Saturday, March 23, 2013

Just Being Resourceful

Q: What do you do when there isn't enough room in the greenhouse to start all the seeds you have?

A: Start invading the garage!

I cleared off a counter in the garage in order to make room for about 15 square feet (3'x5') of valuable bottom-heated, well-lit seed starting space.  I added supplemental light in the dark garage by installing a 12,000 lumen flourescent light fixture I bought at the hardware store to hang right above the seedlings.  To provide the additional heat needed, I made this contraption:

I took a couple strands of Christmas lights (the old incandescent mini lights) and spread them out over the counter.  I had some extra marble slabs sitting in the corner doing nothing so I put them to good use and laid them on top of the lights.  Not only do they make a nice, flat surface but more importantly, they distribute the heat evenly just like a real (expensive) heat mat.  This method works super well and I can actually control the amount of heat since I used three strands of lights.

Now to rewind a bit, back on February 8th, I started some 'Legend' tomato seeds in the greenhouse (where it reached the 75 degrees necessary in order to initiate seed germination).  This is how the seedlings looked on February 15th, a week after being planted:

February 15th
Then, on February 28th, I moved them into the garage when I realized I needed to expand operations.  Growing tomatoes in the cool garage with bottom heat means the tomatoes will be encouraged to grow nice, strong roots without the top growth getting too out of hand too quickly.

February 28th
March 13th
March 23rd - Tomatoes in the background with tomatillos in the foreground
This is how they look right now.  The bottom heat provides a constant temperature of about 62 degrees F (16 C).  I am experimenting with leaving the lights on 24 hours a day.  About 10 of the 30 tomato plants show a bit of yellowing, but they should snap out of it once warmer temperatures arrive.  Once May rolls around, I will transport all the subtropical plants from the greenhouse out into the garden and put the tomatoes back in there to soak up as much heat as possible.  My goal is to be picking ripe tomatoes by the 4th of July!


  1. Awesome! Christmas lights, go figure. Do you heat your greenhouse in the winter? How often do you water in dec/jan/feb?

    1. I have an electric heater I use for the greenhouse that is set to go on whenever it drops below 50 degrees. Everything gets watered every 2-4 weeks depending on how dry the soil is and what type of plant it is.