Friday, February 8, 2013

How we build a germination box

As Spring slowly proceeds upon us, not that you would know it with the weather we are getting here today. Most of you are beginning to plan your gardens, buy your seeds and wonder how can I get things going earlier.

When we first started this business we started and grew our plants cold. Meaning we had no heating besides a salamander and could only keep the temperature just above freezing. It took forever for plants to grown and we learned early on that growing this way did not work for a farm that was trying to make a living selling plants. We realized that by the time our plants were ready so were the plants that our customers had started from seed. We had missed the sales and realized that we needed to change things.

We then learned about germination boxes and easier ways to get plants going earlier while still saving us the expense of heating a 20x96 greenhouse which could get extremely expensive.

So we decided to build our own germination box. Even though it has been 5 or 6 years now, we are still using it and it works wonderfully and still saves us money. By the time the plants are coming out of the germination box we are still only heating to above freezing but they are established enough to be able to give us a jump start on the plants and it is warm enough out that we don't have to worry about it too much.

So how did we do it?

Racks built out of pallets
We were given these stacked pallet racks by a family friend and decided that they would make an awesome germination box. Even though ours were already together it is not that hard to build what we have. Our racks are 4 pallets stacked in a way that they are like shelves. You would use 2 x4's to brace the sides and make it so they are spread out enough to fit trays on them. Make sure you cross 2x4's in the back giving support so that they don't wobble.
Plastic is wrapped around
3 sides

We then wrap 4 mil plastic around them on 3 sides. This helps to keep the heat and the humidity in.

Door to germination box

 The front side we drape plastic in front so that we can close it and seal it up at night and when it is really cold but also so that we can get inside it easily.

Heat mat

We also have heat mats that we lay on each rack and we place the trays of plants on top of these. The heat mats are hooked up to a thermostat with a little thermometer that is placed in the soil in one of the trays to monitor the soil temperature.

Grow lights

We hang lights in the germination box as well to help give the lights the plants need. We generally don't use them too much to be honest though. If it is warm enough during the day we generally just take the trays out of the germination box for the day and let them get the natural sunlight that is coming through the greenhouse. If it is 40 outside in the greenhouse it is generally 60 or above so the plants still get the heat they need while getting the sun they need.

We also place an electric heater in the bottom of the germination box that is also thermostatically controlled so when the temperature in the germination box drops below a certain degree it will kick on. Being that we are only heating the germination box and not trying to heat the whole greenhouse we are saving money.

This picture is from 2011 but this is the
the front section of the greenhouse that
we heat until we can no longer fit everything.

Once the plants are too large to stay in the germination box we then will begin to heat the smaller section of our greenhouse. We sectioned off the front part of the greenhouse so that we would once again save on heating expenses. We heat the front side until it is warm enough that we don't need to heat anymore. We cram plants in there and make sure that nothing happens to our little plants.

Don't get me wrong we are still kind of a behind a little on somethings with the greenhouse because we do not have the heating systems that most greenhouse do and we do not have the ventilation and things needed during the summer we have a disadvantage. But as a small farm sometimes you just have to make things work in ways that you can afford.

This is how we did ours. I am sure you can do it yourself and even figure ways that you could save in your own way.

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