The weather here is still awful, cold, grey, damp and just dreary, but in my basement, spring has begun. This is the system I rigged up a couple of years ago. I kept seeing all these expensive propagation systems in catalogs that I couldn’t afford, so I built my own. I bought a bunch of ten dollar shop light fixtures at the hardware store, some light chain, some s-hooks and the most expensive part of it all was the grow light bulbs. I had the metal shelving — Patrick bought a whole bunch of shelving for his business just before he died, so that wasn’t an issue. Basically, I just hung the lights on the bottom side of the shelves in a standard shelving unit, and we’re off to the races. They can be raised and lowered as needed and I can do as many as five full shelves of flats (although I’m trying to restrain myself this year. I don’t really need or want to plant 24 different tomatoes like I did last year). The other key thing I bought is some heat mats for germination. Since my basement is, well, a basement and is cool, the heat mats are pretty crucial.
So that’s my little seed-starting setup. This is the fourth year I’ve started my vegetables from seed, and it’s starting to feel like one of those things one just does. The vernal equinox rolls around, and it’s time to start the tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. For me, learning to start seeds has been sort of like learning to make a decent loaf of bread. Sure, you can buy seedlings (or pretty good bread, even up here in the hinterlands) but there’s a specific joy in knowing how to do it myself. In not being afraid of yeast, or germination. In paying attention. In looking at the bread dough, or going downstairs every morning to see whether the tomatoes have gotten their second set of leaves. In a world that grows increasingly virtual, it makes me calm to know that I can do something as real as grow my own food.