it probably wasn't my favorite variety any way. Same with the seeds I collect myself. Except those are generally my favorite varieties and I plant the every year and collect new seed.

April 01, 2016 11:36 PM

Blogger Joe said...

I just read your comment above. I'm so sorry to hear about your dad. Please know that you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.

April 01, 2016 11:43 PM

Blogger kathy said...

Hi Milena,

I leave the plant lights on 12 hours a day using a timer. Position the lights very close to the plants. The fluorescent tubes don't generate heat snd won't hurt the plants. Usually you can't get a reasonable amount of light in through windows, so I think you need to run 12 hr lights even if you have some sun light. My shelves are in a dark area of the garage and are getting only artificial light. Any time the weather is good, I bring the seedlings, or at least a few trays, out onto my patio table to get full sun and fresh air. You can't beat full sun and it's almost 12 hrs long now.


April 01, 2016 11:46 PM

Blogger kathy said...

Thank you Joe. That is really kind of you. My dad taught me to appreciate vegetable gardening. We miss him.

April 02, 2016 12:14 AM

Blogger blueberry1946 said...

Just read about your dad. Sending comforting thoughts from Princeton, MA

April 04, 2016 12:38 PM


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