It is February, which means it is time to be starting spring crops. We start all our seedlings under grow lights and on seedling heat mats. Everything is in our basement currently, but in the future we will be moving seedling production to the greenhouse.
Our seedling flats were moved to the basement today and have begun to come up to germination temperature. Once the growing medium reaches the correct temperature we will add seeds.
Start with hardy and moderately hardy varieties
Everything we are starting now are varieties that are hardy and moderately hardy. They will go into the garden well before our average last day of frost and will be protected with mini hoop houses. Some of this will hopefully be going into a greenhouse we will build soon.
Our seedling choices for spring
We have amended our list of crops for this year. Those we will be planting first are broccoli, cauliflower, onions, kale, spinach, red and white beets, and cabbage.
Determining when to start seedlings
While planning or starting spring crops we take advantage of the garden planning detail sheet in spreadsheet form. We enter or ADLF and the spreadsheet will calculate when we need to start and transplant the different seedlings. You can get the XLS file from the Mittleider Gardening group on Facebook. It is in the files section there in the group.
Every couple weeks we will be starting more seedlings.
Changes we are making to our garden plan
We are dropping a few plant varieties that we really don’t eat and have added a few. Radishes, eggplant, bush beans and Brussels sprouts have been removed from our garden plan for this year. The bush beans were difficult to get everything picked without having some sort of trellis to hold up the plants. We are instead going a pole bean. The others we found we just don’t eat much. That space they used to occupy will be better used for the things we do eat.
Let us talk about grow lights . If you’re going to grow a Mittleider garden, or any garden for that matter, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not using them. But why use them you ask? Because starting your own seedlings gives you several distinct advantages. As a result of growing your seedlings indoors you get a jump on your growing season. Due to having 4-6 week old seedlings ready to plant as soon as the outdoor temperature is right your growing season will be longer. Starting seeds in the ground outdoors once it is warm enough versus transplanting healthy seedlings as soon as its time to begin gardening.
Another big advantage of starting seedlings is that the gardener can discard any weak seedlings. You can also start enough seeds to cover any seeds that fail to germinate. As a result you will have no empty spaces in your gardens row. And a full row looks fantastic. Not to mention, a full row of plants puts more food on your table and in your pantry.
Our grow light and heating mat setup
We setup our second grow light in the basement to start seedlings under. If you look under the seedling flats you will see the black seedling heat mats. The grow lights are each the Agrobrite T5, 4 foot long, 6 tube light fixtures.
The grow lights are each suspended with their own pair of Apollo Horticulture GLRP18 grow light hangers. After using these hangers I can honestly say I’ll never have another grow light setup that doesn’t include them. They make lifting and lowering the lights for watering or general access the seedlings an absolute breeze.
The seedling heat mats
These heat mats are important because they keep the soil and seed temperatures warm enough for germination to occur. It is especially relevant that if the correct temperature isn’t maintained the seedlings will die or seeds fail to germinate.
Everything is connected to the surge protector and the lights controlled by an inexpensive digital timer/controller. The lights are on for 18 hours daily and the the heat mats are set to keep the seedling trays at 80 degrees.
For a better look at our system check out this YouTube video:
Our quest to be self reliant and grow a healthy garden