Seed starting and our first tunnel.

It’s hard to believe all the snow we had this winter is gone! Even harder to believe is how quickly it melted. We really couldn’t have had better weather for melting the snow and helping our spring along. We’ve been busy in the past month getting prepped for seed starting and starting seeds! In the next few days we’ll even plant our first transplants outside! It’s an exciting time of year filled with hope of another bountiful season. In this post we’ll go through our seed starting setup and talk a little about how the setup of our first caterpillar tunnel went.

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Our indoor seed starting setup has several important components. First, we have our basement prep table. This is where we fill our trays with organic potting mix. Trays have individual cells for each plant and come in a variety of sizes. We use two sizes that accommodate 50 and 128 plants. Once we’ve filled the trays with soil we plant each seed individually. We’ve already planted over 2000 seeds this year with many more to come!

The next component is our germination chamber. This is a new addition to our farm that we made this spring out of a recycled upright freezer, a couple crockpots and a temperature and humidity controller. We’re really excited about this because it will allow us to control the two most important factors in seed germination: temperature and humidity. We’ve already seen great improvements in our germination rates especially with parsley. In the past, we’ve been lucky to be above 50% germination. That is, of the total number of seeds we planted we were lucky to have more than 50% of them germinate. This year, with the germination chamber, we’re over 90% germination on parsley! Side note: our other crops germinate much more consistently with rates approaching 100%.

Finally, we have our grow racks. We bought one on Craigslist and the other we put together using parts we purchased from Home Depot. Simply put, it’s a series of shelves with lights on timers that simulate day and night cycles for our plants.

Once our plants are established in their trays we’ll begin the process of “hardening off.” This process acclimates our little plants to the more harsh conditions they’ll face outside. The hardening off period allows the plants to adapt to full sunlight, wind, and greater temperature fluctuations before we plant them outside.

Bonus: Caterpillar Tunnel Setup

This was our first go at setting up a caterpillar tunnel and overall it went pretty well. We started by measuring out where our tunnel will go so that we could set the corners. Then we pounded large rebar stakes into the ground every 5 feet on both sides. Next, we constructed the bows that support the structure from 3 pieces of curved metal tubing secured with tex screws. Then comes the plastic - we rolled out the plastic and pulled it up and over the bows. The plastic is secured on either end by metal t posts pounded into the ground. To tighten the plastic a series of crisscrossing ropes are installed and pulled tight in between each metal bow. Finally, we placed sand bags around the structure to secure the plastic to the ground in the event of wind. The whole family got in on the set up. Kit, our cat was very interested in the tools we were using and Axel, our dog just wanted to be near us!