Making Space and Planning for Starts
Starting plants from seeds indoors can allow you to extend the growing season. Starting from seed will save you a great deal of money. If you plan on homesteading your really need to be starting the vast majority of your crops from open heirloom seeds that you can also harvest the seeds from! Many gardeners just buy their starts from the nursery. If you plan on growing sustainably on your property you are going to need to start your plants from seed, grow them to maturation, let some of your crop go to seed so you save next years seed.
Planting starts instead of sowing seed not only allows you to extend growing time, it also allows you to stagger plant crop. It will allow you to more easily plan and keep track of your garden landscape.
Surprisingly you can grow a lot of starts in a very small space. You do not need any fancy equipment. You will need some grow lights. We are using T5 and recently purchased some LED lamps which I am very excited about trying out both for there low energy consumption. Potentially more exciting, I saw a YouTube by a guy that did an experiement and got better growth with his lights than growing the same plants in natural sunlight.
What Can I Grow On?
First, you need to size up the space that you have available. We have a room upstairs with two large windows. The windows are southeast facing which will provide some natural light for us most of the year, though the predominant light source will be LED lamps.
Planning Your Grow Space
It is one thing to do the annual garden. It is quite another to create a growing plan that allows you to grow year round. The amount of space you are going to have to use will be finite. The first order of business is to figure out our indoor grow area.
We have two tables 2-1/2 feet by 5 feet and a small 3-tier shelf that is 23 inches by 13 inches. While that may not seem like a lot of space it is enough to have over 1000 1-1/2 inch starts! Next we need to determine are potential growing capacity on each table. The thing to keep in mind is that each household trying to do this is going to be different. You need to be both flexible and creative in your approach. You need to adapt to what you have to work with.
Since we know our table dimensions we can next determine our growing capacity based upon the growing containers we have available. We have the following grow tray and pot sizes.
Tray - 10" x 20"
These are the standard 10" x 20" (1020) propagation trays. What is nice about these trays is that you can get different
sized domes for them to create individsual microclimates. You can also get a variety of inserts for them. The jiffy peat pellet
insert will handle 72 pellets. What is nice about the jiffy pellets is you can easily lift out the peat disks to directly plant.
The down side is that a peat disk is going to cost you between 10 to 15 cents each. Another advantage of the propogation
trays is that you can get many different size growing inserts for these trays.
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Tray - 7" x 6"
This is a great little self contained unit that comes with a dome and holds 12 starts. What I like about this tray is that the inserts that come with this tray are interchangeable with the 1020 Trays. These small trays are more convenient in allowing you to be able to create different microclimates for your starts in a smaller form factor.
Tray - 5-1/2 x 22
I like the profile of these trays. In my room I can fit 2 of these in each window sill. Each tray will hold three 1-gallon bags.
Tray - 9-1/2" x 9-1/2"
These trays will hold a 3 gallon bag. I bought these trays specificaly to sit underneath 3 gallon bags. They will also hold one of the Mr. Stacky trays. And, these trays can also be used to grow microgreens and wheatgrass. They are not of a standard enough dimension to hold standard sized plastic pots.
With my 2.5' x 5 Table I am able to populate the following number of trays
|Tray||# Trays Per Table||Insert Type||# Cells||Qty Per Tray||Total Starts Per Tray||Total Starts Table|
|10" x 20"||7||720 Cell||12||6||72||504|
|10" x 20"||7||360 Cell||6||6||36||252|
|10" x 20"||7||320 Cell||4||6||24||168|
|9-1/2" x 9-1/2"||15||3-Gallon Bag||1||1||15|
|5-1/2" x 22"||10||1-Gallon Bag||3||1||3||30|
We have over 130 varieties of seeds to sow. Some like Carrots will be sown directly into the soil. We will probably propogate between 300-400 starts. We will have plenty of room between the two tables get our starts going. Also, will have the ability through the outdoor growing season to create some starts that we will transfer into the 1-gallon and 3-gallon grow bags for indoor cultivation during the winter months.