Last season I designed a seed starting station to support the year-round gardening habit. Sometimes a gardener desires plants that cannot be purchased at the garden center, and sometimes the gardener just has to have something growing to tend during the blast of winter. Visit Pinterest or do a search to see the creativity of our gardening friends, and to marvel over their novel approaches to starting seeds.
The design criteria for my station included:
- The station should be low cost. GodPlantedAGarden works within a limited budget.
- The project should be easy to build.
- The station must enhance seed germination and plant growth.
- The unit should disassemble for easy storage in the off season.
- The unit must be sized to fit the open space on an existing workbench without impeding normal shop activities.
A quick trip to the local lumber yard netted these 1×3 pine boards which became the bones of my station. I searched most of the stack to find straight ones, and the cost was about $12.
I’m not including dimensions for the project as this was a custom design. The plan was to build rectangular frames and install corner stabilizers by mitering the ends of shorter boards as shown in the bottom right of the photo. I used a trim gun for assembly.
The result of a few minutes of work was this naked frame with 2 sides, one back, and one top. The top is shorter than the sides as I need clear space to water the plants in the back of the station without bumping my head. The sides and back were joined with four carriage bolts and wing nuts (2 on each side). The top was simply placed without attaching.
I used a simple frame with a curtain of 6 mil plastic as the door (not shown). The heavy plastic was long enough to hang well below the bench top.
I covered the individual pieces with 6 mil clear plastic and added a pair of 60 watt bulbs using sockets from a discarded ceiling fan.
Season 1 did not go well.
- The light was insufficient and the seedlings became leggy.
- The simple plastic curtain across the front would not stop the cold and retain the heat.
- The temperature in the unit refused to climb above the ambient in the unheated shop. Even with blankets covering the top and walls the gain was only a couple of degrees.
But, on a positive note, the unit broke down into its parts easy enough and spent the summer and fall in the attic.
Now, for season 2, I have added several improvements.
The sides, top, and back are stuffed with R-13 insulation and covered with heavy duty aluminum foil. The temperature should easily reach the 70 degree mark, and the foil should reflect the light in all directions.
Did I mention my budget? For a couple of bucks I acquired two aluminum cake pans and created custom reflectors for the twin bulbs. Those bulbs are now 60 watt grow lights.
Although I assembled the unit using the carriage bolts and wing nuts from last year that action was a royal pain. Four cheap clamps will make assembly and disassembly a breeze.
The open section of the top has been replaced with a solid unit, also insulated and covered with foil. That section serves the dual purpose of enclosing the station against drafts and supporting the plywood door. Like the top it is resting on not attached to the sides.
A fan inside the unit provides a gentle breeze which should make the plants stronger and prevent damping off. The lights and fan are controlled by a mechanical timer so I can have light and dark for the seedlings. I currently have the trays on a “12 on/12 off” schedule.
I am noting temperatures in the high seventies and have several plants growing. I visit the plants multiple times each day, and yes, I do talk to them.
Gardening offers health benefits in addition to keeping me off the streets and out of trouble.