On growing new gardens.

There is clearly a metaphor waiting to happen in this title, and I’ll get there. At some point. But the thing that presses me to write right now is this:


Tiny green growing things. In the basement. (The one we spent tens of thousands of dollars to jack up and patch up and protect with new drainage. We’re still surprised it works.) It’s magic down there.

If you’ve never tried seed-starting, it’s not that complicated, but you do need more gear than you’d think. They need more light than you think, for starters, so you want proper grow lights (we use the $11 shop lights from Lowe’s with full-spectrum bulbs like the cheap ones they sell or the nicer ones from Agri-sun.). And they need more warmth than we have, so they want seed-starting mats (I use these, though I bought mine ages ago and for much cheaper). Then of course you need the trays (without holes, so you can water the seedlings from below and thus not drown them), the cells in which to start them, and a few of the clear domes to keep moisture in until things germinate. I also opted for a timer switch to keep my lights on a reasonable and self-managed schedule.

And you need some kind of rig to hold all this; we got a 5-tier wire shelf from Target (4′ long to match the shop lights we use), and we set two seed-mats end to end under each light on each shelf. This creates pretty huge capacity, which is good from where I sit, because I’m starting big new gardens and, let’s face it, making new friends in the neighborhood by giving away seedlings.

Then all you do is think about what you want to grow (I’m a huge fan of Fedco Seeds for inspiration and especially for purchasing), buy the seeds, check the timing of starting them, and go to it! Right now, we have various onions and leeks, broccoli and cauliflower and tiny Gonzalez cabbages; dahlias, marigolds, delphinium; parsley and fennel. And that uses up less than two of my flats! Thrilling. Up next are tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, echinacea, lavender, and a host of other goodnesses.

(Yes, I’ll do a proper post with pictures of our seed-starting rig; the most exciting thing is that the set-up cost only about $125, whereas the pre-made versions you can buy run up to over $800! And yes, I’ll do a proper post about the details of seed-starting, though surely you can find those elsewhere too…)

But NEW GARDENS. Did I mention? New gardens? Next steps include bulk delivery of compost, lots of cardboard, and a chainsaw…


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