It’s the Husband again.  Coming to you live from a cold, blustery Midwestern landscape.  Who else is ready for Spring?  We’ve had at least four brief teases that promptly get buried under six inches of pounding snow.

To stay sane, I’ve done a ton of winter planning for our vegetable garden. If only the weather would cooperate so I can finally get some action. A guy can only take so much furniture arranging, curtain hanging, and painting. While I enjoy helping Joanna make our new home beautiful (and covering up way too many walls of pink), I’d much rather be lumberjacking and working on projects outside.

I feel cooped up. Tense. Ready to pop.

Thankfully, it’s almost time to sow some seed.

But every guy knows you can’t just jump right in to something like that with only hope and good luck.  It takes preparation.  You have to tidy up first, set the mood lighting, make sure your rack is sturdy, maybe even pull out the chains.

I don’t know, whatever you’re into.  I’m not here to judge.

Here’s our homemade Seed Starter and Grow Light Rack we built last week.

Seed Growing 4 RW

Want to see how easy it is to assemble one for yourself?  Not only is it fun to watch seedlings sprout indoors, it extends your growing season, meaning more vegetables to eat, while saving you tons of money over buying established plants for your garden, let alone buying the produce at a grocery store.

Luckily, I was able to save one of the biggest costs of this project by re-purposing a metal storage unit from our garage.  After a quick dusting, we moved it to the corner of our guest room.  My future little babies need warmth and there is none of that in the garage.

Seed Growing 1 RW

Next, I attached under each shelf the cheapest 48″ light ballast my local Menard’s has to offer.

Seed Growing 2 RW

Seed Growing 3 RW

There are two important considerations when purchasing your grow lights.  First, make sure they are the correct size bulbs for your ballast.  In my case, that is T8. Second, only use full spectrum natural light bulbs, as they most closely mimic the natural sunlight your seedlings need.  There are plenty of expensive bulbs marketed specifically as grow lights, but thanks to a tip from my friend Patrick I learned this cheaper option from the local big box store is the exact same thing.

Midwestern Light RW

Insert appropriate grow lights and position them a few inches above where your spring spawn will germinate.

Seed Growing 4 RW

Place containers under the grow lights.  I chose to use several of these small tupperware bins instead of one large container.  That allows me to easily segregate our vegetables and carry them out to the garden in smaller batches when they’re ready to transplant into the outside beds.  Also, six of them fit perfectly on one shelf.  Also… they were on clearance.

Add a power strip and timer so your lights can be on 14ish hours a day and you’re good to go.

Cost Breakdown for this Project:

$0 – Storage Rack (Re-purposed)

$0 – Power Strip (Re-purposed)

$0 – Light Timer (Re-purposed)

$27 – 3 Light Ballasts

$24 – 6 Full Spectrum Grow Lights

$18 – 18 Tupperware Bins

$69 – TOTAL

Looks like that wining and dining is going to pay off.

Next time I’ll show how I made the soil cubes that will protect our little Midwestern love children as they develop.

SoilCube

 –Mike

Question(s) of the Day: Do you grow a vegetable garden? What’s your favorite thing in there?

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14 Comments

  1. That’s cool! A science teacher at the last school where I taught used a similar setup in the classroom and had the kids help him grow the plants. Then, they would sell them to the staff for cheap and put the money back into the plants for next year. As a homeowner, I’ve never had enough room to grow plants other than a few herbs in my kitchen window. When we move, I hope to try something, but it will depend on the space, the sunlight, and what is a good price at the plant store. 🙂 Any plants that you find super easy to grow?
    Aly recently posted…Slow-Cooker Chicken CacciatoreMy Profile

    • Tomatoes and Peppers always seem to be the go-to standard for things that do well when new to gardening. Both in ease of growing and of course in ease of using. In reality, almost anything is easy so long as you prep good soil and use a lot of mulch (to help eliminate drying out).

      I’m reading a lot in preparation for experimenting with super easy self-reliant edibles, preferable perennials that come back every year, that most people don’t consider for their garden – Jerusalem Artichokes, hazelnuts, berries, garlic, shallots, borage, etc. We’re probably going to plant at least 30 varieties of things this year to see what works.

      • Tomatoes are tough to grow here because we don’t really get any rain in the summer, but I forgot about berries! They do well here, and I might try garlic (all plans for the future home). I didn’t realize garlic was a perennial! Maybe hazelnuts, too….I love them for baking and I know they do grow them here. Thanks for the ideas!
        Aly recently posted…Slow-Cooker Chicken CacciatoreMy Profile

        • There are a lot of things one can do to either make irrigation easy, or better yet, prepare the soil so you don’t need as much of it. Since I’m starting from scratch here, I’m building our garden beds to do the latter and will post about it. If you are at all interested in a sneak peek, Google up hugelkultur. It’s an old German technique that I’m betting will make it so I only have to water maybe twice late this summer thanks to our beds being able to hold onto the massive spring rains.

          Plus I will have rain barrels set up under our downspouts (painted up to look pretty). Depending where one’s garden is, it’s super easy to set up a drip line off those and have automatic, free irrigation all the time. It’s amazing how much water can be harvested off your roof.

          There are a lot of fairly simple things our great-grandparents did to solve problems like “not enough rain” that nobody remembers how to do anymore thanks to a grocery store being on every corner. 🙂

      • I do NOT recommend jerusalem artichokes. http://cookingdangerously.com/?p=545. Maybe you’re into that kind of thing though, who knows. 🙂 We have a very teensy amount of space for our garden, but my the husband makes the most of it. Cucumbers are the gift that keep on giving. Might try pumpkins this year? But those might take up our yard. I’m going to tell him about your post – loved it!
        Ann recently posted…Chicken to try chicken livers?My Profile

        • Yeah . . . I’m with you. I eat regular ol’ artichokes about once a year when all the work I am willing to put in is pulling out the can opener. If he wants to grow them, that’s cool, but he can cook them and eat them. Maybe they will be pretty to look at and I can consider them flowers?

  2. I can relate to absolutely nothing in this post. But I still like it. That is what I love about you guys.
    Any tips for growing stuff in the desert with an average temp of 115 in July? I think I grew tomatoes once on my porch when I lived in Seattle and I was so proud of my two or three that actually grew.
    Cinnamon @ eatpraytri recently posted…Vegas part 2- the foodMy Profile

    • Yeah, that definitely makes things a little harder, but there are improvements you can make to your yard that after awhile become self-sufficient. Probably nothing you personally *want* to do as I have a feeling you can’t guarantee you’ll still be living in that house in ten years. 🙂

      If you’re bored, look up Geoff Lawton and “Greening the Dessert”. There are some great YouTube videos out there on his project besides the reading. He decided to prove his wacky land reconstruction/conservation techniques (of which I’m a big fan) by turning the most inhospitable barren desert he could find into a lush food production machine in a very short time. Think Middle Eastern Sandhole inhospitable.

      So California desert is definitely possible with a little bit of water management that would include swales, terraces, rain gardens, downspout barrels, and tons of mulch.

      My in-person consulting fee is 24 Oreos and 24 oz PBR per day plus you have to entertain the wife and kiddo while I’m on site. 🙂

  3. I’m planting honey coated Cheerios this year to grow a batch of glazed donuts. I think the deer and rabbits will leave them alone but they may attract cops.

    • By lining your garden perimeter with an invisible fence constructed of the Bill of Rights, heavy on the 4th and 5th Amendments, you can deter all but the most intrusive.

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