For us, it’s the first sign of spring,
the greenlight for our growing season,
a good-news story,
… and a real thrill!
The first seeds are up!
Peppers, tomatoes and eggplant were all sown during the last week in February. The first tomatoes & eggplant were up in 4 days while it took only 6 days to see the first pepper shoots.
That’s fast and it’s because of our new germination box.
Until now we’ve always started our seeds in the small greenhouse that’s attached to our workshop. We have a germination bed – sand with heating cables running through it, making a nice, cosy place for the seeds to begin their journey. Over this we have hoops supporting several layers of white row cover for added warmth. And over this is a greenhouse within the greenhouse. For those cold March nights, a small heater keeps the seeds & seedlings comfortable. It’s a little cumbersome, but low tech, low energy use & inexpensive – and it works reasonably well!
This year we built a germination box which provides better conditions for seed sprouting – higher temperatures, but especially more consistent warmth & humidity too.
It’s just a box made of styrofoam sheets. I pushed in nails to hold it together & used tape for additional strength. It’s amazingly stable. The door is held in place by paint cans & elastic bands (don’t knock it, it works!). Heat & humidity are provided by a crockpot filled with water. The planted flats are stacked on a wire shelf which allows the heat from the crockpot to rise throughout the chamber.
A temperature controller maintains the required temperature by turning the crockpot off & on as needed.
Once a day we refill the water in the crockpot. A few times each day we check the trays to see if any seeds are germinating. Then we immediately move those trays into the greenhouse as the seedlings require sunlight to grow.
Overall we are very pleased with our germination box. It was inexpensive & easy to build, and simple to operate. Obviously this is not our original idea. Similar germination boxes are used by many small growers. Even better is using an old fridge or freezer (standing on end) for the structure. It is stronger, cheaper (usually free), and more durable than styrofoam. We just haven’t found one yet.
March is a month filled with seeding – our long-season crops like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers & onions along with some herbs, broccoli, beets … We’re planting every few days as we have room in the germination box. In a few weeks the small greenhouse will be almost full of seedlings and we’ll be moving them over to the large hoophouse (weather permitting). A lot of our time is spent checking the trays, moving them around, watering, keeping track of all the crops (90+ kinds of tomatoes, 62 peppers …)
I guess it’s considered work – but such enjoyable work! March can still be raw, cold & even snowy outdoors. But inside the greenhouse, the balmy temperatures, the smell of the soil & the little plants, the fresh green colours, seeing new growth every day … it all adds up to an awesome work environment!
The Flynns enjoy it all too! On sunny days they sprawl out in the greenhouse soaking up the heat.
When the days are warmer, they lounge outdoors.
Sage, on the other hand, is in bit of a funk now that the snow is gone. She prefers to sleep off her moodiness in the comfort of her home!