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We are a learn-as-we-go, better-every-year gardening family. And we’ve had plenty of learning experiences (ahem, mishaps) along the way… starting with where we start our seeds.
Our first year of seed-starting, we used a grow light over plastic flats of seeds sprawled out on the basement floor. I spent early spring worrying that we were going to have to take out a second mortgage to afford our electric bill. That was the year we learned the importance of hardening off plants. The grow light had made the plants so spindly that many of them didn’t survive the sudden, harsh transition to the “real world.” Now we’re always sure to put them outside for a few hours a day over the course of a week to acclimate them to direct sunlight, wind and temperature fluctuations.
By the next year, our older daughter was walking, and sprawled-out flats of on-so-enticing-to-a-toddler dirt on the floor gave way to a new plant high-rise. We bought an indoor greenhouse – four wire shelves covered with a zip-up plastic cover that looks a little like a garment bag. It wasn’t exactly “toddler proof,” but at least toddler-resistant – we could hear the unzipping of the cover from two rooms away and come running to control the damage. With its placement in front of a south-facing sliding glass door, we could get rid of the grow light and enjoy a more moderate growth rate to give us stronger plants.
When our veggie needs outgrew the high-rise, we graduated to a “real” greenhouse – a 6’x10’ aluminum-frame green house with lightweight plastic panels. The lightweight construction was great for hauling it into place for the seed-starting season and back behind the pole shed for off-season storage. But not so great for staying in place. We actually had to buy a second greenhouse, because the first one disappeared in a wind storm. Gone with the wind. No trace of it, except for two dinged-up plastic panels. Two days later, we found the rest of the wreckage behind the woodpile. True story. Now we weight the greenhouse down with buckets of concrete.