In this video, I'm out in the greenhouse. It's about seed starting time, so I wanted to give you a tour of what's going on in the greenhouse as I'm getting ready.
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This is a 12 x 20 foot heated greenhouse. I use it to start seeds and overwinter plants.
Last year, I didn't really have a good set-up for my seed starting in the greenhouse. I just used a couple of tables, and it was really difficult. This year, my brother came up with some plans for a shelving unit. Each of the shelves pulls out so I am able to reach all the way to the back. The shelves each hold 3 1020 trays, and there are 16 total shelves.
Light is really important for starting seeds in a greenhouse. I don't have enough natural light, so grow lights are necessary. The lights are moveable on a chain over each shelf. The lights are T8 LED full-spectrum grow lights. They come in a set of six and have reflectors. These lights can be connected together so there is only one switch to turn on. They can also be put on a timer. So far, these lights seem really high quality and work really well for me.
Last year, I used fluorescent shop lights. Those worked fine. The year before that, I didn't even have grow lights. I can tell a big difference in the seedlings that have had grow lights on them.
Seed Starting in the Greenhouse
Right now, I don't have many seeds started in the greenhouse, but in the next couple of weeks, all of the greenhouse shelves will be full of plants. To learn more about seed starting, take a look at this post. Last year and the year before, I started my seeds in plastic trays. The plastic trays work okay. I don't have that many trays and they are not really sustainable.
This year I am trying out soil blocks. There are a couple of different sizes of them. The idea is to use soil and make it into blocks. The seeds are planted directly into the soil blocks. This is supposed to be better for the seedlings. You only need the soil and the blocker. You can buy soil blockers here.
When I have sick or injured animals, I keep them in the greenhouse. Right now, Blackie, the barn cat has some issues with his leg. He's been limping, so he's going to be going to the vet soon.
Greenhouse Tomato Trellis
I had some volunteer tomatoes that I took from the garden at the end of the growing season. I was growing them in 5-gallon buckets in the greenhouse. My brother came up with a plan for a tomato trellis for the greenhouse that can hold grow lights. The trellis worked really well, but my tomatoes had aphids. I ended up getting rid of those tomatoes. I started some new tomatoes from seed so that I can have some tomatoes early in the season.
When the greenhouse was built, we had a wood stove put in. For me, the wood stove is not practical. First, during seed starting time, I like to keep the greenhouse at about 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit for germination. It's hard to keep the temperature consistent at this level with a wood stove. I am not able to go out in the middle of the night to feed the wood stove to make sure that I keep the greenhouse at the correct temperature. Since it's not practical for me at this point, I am going to take the wood stove out of the greenhouse.
I have a propane heater installed in the greenhouse that is more practical for me. I am able to control the temperature more easily and keep consistency. It does cost a little more money to run the propane heater, but it is worth it for me in the time and hassle it saves. Here is the wireless thermometer/weather station I use to keep track of the temperature and humidity from the comfort of the house.
I like to bring in some plants that I keep on the porch in the summer. There are herbs and succulents that I like to keep alive all winter to put back out in the spring. I keep these on the south side of the greenhouse for the most natural light. I also have to supplement with a grow light.
The greenhouse has solar power, but we found that it wasn't enough, so we had electric run to the greenhouse as well. I found that the solar just wasn't enough to power the grow lights, the heater and everything else.
Solar is a great option. My advice is to make sure you do your research. Find someone you trust and who really knows what they are doing. You will want to make sure that you start out with enough power for anything you may add to your greenhouse along the way.
Lessons I've Learned Along the Way
My greenhouse has 15 windows for a 12 x 20 foot space. I wish that I would have included more windows in the plans. This space could use more natural light. It works out okay for me with the supplemental grow lights, but it's something to consider when designing your space.
Water - I didn't mention in the video, but water is another important factor. The first two years of having the greenhouse, I had to lug 5 gallon buckets of water from the house. It was NOT ideal. We ended up running frost-free water lines to the greenhouse and other areas of the property. This was a game changer. It makes it very convenient for starting seeds and watering the porch plants.
Heat - Find something that works for you. I use the propane heater along with heat mats to get seeds germinating quickly. Convenience is key. Here are the heat mats I'm using. They were pretty inexpensive, so I'm not sure how they will stand the test of time. So far, after a few weeks, they seem okay.
You don't have to have a greenhouse for seed starting! Find a space that has enough heat and add some supplemental lights, and you are good to go. You could use a spare room or even a closet to start seeds. Don't forget to read more about starting seeds in this post.
Here's the type of small greenhouse I used to use for starting seeds. This was a great way for me to get started!