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Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Garden Cave: Getting ready for seed starting

Just imagine the room below even more scary with crap everywhere and millions of spider webs - that's what I started with today. Behold my new Garden Cave!

My house is small and indoor space is pretty darn limited. I have no rooms with south facing windows other than my bedroom, which barely accommodates the king bed. Not only do I need a place to store all my gardening crap, I need a place to work on my seed starting. So, with no other choice, I've been banished to the gloomy dirty basement.

This is the room immediately below the bathroom. It's really the only "room" in the basement - the rest is just wide open space. Besides the washer and dryer, we have mostly exercise equipment and unpacked boxes down there. This room seems to have been somebodies work area and this work table was here when we moved in, along with a saw and some left over paint and supplies.

I think this room should be perfect for seed starting, don't you? I mean I'll need to buy shop lights and a timer for the lights but other than that, I bet I can get some seeds going down here. The basement is vented and has electricity so it doesn't get cold. Here's the work table that was here when we moved in. I'm hoping I can mount the shop lights under the 2 shelves and have my seeds right under them. As they come up I'll need to move them.

Now it's time to start getting my containers ready for winter sowing. Between the seeds I start indoors and the ones I wintersow, I should be off to a great spring start.

I'm curious where all you gardeners start your seeds? Is your house big and sunny enough that you have a proper room for this?


  1. I do mine in the garage. I got my shop lights at Walmart. And they worked fine last year. I rigged something similar as what you have. I slung the worklights using some small chains so I could lower and raise them. If you want more of a hands on tutorial check out Eric has a video on how to build a grow light from a shop light.

  2. You could easily put hooks in those floor joists in the ceiling, above one of the other areas and use chains to hang the light down. That way you could adjust the height of the lights as the plants grow. I love starting seeds, it's so facinating to me to watch them emerge, then grow to have leaves.
    I have a shelf my husband made for me that houses two four foot shop lights with grow bulbs in them. I have used it for at least five years, and already have some started now. I also use these styrophome propagation things from Gardner's Supply Co., they have a wicking system that keeps the seeds perfectly moist. After the seeds get a couple of leaves I move them to little plastic dixie cups with a hole poked in the bottom, and the name writen on the side with a permanent magic marker.

  3. Gina... I have a sunroom where I have some plant stands with lights for the seeds. Unfortunately, I have east, west, and north windows, no south window in there, so I still use lights.

  4. I've mostly used bright windows but haven't been really happy with that. This year I'm hoping to put together some shelves in the garage with lights. If you are interested I've tagged you with the Eight Things I'm Happy About meme that came to me from Garden Wise Guy.

  5. I am lucky enough to have a greenhouse, but I can't afford to start it up to early, so I use my basement too. I also overwinter all of my non-hardy plants in the basement under lights.

  6. Marion in SavannahDecember 4, 2007 at 6:43 PM

    I may take over the plant stand from the African violets to start tomatoes and peppers. Our winters are so mild here pretty much everything else can be direct sown. (No basements here, we're about 10 feet above sea level!)

    OT, are you enjoying your EnviroCycle? I may start putting the egg shells into the blender or Cuisinart to chop them up finer. Are you seeing the start of some lovely compost?

  7. chicago - thanks for the advice. I tried looking for that video at the link in your comment but didnt see it. I'll need to take another look.

    christine - great idea about the floor joists! AND the dixie cups!

    carol - oh how I long for a sunroom...

    leslie - keep us posted on how you do this year with your seeds. thanks for the tag - I'll work on that though I'm not too happy these days due to a yucky cold.

    vonlafin - A GREENHOUSE??? Stop bragging! ;)

    marian - HI! thanks for asking about the composter! it's been so cold that I dont think much is going on in there. It's full, though. What i've noticed is that, once I started filling it, I became freakishly aware of throwing away good compostable food scraps. It's troubling because my composter is full so I really have no place to put them. I can't really bury them because everything is covered with snow...

  8. Marion in SavannahDecember 5, 2007 at 4:15 PM

    Gina -- If you have a place to tuck them away you might consider putting the "compostables" in black plastic bags for the winter, and keeping them outside. Freezing helps plant matter break down faster, and you might wind up with a jump start come spring. (Of course I might start that experiment with only one or two bags to see how it would work in the spring... Nothing quite like annoying the guys on the garbage truck with half-decayed plant matter that the composter won't work fast enough to process!)

  9. Room for seed starting? Hahahahaha!
    My hubby built this stand ( for me last year because I think he was sick of starts sitting It was so easy to put together that it's the first project in a very long time that we didn't have to argue about. And where does it go? Smack dab middle of the dining room! So everyone has to deal with it for a few months...tough!
    Good luck with the growing.

  10. It's great that you have that much room for seed starting! I've pretty much given up on indoor seed starting, as there is no room in the house. Maybe once the kids are grown up & moved out, I can convert 1 of their rooms. Someday...

  11. I start mine in the garage with an east window and a shop light. I can raise & lower the light some, but I also put the starts on things to raise them up closer to the light and the window. I try to keep them from being in a draft too. The tomatoes thought it was too cold for them there, but eventually they pulled though and grew great. I may try keeping them under a plastic covering under the light to keep them warmer. Seed starting is great.

    I love your space too. Keep an eye out for an inexpensive area run to give your feet some cushion and warmth. We found an inexpensive one at Ikea, marked as a second.

  12. I also have a basement growing area set up. There are lights that hang from chains that I can adjust as time goes by. Be sure to use soilless potting mix - that way you won't have damping off. That can be a real problem with indoor sowing. I find starting seeds in large cells works better for me. Then I don't have to repot them as they grow bigger. And I've learned from experience not to start things too early. I've had petunias blooming in the basement in March!! While there was still snow on the ground! When it was time for planting outside, they looked bad. I really think most of the time you would need some type of supplemental lighting when growing seedlings. Unless you had a greenhouse. Keep us informed and good luck.

  13. You have a good space there. I have a small 6'x8'green house that i got last April but it will be my first time at winter sowing as i wasnt prepared last season. I think i may have to get some sort of heating in there or my prospective plants will freeze there little roots off.
    By the way thank you for your comment and good luck with your compost!