Monday, March 28, 2011

What to do in the garden, today, March 28?


Still over a foot of snow covers anything that remotely looks like a garden here in the Central Sands region of Wisconsin, zone 4. My Dad says we are 20 degrees below average temperature. He's a farmer. He should know; he's been growing things a tad longer than I have.

So today, my garden activities center around my seedlings in my growing racks in my extra space in my loft. I thought I would include some pictures of this growing rack, dimensions, and building tips.

Although I do quite a bit of hammering, sawing, nailing, etc.; I am far from a pro. I have built a deck ("cobble"might be a good word there), built a couple fences, and remodeled more than one or two bathrooms, and have developed some skills. I am far from a finish/trim carpenter, but this light rack was easy to build.

It measures about 20" deep, about 5 feet high, and 44" wide. I built it using (4) 2" x 2 x 8' pieces. I cut 36" off each of the 8' pieces and then cut the 36" pieces in half again. Having those (8) 18" piece is key to getting the right dimensions as I use 4 standard 10" by 20" flats without drain holes to keep everything nice and dry.

As this light rack holds four trays across (the width part), I purchased (4) 1" by 4" board and cut each in half. If I was doing it over I would go with 6 though. With six, each shelf would have three of these as tray supports.

I assembled this rack with screws, pre-drilling my holes and "L-brackets". These L-brackets on the corners with the 18" pieces top and bottom and two equi-distant spaces between form the sides of my rack. The brackets are key. Pre-drilling is important. Don't skip that step, and it helps to have a helper to hold things together during assembly.

I had the screws in my cast-offs bucket. I purchased the wood and brackets (8 in all, one at each corner.) I think the rack itself cost me just about $20.

I had a couple shop lights to start. I hang these with chain. I prefer to use 2 per shelf. If you use one only put 2 trays on the shelf and put them parallel with the width. The chains are important to keep the lights within 4" of the growing seedlings. I use regular florescent light bulbs with about 3,500 lumens. I don't use special light bulbs. The lumen thing is important, though. The higher the lumen the better. I think the minimum you should attempt to grow with is 3,200. A couple years back I bought a light meter and it really helped me nail down the issues I had with whether there was enough light or not.

I plug all my lights into a circuit panel things with a switch so I can flip one switch to turn a whole rack on or off. That plugs into a GFI-wired outlet. This space is planned to eventually be a bathroom, so the GFI-circuit makes sense for now, watering plants and using lights are not a good combo; and in the future for the bathroom. I have tripped the circuit more than once with dripping water.

The second plug in the outlet is where I plug in my one heat mat. This allows me to use the heat mat even at night to encourage those seed to sprout, rather than plug it into the light panel and turn it off. I also use two screws to attach/stabilize it to the wall.

My son, who was then probably 14 and had never built anything before, helped hold pieces of this together when I built it a couple years back. Yesterday, he and I were out shopping for a couple of new bulbs for the rack. We walked by a really fancy, metal, pre-made rack priced at a couple hundred dollars, and he commented, "Wow, Mom! Ours is really nice, and it holds twice as many trays as this one and only cost us a few bucks!"

Yes. I thought. Yes, it did.

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