There’s no reason why you should have to spend a great deal of money on your seed starting equipment. You can usually get most of it at second hand stores or garage sales.
But you do require a few things if you want to succeed.
The Two Minute Version
You may think it’s an old aquarium but it’s really a high-tech seed starting, cutting rooting chamber and plant propagation system. Well, maybe not so high-tech but it is effective (and cheap).
Let’s Start With Light
If you remember from the introduction, seeds don’t need light to germinate.
But they do need light to grow. This means as soon as the seed has germinated (more than half of your seeds in the pot) you need to move the seedlings to full sunlight.
Up to germination, normal room lighting is fine.
This is a critical condition for most seeds so it’s the area I don’t mess around with.
This is a $25 item from garden centers or Amazon and it’s a sheet of heavy, waterproof vinyl with heat cables embedded in it. Controlled by a simple thermostat when it’s plugged in, it heats up to 70F/21C
You sit your pots or seed packs on it and the soil temperature will be optimum.
I also use an old aquarium (I have a 20-gallon) for both seed starting and taking cuttings. (Yeah, its really, really high tech) 🙂 It sits down in our old, cold basement.
- A mechanic’s trouble light (with heavy duty bulb so it doesn’t crack or break) provides all the heat the seeds require.
- And clear kitchen wrap or bubble plastic forms the top to hold in the heat.
- This takes some “messing” about to a) get the right size bulb to hold the internal air temperature around 75-80F.
- Start small and move up in size. Mine is a 40W bulb to give you a sense of how big to start.
- You’ll also find that covering the top holds in the heat so it’s very easy to overheat (cook) your seedlings.
Do run tests on:
- – size of the aquarium,
- – temperature in the room, and
- – wattage of the bulb as each will change the temperature inside the aquarium.
I use this for seeding and for taking softwood cuttings all spring and summer.
I poked tiny holes in the top of a 1-gallon water jug and use it as a watering can. Alternately, I use a regular watering can to flood the plant rack trays.
Assorted Flotsam and Jetsam
- Thermometer for inside the aquarium.
- Old yogurt containers. Cut into long strips, they make great propagation area plant tags
- Waterproof magic markers (I use Sharpies) for marking name/date of sowing on all labels
- Pots, old packs and trays.
- Rubbermaid containers with tops. These hold our seeds in the cool basement from year to year.
I Found A Plant Rack.
I found a three tier plant rack at an auction and paid a few dollars for it (there were obviously no gardeners in the crowd).
But I’d also use wide wood shelves with cement block supports to make my own. This isn’t fine furniture. Remember you’re likely to drop a fair amount of water and soil on everything.
What Does This Cost Me?
- – I recycle all pots every year and trays from nurseries so that’s no cost to me (other than the original plant cost)
- – I have to replace light bulbs in my seed starting rack (the big one) every few years so there’s about $30/year.
- – I haven’t changed the bulb in the aquarium in 5 years now.
- – Soilless mix: I buy a bale a year. Approximately $35.00 I use half a bale a year in seed starting and transplanting.
- – Seed: most of our seed is saved from year to year but I do purchase about $50. (remember I test and trial a lot of plants – you could do this cheaper than this)
- – Tags from old yogurt containers and a few bucks for a sharpie pen every year.
But How Much Do We Grow?
Last year I produced over 250 pots of perennials/annuals/vegetable plants for the garden. Most of these were unusual varieties you can’t find in garden centers.
And it cost me somewhere around $60-70. (not including seeds)
You can read about other plant propagation techniques here