This is the first time we've tried starting seeds indoors. (Tip O' the hat to Marc at Garden Desk for the inspiration: http://simple-green-frugal-co-op.blogspot.com/2009/01/indoor-seed-starting-doesnt-have-to-be.html. )
The first bit of green (cukes and zukes) popped up just five days after I started them. In the next couple of days tomatoes (three varieties) and jalapenos began showing themselves. Today, I raised one of the lights for the first time. Had to make room for the vigorous zuchinis.
Except for the light fixtures, everything was scavanged from around the shed and yard. For years we've had a heavy-duty stainless steel rolling shelving unit that we scrounged from a neighbor who moved. It's served mostly to store junk. Now, the top shelf is perfect for starting seeds.
We didn't have any watertight trays the right size to fit under the lights, so I made one from 2x2s and a scrap of rubber pond liner. (I tried to throw those liner bits away several times, but Dr. Spouse wouldn't let me. Sometimes, marrying a closet packrat has a positive side.) I even found chain to hang the lights from the shed rafters.
I've thrown out old plastic seedling cells in the past but never got all of them. Thank goodness. They're plenty useful now.
The 2' by 3' tray is a bit smaller than the 4-foot flourescents but it works fine. The watertight pond liner gave us the perfect way to water: pour it into the tray and let the soil wick it up to the seeds. As you can see, that works just fine.
You can see the frame, pond liner and the light reflecting in the water
After forgetting to shut off the lights the first two nights, I broke down and invested $15 in a timer. Nothing comes easy in my life. The first --and cheaper -- timer I bought took two-prong plugs. Of course, our lights have three-prongs. Thank God, our locally owned hardware store is five minutes away.
We're into a steady warming period -- with daytime highs in the 60s and 70s, it's already Spring here -- and the unheated shed has proven to be the right place for this project. (We don't have basements in South Louisiana.) Lights don't bother anyone and the messy combination of soil and water ain't a problem out there.
Because we can easily control moisture content and provide more light than Mother Nature, we'll keep this system going for a few weeks, even after these seedlings are out in the garden.
Now, I'm off to read up on the care and feeding of seedlings and about hardening off in preparation for planting.