More pictures and explanations
Let me start off by stating that while I'm the one with the LJ, my husband is the really responsible for this. He's a very experienced gardener, whereas I'm not too far from a beginner. Last year, I tried to grow a ton of seeds from those plastic seed trays with the little dirt pellet packs included. I proceeded to accidentally drown them in the rain, bake them in the sun, fall over in the wind, and just fail in general. Miraculously, some made it, but not before he promised to marry me and help me start my seeds properly.
So, onto the set up: one of those large black metal industrial/cooking shelves. The gold light thing was something he found on the side of the road, and wired it to a cord. The squiggle bulbs are soft white compact fluorescents.
He put in bulb splitters where he could, to try and get a more even coverage of light over the plants. Also, you can see here that the foil was put on the sides and the top. The non-shiny side was facing inwards, and really made a *huge* difference. The gold bulb array thing was attached to the black shelving unit by wires; the foil was attached on the outside simply with tape.
8 squiggle bulbs were packed there in all.
On the other side of the squiggle bulbs, there's a fluorescent fixture, containing two 4 foot long tubes - nothing fancy, just cheap ones. None of the lights are movable, however, they were so incredibly bright it wasn't necessary. When plants were getting too big to fit, they were moved to a new tray and hardened off outside. We had a couple of close calls when we had random hail storms and rushed outside half dressed to save them.
All of this light and foil made for a truly BRIGHT set up, we had a foil flap hanging down so it wouldn't drive us crazy. The lights were left on for roughly oh at least 14 hours a day, we'd turn them on when we woke up and turned them off when it was nearing bedtime. The seeds themselves were in 2 inch peat pots, with a soil mix of peat moss, expanded clay, coco coir, zeolite, perlite, kelp, and rock phosphate. The germination rate was fantastic
, nearly 100% - far better than the plastic tray things I'd used previously. The frosted plastic tray you see here is another scavenged find, they were lined with microfiber in the bottom to evenly distribute the water in the bottom underneath the peat pots (though he thinks he wants to switch over to just using expanded clay in the bottom instead - the roots grew into the microfiber and had to be ripped out). The plastic tray things with high walls were great, because they could be easily removed and taken over to the sink for easy watering, and they helped to keep the humidity in.
It is worth noting that we have a mystery tomato plant that grew directly out of the microfiber at the bottom, in a high humidity aeroponic kind of way, and this tomato plant is MAGNIFICENT. It's sitting outside right now, at least twice the size of all of the other tomato plants. Mr. Magnificent Tomato Plant was a total accident, apparently just a seed who fell into the right place at the right time. We don't honestly know if the plant is somehow superior due to genetics or the growing conditions, but we're looking to try a small aeroponic setup in the future.
This post was by request, hopefully someone found it helpful.