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Seed starting trays

Seed starting trays

This year I decided to grow all of my tomatoes and peppers from seed. We have a number of local sources to buy transplants here in Central PA, and some of them have a pretty impressive selection of heirloom tomatoes, but heirloom peppers are hard to find. Also, I absolutely love Lacinato kale, and it’s not always easy to find transplants.

I also want to start saving more seeds from my garden, so I decided it was time to make some improvements to my seed starting setup. I’ve had a rough time with starting seeds indoors the last few years. I only have North-facing windows in my apartment, so there isn’t enough natural light to start seeds. Last year I used a small fluorescent “plant light” that apparently wasn’t bright enough, because my seedlings got very spindly.

This year, I’m starting my seeds under a 48″ fluorescent shop light. I built a simple stand for it out of 1″ pvc pipe. Unfortunately I didn’t have the foresight to take pictures during the assembly process, but here’s a look at the finished product:

Fluorescent grow light stand made out of 1" pvc pipe

Fluorescent grow light stand made out of 1″ pvc pipe

To build something similar, you’ll need:

  • 1 x 52″ length of 1″ pvc pipe
  • 2 x 18″ lengths of 1″ pvc pipe
  • 4 x 8″ lengths of 1″ pvc pipe
  • 2 x 1″ pvc elbow joints
  • 2 x 1″ pvc T-joints
  • 4 x 1″ pvc end caps

In total, it adds up to a 10′ length of pvc pipe, which is pretty cheap. The 52″ section makes the crossbeam, and the 18″ pieces are used for the vertical legs. The 8″ sections are used to make the feet. Here’s a link to something similar, although I didn’t make the stand with an adjustable height; I adjust the level of the light just by raising or lowering the chain. The total cost was probably not much more than $40 for the stand, shop light, and fluorescent bulbs.

I also purchased a seedling heat mat, since peppers like warm temperatures for germination, and usually keep my apartment relatively cool. Here’s a list of what I’m starting indoors this year:

Basil
Genovese

Kale
Lacinato
Dwarf Curled Blue Scotch

Peppers
Joe’s Round
Maule’s Red Hot
Jimmy Naradello’s
Chinese Five Color

Tomatoes
Paul Robeson
Black Cherry
Black from Tula
Opalka
Pink Brandywine Cherry (from SSE member OR TR R)
Bosu (from SSE member WI LO M)
Sleeping Lady (from SSE member WI MI B)

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