Friday, April 6, 2012


Last year when I started seeds for our first garden, I went "all-out" and purchased the Seed Starter Gift Set from
I did this for three reasons:
  • It felt like enough pressure to think I could somehow successfully grow plants from seed,  purchasing the whole kit in one fell swoop made the task at hand seem a little less crazy overachiever like.
  • Similarly, it was a lot less work to buy a kit than try and buy all the pieces separately -- especially as I was a bit unsure of of myself. I didn't want to have to debate about which tray to get and what type of soil to buy and so on and so on, as I am want to over think such things.
  • Finally, ordering stuff online just is easier than going to the store, as long as you have a little foresight, and as my husband could confirm, I hate going to the store. 
Right now the kit is selling for $50, I actually think last year it may have been a bit more, I remember feeling like it was an expensive purchase. But maybe that was just because I ordered all my seeds at the same time. I justified the cash drop because I knew I could reuse the kit again, and I am!

Now, anything you read about starting a garden from seed will tell you the three most important factors in growing vegetables are (or anything really) good soil, water and sun. The kit comes with a heat mat which keeps the soil at a nice warm temp that encourages the seeds to grow, as well as soil pellets full of happy healthy nutrients and it also has a self watering system, so as long as you make sure there is water in the bottom of the tray all the guess work is taken out of that part of the process. Which for me is crucial, I would otherwise over water or underwater them, I know it. (I swear I am not here as an advocate for Burpee, its just that, if you are going to spend your time and money trying to do this, why not give yourself a one up on the whole process.) That pretty much takes care of everything, except....

The one thing I did not buy last year was a grow lamp. And it's because those b*itch!s are dang expensive! And as I have said before, last years garden turned out fine:
One of the things I love about gardening is getting try the same or similar tasks out in different ways to see if you can make it better or if you are best to stick with what you have done in the past. I still don't have $200 to drop on a grow lamp I would use for 10 weeks a year, but I do have a husband who is very supportive of my cause. And if a grow lamp is going to give my veggies a better chance at growning big and strong, I would at least like to try it.

And then I found the plans for a DIY grow lamp over on Vegetable Gardener

PVC is not generally on my radar for ANYTHING that I want visible in my house but the price was right. Greg, the creator, provides nicely illustrated instructions to go along with the specifications, making this a very DIY friendly task. So I printed off the instructions and gave them to Chris, who graciously agreed to take the task on while I did other things, like paint our stairwell.
The total cost for materials was under $50 and Chris built the whole thing in an afternoon. 

We of course tinkered with the original specifications to fit our much smaller seed tray. And by happenstance, I realized we didn't need those "legs" to keep the contraption upright so I took them off and it feels much less imposing now than it does in the picture above. I love that it is adjustable; as our seed babies grow we can move the light upwards and encourage them to keep reaching for the stars light. In fact two days ago I made the first adjustment. I don't have an up to date photo to share with you now, but I'll be sure to snap one this weekend and provide you with a visual update. Update: See how it's so much less intrusive without those big 'ole legs!

Two other things I wanted to mention. This seed tray hasn't actually held up super well. The tray itself is made of very thin plastic so when you remove the plants for transplanting the bottom gets all bent up, as you can see here. I pushed the individual holders back out before planting this year but they just don't have the nice shape they did last year -- and I wonder if it doesn't contribute to some self watering issues. Speaking of self water, the mat has disintegrated a bit and I have started supplementing my seedlings with a spray bottle almost daily. 

On the other hand the soil I received last year with the kit seemed to hold moisture a lot better than the soil I bought this year from Menards. Next year, I think I will use Burpee's super growing soil pellets again. 

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