A seed starter is also called a cold frame. The idea behind the seed starter is to provide a workable safe environment for your plants outdoors while there is still a chance of frost or as the seeds are just starting their growth.
The most effective at keeping heat in are the ones using the twin wall polycarbonate design. The 2 walls act in the same way a double pain window does in insulating both against excessive heat and heat loss.
A seed starter offers a comfortable environment for less hardy plants through the winter months in cold regions. Relying solely on the heat and warmth of the sun, a seed starter costs nothing to use and very little to build if you are handy. To give your semi-hardy plants a fighting chance, tuck them in for a long winter's nap inside a seed starter you built yourself.
The first thing to consider before setting up a seed starter is to pick the right location. A shady spot won't produce enough sun to keep plants warm, so choose a spot that receives an ample amount of sunlight each day. A south-facing wall works the best.
The next step for the success of a seed starter requires butting it up against an existing structure: your home, garage, out building, or solid fence will do nicely. Obviously, a heated home will give added warmth to the seed starter, but other buildings will work, also. By placing the seed starter in front of a building you're providing protection from winds and the elements to some degree.
Next on the list for your seed starter of must haves for an ideal location is a site with good drainage. It will do little good if the plants sitting inside the seed starter are stuck with their feet in water all winter. They will not survive in wet conditions. The ideal spot would be slightly sloped to allow for water to flow away from the seed starter. You may consider building a slope yourself. For added insulation, set the seed starter into the earth just a bit.
Building the Seed starter
The top of most seed starters made at home are old window sashes. The panes of glass let the sunshine in. The dimensions of the frame depend on the size of the window you use. You will need to hinge the window, so purchase heavy duty hinges. An extremely simple seed starter is nothing more than cement blocks lined up to hold a window on top. This is the crudest version and visually is not appealing but functionally will work as a seed starter.
If you opt for a wood frame seed starter, make sure the wood will not decompose. Cypress or cedar are good choices for the wood frame. Keep one thing in mind as you build your seed starter: do not make it so wide that you cannot easily reach the plants at the back, especially if you're growing vegetables in the seed starter. Three to four feet is the maximum width for most people to reach the back for weeding or harvesting.
Build the frame of the seed starter to fit the windows, higher in the back than in the front. Add weights to keep the window sashes from blowing open during strong winter storms. You'll also want to include a way to keep the window open for ventilation during warm days when the temperature reaches above 45 degrees. A prop comes in handy for this purpose.
Using Your Seed starter
Seasoned gardeners know the advantages of a seed starter. Use it to harden off seedlings in the spring that were started indoors. You can start annual seedlings in a seed starter to get a head start on growing plants before the earth is ready to be planted. This offers various blooming or harvesting times. The plants started in the seed starter will mature sooner than those planted directly in the garden. Plant cool weather crops in the autumn - it's possible to plant, grow and harvest fresh herbs, greens and root crops like carrots throughout the winter if the thermometer doesn't plummet too low. Additional insulation may help in your winter growing endeavors.
Two problems may arise in your seed starter, both from the weather. If you do not open the windows on sunny days, your plants could fry in the heat of the sun and the reflection of the glass windows. On the other hand, if a cold snap hits with freezing temperatures lingering, the plants may freeze. If in doubt, cover the entire seed starter in old blankets or burlap bags. Just be sure to uncover when the sun comes out to warm the seed starter again.
A seed starter gives you the opportunity for fresh greens and herbs in the dead of winter. It protects semi-hardy plants from dying off in freezing temperatures. It extends the growing season in the spring and in the winter. Best of all, it requires little money and can take as little as 10 minutes to assemble some of the seed starter kits that are available in the market. Purchase a seed starter and discover yet another way to make nature work for you and your plants.Click here to view seed starter
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