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Monday, September 22, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 1/6/2010

Winter project: A sprouting garden

Are you trying to shove the faux Christmas tree and the thousands of boxes of decorations back into storage? Good luck with that! You might be able to find a little extra space for all of that if you haul out the winter gardening gadgets.

Let's build a winter sprouting garden. You may have everything you need in the basement, shed, or garage. And if not, ask the neighbor to lend you a few things.

We need to build a surface about 20 inches wide and 4 feet long. This will provide plenty of space to get the plants going. First, find your sawhorses. Then put them in the basement, heated porch, or other unused spot around the house and secure the 20-inch-by-4-foot plywood top to them.

Next, we need to provide some extra light in the work area. Because the angle of the sun is low during the winter, you'll need to supplement with grow lights. Shop lights work well for this job. Or you can buy inexpensive under-cabinet lights or shop lights at a hardware store.

Ordinary 40-watt tube bulbs will work fine. You can also experiment with special grow bulbs if you are feeling scientific. Hang the shop lights four to six inches above the top of the plants. You will have to move the lamps up as the plants grow, so put the lights on a chain to make adjustments easy.

If you are really handy, you can stack the winter sprouting garden by building two or three tabletops. Use two stepladders to hold the plywood. Use two 2-by-4 boards on the lowest step, then secure the plywood shelf. The boards need to be long enough to fit between the two ladders and securely hold the plywood in place; 6 feet in length should do it. Use two more 2-by-4s on the third step and secure the plywood between the ladders. The last shelf can go on the fifth step, if you can reach it.

Find all of your growing trays and make sure they have drainage holes in the bottom plus a drip pan to contain any extra moisture. To help the seeds germinate as quickly as possible, they will need to be heated from the bottom. You can find warming pads at a home and garden store, or use heating pads set on the lowest setting. Slide the pads under the drip trays until the seeds start to sprout.

You won't need water right away, but it doesn't hurt to be ready. Once your seedlings start to germinate, or sprout, you can spray them with a water bottle. Try a few tricks from the hydroponics growers: A small-gauge drip line through the trays will keep them wet without over-watering. Look for a small 1/4-inch tubing from a home and garden center. With a small drill bit, drill holes in the tubing every three inches. Now, find the proper connections from your 1/4-inch tubing to hook to a garden hose, then to a sink. You will be able to water your trays easily from this drip line just by turning a handle.

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at:

kheidbreder@theblade.com.



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