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Seedlings continue to grow…

Grow racks at night

Seedling production is on about the same schedule as last year, except there are a few new things on the go: celery, onions, leek, celeriac. The three grow racks aren’t yet full (and there’s a fourth to build), but all that will change in a couple of days, when peppers and eggplant start. This is also when gambling on the weather begins, which at this point affects when I choose to start certain crops. Already, based on the 15-day forecast, it looks like a much colder March ahead than in the last couple of years, and with all the snow cover, a quick thaw towards the end of the month will still mean a few extra days of drying out time. And then there’s April to “consider”—it’s all basically pure guessing, colored by a little wishful thinking. IF there’s gonna be cold and snow for a good part of April, early transplanting will be delayed. So, starting some things in a couple of days, or in a week, or in two weeks, could make a fair bit of difference. If I have to hold things for an extra 2-3 weeks, there won’t be room under the lights as I start more, and out in the greenhouse, given real sun, growth will be quicker and the seedlings will get crowded. And so on, tons of little calculations and gambles… Nothing is THAT critical, but a little more work here, a little crop slowdown there, it all adds up. I enjoy this, juggling increments in the face of the weather, but it could drive some people into quite a state! :)



  1. dig this chick

    Wow. Impressive set-up!

  2. FarmCat

    Hey, Mike–

    I’m starting a market garden business for the first time this year, and I need to build some seed racks. Could you give me some rough dimensions? Like–what’s the length and width of the shelves? And how much vertical space between shelves? I want to have enough height so that my tomato seedlings aren’t hitting the lights before they go outside at 8 weeks old.

    Thanks for the help!

  3. chuck monk

    Hi, I find your info most useful. Here the local winter farm market has greens year round. Zone 4-5. Thsis is done by one farm using radiant heat in the soil in the greenhouse much like homeowners use beneath flooring. This should save energy and give even heat close to the plants. Maybe this could work for you?

    “Our new high tunnel has allowed us to bring greens to the Winter Troy Farmers’ market along with storage carrots, potatoes, beets, squash, shallots and onions.”

  4. FarmCat: The racks are a minorly modified version of plans in a book called Gardening and Landscaping Techniques (Rodale). It’s made of 2×4’s with 2×3 going across, and plywood shelves. The lights are hung on dowels with finishing nails in the ends that go into sash chain so you can adjust height. Shelves are about 4’x1.5′. Distance between shelves is about 22″ bottom, 20″, and 15″ (top), there’s quite a bit more vertical space on the bottom and middle, and the top is good for germination. I have them on 3″ wheels. Click the grow rack tag, there are some clearer photos from last spring. At 8 weeks, your toms are going to be pretty big, and you may have trouble preventing stretching on these racks with twin fluorescent shop lights. Just a suggestion, but you may want to try a few transplants at only 5-6 weeks, and see how they do against your 8-week ones. Unless you’re using extra deep pots, I don’t think you gain anything much in the field from an extra two weeks in pots… Of course, experiment for yourself! Hope that helps…

    chuck: Great greenhouse pics! Maybe this fall well get a 100′ production…I keep saying that… What’s your radiant heat set-up like? Buried pipes? Water heated how? What air temp can you maintain? That’s something I definitely want to look into!!

  5. FarmCat


    I really appreciate the info. I was able to get the book you mentioned from my library ( I work at it, hehe), and I found the plans for the seed rack.

    I’m new to seed-starting, and it seems like everything I read has different advice for when to start, but I’d trust your advice most. Six weeks for toms, not eight. But I’m itching to plant something! *sigh* Patience, patience . . .

  6. FarmCat: That’s a pretty cool book. It has lots of the regular growing info, but also interesting, practical sections on stuff like flower arranging.

    Re the toms and ADVICE: Yeah, you can get some really different advice on exactly the same things from different books and other sources. My biggest advice is to EXPERIMENT. Don’t trust me, ’cause things are always different depending where you’re located and exactly how you do things. I’d say you can save some extra care and rack time by seeding toms at 7 weeks, germination will be within a week, so you’ll have 6 weeks of above ground growth. But try some at 8 weeks, and maybe even at least a couple of plants seeded at six weeks. And if the weather’s good, try transplanting some out early. And grow a few backups, you can sell or give them away. It’s incredibly satisfying to look back on each year’s experience as you plan for the next, and the more little experiments you do (even though you’re totally swamped and just want to make a decision and on to the next thing), the more you’ll pick up, because in the garden, for me at least, seeing is believing! ;)

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