March is fast approaching, which means it’s seed starting time here in Cincinnati. I like to start plants from seed whenever possible because it’s fun and economical. It also allows me to grow different varieties, such as Renee’s Garden Climbing Summer Squash, which I can’t find at local nurseries. (By the way, it’s delicious, grows like crazy, and wasn’t bothered by squash bugs at all last summer. It’s also a great conversation starter!)
Thinking of starting seeds this year? Start small! The first couple of years, I had one light and space for just about one flat of seedlings. Once I became interested in starting more plants from seed, my husband was nice enough to give me a corner in the basement storage area and build me my own seed starting shelves. It’s a standard setup with adjustable shelves and double rows of fluorescent lights. He used Old World Garden Farms’ instructions as a starting point. Our basement is cold so there are insulation panels on three sides, which you can’t really see. You can see the hose for watering, which was easy enough for him to do and is so much easier than using misters or watering cans. As you can also see, it’s really hard to take good pictures in our basement!
While you can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on equipment, you don’t need to. If you’re handy, or know someone who is, build your own shelves. Otherwise, you can buy inexpensive metal shelving or reuse an old book shelf.
Once you have the shelves figured out, here’s a breakdown of what you’ll need:
- Lights and a timer. Fluorescent shop lights have worked great for me. You can buy dedicated grow lights but they’re expensive and not really necessary. You’ll generally want the lights on about 15 hours a day, so it’s easiest to control them with a timer. I bought a programmable power strip timer this year and really like it. So much easier than keeping track of 3 separate timers.
- Heating mats. Many seeds need warmth to germinate. Over the years, I’ve bought seedling heat mats on sale or through eBay. You can also use heating pads or other DIY methods.
- Seed starting mix. Buy good quality or mix and make your own. Not sure how to make your own? Garden Betty has you covered.
- Containers. You can buy seedling flats and containers, use red Solo cups or eggshells or toilet paper rolls….the possibilities are endless. If you’re reusing containers, make sure you clean them. Remember my February goals? See Goal 1. but many seeds need warmth to germinate.
- Water. Misters, spray bottles, hoses, watering cans, re-purposed milk jugs, whatever you choose—you’ll need water.
I started some seeds this past weekend, including verbena, petunia, arugula, spinach, and lettuce. I’ll be starting lots more over the next week or so and will be sure to share!