DIY ‘Germination Station’

As a newly addicted seed swapper I figured I’d better start getting better about sprouting seeds rather than buying plants at the nursery. It’s really hard to justify trading seeds otherwise and I’m having too much fun to give it up. I’ve had good luck with winter crops – beets, mustard, kale, snap peas, carrots – but warm weather veggies have always caused me grief. It’s my fault. I’ve been really lazy about it and spring veggies have fairly specific requirements to germinate and grow strong.

Gorgeous Baker Creek Whole Seed Catalog page
This is a pic from this year’s Baker Creek Whole Seed Catalog which you can order for $7.95 (click photo). Along with stunning photos it’s also full of recipes and useful gardening tips and thousands of non-gmo heirloom seed varieties.

Peppers, for instance, germinate best at 75-85˚with lots of white/blue light. Normally I just throw some seeds into potting soil and place them out in the sun to fend for themselves. Is it any wonder they’ve never thrived? Methinks not.

I decided to give my new seeds a fighting chance to sprout this season by building a little baby greenhouse, which we have named the Germination Station. We always like to use what we’ve got if we can. Luckily our recent garage purging turned up a cool old wood crate and a roll of thick plastic which, believe it or not, Jon brought with him when he moved in… twelve years ago. Packrats? Who, us?

It just took a few minutes to staple the plastic to the crate, and then we took my clamp-on desk light and stuck it inside. Some helpful advice from fellow seed swappers led me to use a 100w CFL bulb and place it low, just 2″ above the seeds. I also lined the crate with aluminum foil and placed an uplight underneath with a 75w incandescent for warmth.

Here’s how it looks with the front flap open:

DIY germinating box mini greenhouse
You can see it’s really basic. Mostly I keep the front flap down so it gets nice and toasty inside. The seeds seem very happy! My first pepper sprout that started to pop its head through two days ago:

pepper seed sprout
Last time I checked there were 12-14 sprouts coming up! The Numex Twilight and California Wonder peppers were first to stand up. Pepperoncini, an artichoke and several tomatoes have just started breaking through. Aren’t they cute?

happy pepper sprouts
So now I just need to keep an eye on them, which isn’t hard because I’m totally obsessed and have to keep myself from checking them every half hour. They need to stay moist and warm to germinate. Once they grow a bit I’ll raise the light and also put a gentle fan on them to help their little stems get stronger.

When the time is right I’ll take them out and ‘harden them off.’ This process helps acclimatize them to being outdoors so they don’t get overwhelmed by their harsh new surroundings. Now to figure out where they’re all going to go…

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14 Comments Add yours

  1. I love your set up. I use a window for my babies. Actually I just planted some broccoli and green cauliflower in the garden that we started from seed back in November. How long does it take you to go from seed to planting?

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Thank you! I’m pretty happy with it so far. I wish I had a south-facing window, that would help. It’s my first time doing indoor sprouting. Usually I direct seed and whatever doesn’t take I buy from the nursery, so I’m not sure how long it will take. I’m thinking 6-8 weeks for peppers and toms to get strong enough to put out? It’s all experimental at this point and input is certainly welcome! I’m going to try cauliflower for the first time – does it grow in the spring?

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      1. It all dependson how many times you pot up and how well you harden the babies off, but I think overall that so a good span of time. I just started some tomato (8 varieties) inside, so we will see! I don’t use lights, though. All they need to germinate is humidity and some warmth in my experience. You are well prepared with your setup!

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        1. Sheri Fox says:

          Yeah, the lights were suggested for the peppers but the tomatoes seem happy enough to bask in it too. I have two artichokes sprouting too, which makes me very happy! I hope you’ll post about your progress so I can follow along 🙂

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          1. I will definitely post progress! I hope you will also. Do you use twitter or Instagram?

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            1. Sheri Fox says:

              I do use both though I’m not terribly active. Having more fun on Instagram lately. I’m @scraphounds on twitter and @shafofo on instagram. There’s a link on the right side of my blog here too somewhere. Post me your @’s too 🙂 sheri

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              1. Mine are on my blog as well. I’ll follow you!

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                1. Sheri Fox says:

                  Great, I’ll do the same 🙂

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  2. Looking good! I love to watch seeds sprout. One of the simple joys of life.

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Yes I remember you posting about your little sprouts a few months back. It’s like magic to me! Hope your garden is coming along too.

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  3. Robbie says:

    Hi again, I have your seeds sitting here at my comptuer for your squash. I will send them next week. I have been under snow, sick + just not getting out at all-lol. We were down for days the past few weeks with no schools open, wind chills in below 40’s etc….I will drop them in the mail next week—it will be 25 degrees!!!! Yipee that feels like summer.
    I have your address. Let me know when you get them:-) Didn’t ant you to think I forgot / just one of those people that does not do what they say…just need to thaw out I move better-lol

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    1. Sheri Fox says:

      The seeds have arrived safe and sound! Thank you so much for your generosity. I hope you don’t mind but since I only have space for a couple new squash plants I’d like to share the extras with some folks from my group and spread your good ju-ju around 🙂

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      1. Robbie says:

        seeds are to be shared-enjoy!

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