Last year, we converted two unused aquariums into greenhouses, where we hoped to protect our seed starts from the cats.
It mostly succeeded.
Today, I prepped the tanks for this year’s seeds.
The small tank – a 20 gallon tank – was a real problem with the cats last year.
Even when we pur the original hard cover back on at the end of the season, using the space inside to store the light, etc., the cats still got into it!
The foil around the back and sides were to provide reflective light for the seedlings. As you can see, the cats have torn up the foil, and even left scratches in the rigid insulation at the back!
Last year, we had tried using the lid that came with the tank at first, but the cats would reach through the opening for the water filter in the back, even if it meant fighting past whatever we put to block the opening. They managed to reach in and pull up the seed trays, anyhow. Having to block everything meant no air circulation, so what the cats didn’t destroy, mold did it’s damage. I finally rigged a window screen and that worked, though it was far too late to save the onions we’d tried to start in there at the time.
This tank will be for onions again. After seeing that onion seeds can be planted very close together, and they don’t really get transplant shock, I’m hoping to be able to get all 5 varieties of onions we have in hear.
The problem is the size and shape of the tank is too small to fit any of the commercial seed starting trays we’ve been using. I want to be able to water the planting trays from below, which meant having to find something to use as a tray for the water.
I decided to try aluminum oven lines. They are pliable enough to bend to size, and strong enough that I could fold corners without it tearing. It’s not deep, but it doesn’t need to be.
There’s still quite a bit of space left. If needed, I can fold up another tray and overlap them. I’ll just have to make sure they are attached to each other with a water tight seal. Or we can just use the doubled Red Solo cups again, and not need to have a tray under them at all.
Then the screen window was brought back into action as a cover. A pair of 5 pound hand weights get added to the back, in case a cat walks onto the overhang in front. The metal screen is strong enough to hold their weights. The heavier cats don’t try to go up there, just the tiny ones, so that has worked out. If necessary, we have more weight we can put on it. At some point, I want to build a screened cover to fit, but that’s not an urgent thing.
Since we can’t change the height of the light fixture, the egg cartons are being used to bring the seedling trays closer to the light, and can be taken out to lower the base as needed.
One thing we found last year is that this room is pretty cold, which is why we added the insulation around the back and sides. It was still difficult to keep it warm enough for the squash and gourds we had in there. Onions are a cool weather crop, so they should be fine in here, as far as the temperature goes.
Then there was the big tank to do.
I had to take out the biggest pot with an aloe vera in it to make space for the boxes that are being used to raise the seedling tray closer to the light. Previously, the boxes were under that sheet of insulation at the base to create a raised floor, but with the plants still in there, we can’t do that this time.
This is where we will be starting the luffa, and probably a few other gourds, at the same time as the onions. They will need the heat mat we got for under the seed trays, which is why they have to go in this tank. The mat won’t fit in the small tank. Right now, the mat is under all the trays and pots, so the weight can flatten it out a bit. There’s just enough room left to hold the curing Tennessee Dancing gourds.
At some point, we’re going to have to take the other aloe vera and my daughter’s orchids out. We’ll need the space for the tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, which are the next earliest seeds we need to start. After that, we will need space for the winter and summer squash. Hopefully, by the time they need to be started, we can start moving the onions into the sun room. The orchids (you can see one has started to bloom again!) are here because it was too cold for them to hang at the window in winter. The aloe is there to keep the cats from digging in the pots.
Which happened with the one pot I did take out, while I was setting things up in here! I caught Nicco, inside the barriers I put around the aloe vera. She’s so long and skinny, she snaked her way through the gaps! The little beast!
We had another, larger pot with an aloe vera in it in. It had been okay for months but, a few days ago, we came out to find the pot all dug up, and the only remains of the plant in it were a couple of leaf tips. We never found the rest of the aloe, and have no idea what happened to it! I’m sure we’ll find it, desiccated, under the couch or in a corner somewhere, months from now. 😀
As you can imagine, I’m not too keen on taking the plants out of the tank. They’re doing very well in there! But we won’t have a choice.
We have many things we need to start indoors, but a lot of them will have only a few seeds per packet used. Particularly with the squash and gourds. For the tomatoes, the paste tomatoes are the only ones we will be planting a lot of, since those are determinates being grown specifically for canning. The others are indeterminates and will be more for fresh eating, so we won’t need more than a few plants of each. We have enough varieties that, in the end, there should still be quite a few to transplant in the spring.
The other major thing we will need to start indoors will be the kulli corn, but those won’t need to be started until about the middle of May, at which point the sun room will be warm enough to use.
We are expanding the garden a lot this year, and will be expanding it more again, next year. I expect to be expanding it every year for quite some time. Which means that we will be needing lots of room to start seeds indoors every year. Until we are at a point when we can get a greenhouse or polytunnel, a goal of mine is to set up a corner in the sun room for starting seeds. We’d need grow lights, so that we wouldn’t have to constantly turn the trays for even sunlight, and we would need a heater sufficient to keep the room – or at least that corner – warm enough for germination. Or use more heat mats, but there is no outlet in that room. We are using an outlet in the old kitchen, with an extension cord running through a window to a power bar, right now. So warming the room would be more practical than using heat mats.
It’s funny. As we work on what we are doing this year, my mind is already on what will need to be done next year.
And the year after.
And the year after that…
As we work on things, we get a better idea of what plans we have will work, what needs to be modified, what needs to be re-priorities, or dropped entirely.
I don’t think we’ll ever reach the end of that process. Which is good, because figuring it all out is a bit part of the fun!