Seed Starting and Soil Amendments

| 4/13/2018 8:41:00 AM

Jennifer Quinn

Every year I feel compelled to start some seedlings for the garden, despite not having the ideal seed-starting setup. I'm on a tight budget, and I suppose it wouldn't break me to buy some bedding plants — in fact, it might pay off in harvest rewards — but I still have all this cabbage and broccoli seed, and I hate to waste it. Plus there's a certain satisfaction in having grown one's own plants from start to finish!

In the past I've tried starting seedlings in the house on a small heating pad, then moving them to the garage, where I have large, east-facing windows, supplemented by long tube lights. But starting them indoors makes such a mess! And I've found that even with the sunlight and the tube lights the plants become very spindly, since the lights are so high up and they're really supposed to be a few inches above the seedlings. The plants just keep stretching up, trying to get more light.

Then I got the idea that maybe the lights could be lowered, but after a little investigation that turned out not to be feasible. Finally it occurred to me — Duh! Couldn't I just find a way to raise up the plants? So, first I took a small table from the house that I had been using to try and keep a thyme plant alive in front of a window, and put that on top of the work bench that's under the tube lights. That brought the seedling tray a couple of feet closer, but I still wasn't satisfied.

Finally I ended up with this setup:

seedlings setup

As you can see, I later added a lamp to the bottom shelf for seedlings that were ready to be put in individual pots. Anyone who saw pictures of my leggy seedlings last year can appreciate the difference:

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