Saturday, December 15, 2012

Self Watering Seed Starter Experiment

A month ago Josh ordered a variety of heirloom non-GMO seeds from California based company Sustainable Seed Co. We'll be starting some of the seeds this winter, and over the past few weeks Josh has built a "laboratory" of sorts in the basement to test a new seed starting technique.

The setup involves a fish tank, table, plastic tubing, water heater, grow light, water pump, absorbent cloth, wicks, plastic pipes, thermometer, hygrometer, and several layers of seed trays. The pump inside the fish tank pumps water through plastic tubing that runs up the table and into each of the seed trays before draining back down into the tank. Josh designed the setup to maintain a water level that keeps the soil moist without drowning the trays. A water heater keeps the water at the right temperature and a grow light provides "sunlight" for the seedlings in our somewhat dark basement. There is also a bit of "special sauce" to the setup that I won't divulge, partially because it is not yet perfected, and partially because it is not my invention to share.

It took a few days to get everything running correctly, but the setup has now been running continuously for about a week without issue, and the thyme and sage are already starting to break through the soil. We only have a few trays going now, but plan to have them all planted within a few months.

This winter we will test the system as a concept and start a few seeds to plant in the kitchen garden come spring. If it works well, we will reproduce the setup on a larger scale once we have the space (hopefully a greenhouse). We're also considering adding fish to the tank, which would provide extra nutrients for the plants as the water cycles through. A filter would be attached at the end of the drain pipe to eliminate excess fish waste as the water reenters the tank. The beauty of the system is that once it is up and running, minimal maintenance is required to start seeds as watering and fertilizing is automatic.

Above and below are a few pictures of the trial setup.





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