I’m always hesitant to broadcast seeds directly into the garden because of the risk of poor germination rates. Granted, previous experience had me neglect seeds sown directly into the beds, which need the right temperature and moisture to thrive. Daytime highs are in the upper 60s while nighttime lows in the high 40s and low 50s. It’s still too cold for some delicate summer plants to tolerate, as some of the starts are beginning to show.
I hedge my bets wherever I can, sowing indoors those seeds that I trust will germinate successfully and can handle transplant.
Seeds I’ve sown and re-sown both inside and out:
Agastache rugosa, Korean Hyssop
Salvia coccinea, Scarlet Sage
Salvia farinacea, Sirius Blue Sage
Monarda citriodora, Lemon Bee Balm
Gomphrena haagena, Strawberry Fields
Tropaeolum minus Nasturtium Black Velvet (presoaked)
The last vegetable seeds I direct sowed beginning of March were the bok choy Tiny Hedou and Purple Lady, along with bunching onions Tokyo White. They are finally beginning to emerge. Meanwhile I’m giving the Thai Long Green Eggplant another try although I haven’t had any success with the last batch.
There are still plenty of work to be done to clear the beds of storm debris and frost damaged plants. But the seed starting bug has already bitten me hard.
End of January, I had already started a batch of veggie soil blocks which include tomatoes, habaneros, bok choy, lettuces, spinach, bunching onions, and eggplant. I was lucky enough to source most of the seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, who had them in stock at the time.
I have perennial and annual flowers started in soil blocks as we end February in a flurry of garden prepping.
But of course, there are never enough seeds to start and plant.
I’m not the only one with a gardening bug. Seed companies and online plant purveyors have been hammered by the pandemic demand; most are advertising low inventories and out of stock items. My normal go-to vendors are struggling to keep up with the demand, I’m having a hard time filling out my wish list. Meanwhile, local nurseries are still recovering from the winter storm, so inventories might still be scarce as of this writing.
If I do find something I want, it’s usually through Amazon and I’m highly suspect of the quality. I’m still frustrated by the habanero pepper seeds I obtained through there; germination rates are very low, even after re-sow attempts as we are enter the 4th week since I planted them. I plan on moving them onto my growing stand with the powerful lights to see if that will spur them into germination.
Here’s another loop Texas weather has thrown our way.
My spinach seedlings have also begun to show buds. I snipped those off and, as seen on my IG feed, put out the rest of the leafy green starts, plus some bunching onions.
I also decided to plant out the nasturtium starts into the backyard garden beds. These are the Alaska, Jewel Mix and Black Velvet nasturtiums that I started indoors back in November.. I’m not sure what caused them start yellowing (too much light and fertilizer perhaps), but I can always start a new batch when January comes around.
With wet cold weather forecasted for the end of the year, I’m not sure if these young starts will make it outdoors. However, I’m just happy to get at least one salad harvest from current plantings.
In our garage, real estate is a premium. And no matter how much I emphasized to the DH that the garage is a shared space, inevitably his tools and projects encroach on my grow space.
To be fair, the number of plants in the garage was growing exponentially with each seed starting venture. I had potted plants huddled under grow lights on the ground, and navigating through the garage was like running an obstacle course.
The only way that I could organize is to go up. I spent weeks planning my vertical grow rack build, with a majority of that time researching LED lights. Earlier this month, the parts to my vertical build started arriving.
First was the rack itself. I needed something mobile, heavy duty, with shelf space measuring 2′ x 4′. This size would ensure that I could fit up to quantity 4 1020 seed starting trays.
While I have several metal wire racks that I’ve purchased over the years to store comic books and my workout equipment, I needed to make sure that this plant rack would be able to support at least 2 sets of grow lights, the electrical bar, and a host of potted plants. I’m thinking at least 200-300 lbs of supported weight per shelf would be the minimum.
I decided on the Trinity PRO 4-Tier Rolling Steel Wire Garage Storage Shelving Unit from Home Depot. It’s described as a commercial rack, and I can attest to it’s well-built and sturdy construction. It has a nice anthracite black powder coat finish, though time will tell how long the finish will last in the heat. Also, the rack is very tall so it took a ladder and some muscle for me alone to erect the top shelf. For future note, I would say a rack of this size will need 2 people to complete.
Now on to the fun part. I found that the Hyperlite Groplanner O series LED panel system seemed most ideal system for my DIY grow station build, and the best bang for my buck. Now I should note that I’m a hobby gardener more interested in ornamental and vegetable growing. There were TONS of grow light systems that I sorted through online, most geared toward commercial and “medicinal tomato” growers. Many sellers and reviews highlighted premium features such as name brand LEDs (Samsung), high end drivers (Mean Well), and boasted of high umole efficacy and PPFD/PAR ratings, alongside convenient functions such as dimmer controls and daisy-chaining.
Once I got all the competing brands and models into a spreadsheet, crunched some numbers, and compared the different feature sets, I decided the Groplanner LED system looked best on paper. I purchased the 2-panel 300W system to light the bottom rack where my peppers and potted lavender plants would be housed. Eventually I installed the lights mid-rack, to provide light to my starter plant trays.
Here are unboxing pictures of the 300W system. It came very well packed with all the accessories and hanging hardware I could need. The instructions were a bit too much on the fine print, but thankfully I found the assembly instructions posted online.
I can’t say with any confidence that a 2 light system will cover a 2×4 area at a height of 12-16″ so it is very likely I’ll be looking to expand to a third module.
Since I may be using the middle shelf to start seeds, I will be purchasing some 2×4 heat mats. I also plan on getting a full size garden tray to hold my potted plants; the seed starting trays I’m using now make it harder to organize the bottom shelf and fit all my potted plants.
There are more veggies scattered throughout the backyard!
I had to find a home for the leftover brussel sprouts and broccoli starts that I purchased from Burpee in October. The cinderblock planters and grow bag where we relocated the lorapetalum seemed ideal.
It’s been nearly a month since these veggies were planted, and they appear to be faring well in their new homes. Although the broccoli and brussel starts nearest the fence line appear to need more sun.
I also random-sowed some fenugreek seed in a pocket next to the unfinished water feature. This spot gets full sun throughout the day. The fenugreek seedlings seem to handle the cold winter nights pretty well.
I still plan to perform much-needed maintenance on the foundation garden beds, but I’ve tasked DH with repairing the border stones before I can resume work on them. I have a pile of compost that needs to be laid, and weeding needs to be performed on the shade bed.