Use a seed germination station to get an early start on your vegetable garden this year by starting your seeds indoors. In this post I will detail how I set up my own seed germination station using the steps detailed in the “Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook” and “The Vegetable Gardener’s BIBLE”.
Now, this is the first time I’ve attempted this type of setup so feel free to read along and learn how do it yourself. I’ve included links to the books I referenced below. Read them for useful tips on planning and managing your own vegetable garden.
The Final Product
Once you’ve completed the steps detailed in this post your completed seed germination station will look similar to this. A seed germination station will help you get an early start on your vegetable garden when it’s too cold to sow your seeds directly in to ground.
I’m currently using this setup to start some organic herb seeds i’ve purchased: slow bolting cilantro, sweet basil, and common chives. The sweet basil and common chives sprouts should appear in 7 to 14 days while the cilantro will take 14-21 days.
How Does it Work?
Now why would you want a seed germination station? As it turns out sowing directly in the ground requires that the soil temperature is warm enough to support germination. If you want to start early, the ground may not be ready for your seeds, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait. To simulate ideal growing conditions, a heating mat is used to warm the bottom of the trays. Once the seedlings emerge, the lighting simulates the spectrum of light required for photosynthesis to occur and encourages growth of roots. The dome is used to provide humidity and prevent the soil from drying out while the seeds germinate.
Building Your Own Seed Germination Station
To get started you will need supplies and equipment, most of which can be found at your local garden center or hardware store.
- 48″ x 24″ x 0.5″ plywood board (not shown)
- 48″ x ~20″ heating mat
- 2 x 1020 Tray without drainage holes
- 72 cell flats in each of the seeding trays
- Soil-less potting medium
- Humidity Dome
- 4′ Grower’s Light with Cool White Bulbs
- Plywood Board 2′ x 4′ x 0.5″ (optional)
I purchased most of my supplies online from a few reputable retailers. Here’s a shout out to GreenHouse Megastore which has great prices on growing supplies.
Your Seed Starting Location
Before you assemble your seed germination station, you will need to locate a place indoors. The following should be considered when selecting a site:
- Access to water
- Humidity (less is better)
I chose to start in my garage as I had a clean counter available and it was relatively low humidity. You may also consider a counter in your kitchen or a guest bathroom.
Assembling Your Seed Germination Station
I started with placing a .5″x2’x6′ sheet of board on the counter and then placed the heating mat on top of the board. My thought behind this is that it will provide some insulation and will keep water from pooling up underneath the heating mat in case of spills (which will happen when I water the seedlings).
Next I hung the lights from the ceiling using some adjustable hangers. This will allow the lights to be as close to the plants as possible to simulate daylight indoors.
Following recommendations, I prepared all of the tools, flats, and surfaces by cleaning with a 1/10 bleach solution. The reason you will want to do this is to prevent any fungi or bacteria from growing in your flats which can in turn kill your seedlings.
Next, I moistened the seed starting mix and packed the soil into the flats. I placed the flats into the trays and then moved them onto the seed starting mat.
I followed the instructions on the seed packets to sow about 1/4″ beneath the soil and then covered the flats with the humidity dome. Next, I set the temperature controller to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and turned off the lights. The lights will come on when the seedlings emerge from the soil.
Note that I wasn’t specific on how to sow the seeds. You may want to look for some YouTube videos on how to do this, as it can be done in a variety of ways.
Check back with me next week to see how the seeds are doing.