How to Build a Poor Boy Germination Chamber

Someone asked me the other day how we germinate seeds here at Kilpatrick Family Farm. I figured a quick blog post would be in order to show our cheap, and easy method.

The outside of our germination chamber

The outside of our germination chamber

We have heated benches in our smaller transplant house. I’ll do another Post on these latter, but the short version is that a 30 K BTU standard water heater is used to heat water which is pumped through small tubes on our benches. This system keeps the root zone warm, which is the most important part for strong growth.

What is needed for good germination?

Seeds need 3 things to germinate. Moisture, Heat, and in some cases light. We wet the trays before they go into the germination chamber. While in there, we either cover them with rowcover or germination domes to keep the moist. Heat is supplied by the heat tubes running underneath. The probe that powers the heat system is sunk in a small pot in the germ chamber. For those crops that need light, we’ll either place them on the top in the chamber or bring them out after a couple days. That is enough time to give them a jumpstart.

The guts of the heat system.

The guts of the heat system.

Here is a closeup of the tubing running under the bench and germ chamber.

Header for the heat tubes

Header for the heat tubes

What our cheap germ chamber does is concentrate that heat to a temperature which most seeds germ quickly at (80F). This is done through a few sheets of 1″ and 2″ foam board held together with great stuff and a few long roofing nails.

Heat box closeup- note the nails in the corner pinning it together.

Heat box closeup- note the nails in the corner pinning it together.

Here’s a shot of seedings just coming out of the germ chamber. We’ll stack trays several high in there for a capacity of over 100 trays.

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Tomatoes just out of the germ chamber

right now the chamber is chock full of ginger germinating!

Ginger starting in the germination box

Ginger starting in the germination box

During the summer, when it is too hot, we germ in the cooler or a cool basement room.

New Hampshire Bubble and Barrel washer workshop

Here is the slides from the talk I did in New Hampshire last week. We built bubble washer kits and built one barrel washer in the afternoon. I also talked about washing sheds and efficiency. longer and better blog post to follow.

Missouri Organic Association Conference

Talks I did for the Missouri Conference.

Small Farm Central CSA Conference

I was privileged to be asked to speak at the 2014 CSA Expert Exchange. I talked about Customizable Share options for members. Unfortunately, the talk I used had a few slides that didn’t work so here’s the full Slide deck. It was a lot of fun- there are lots of different systems that farmers are using to get vegetables into the bellies of eaters and I was excited to be able to talk about a few of them.

You can also see the video of the harvester that we use for carrots and beets here.

Presenting at CSA Expert Exchange

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I am presenting at Small Farm Central’s CSA Expert Exchange in March!

http://csafarmconference.com/content/18060

Check it out.

New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference

This week I spent mostly at the New England Vegetable and Fruit conference in Manchester. Its always a good couple of days of sessions and farmer-to farmer talks. The conference is held on a bi-annual basis and this is the 4th one i have attended. There was several exciting takeaways for me.

Organic farming is growing. Compared to when i first started, there were twice as many organic sessions this time, as well as the organic sessions being completely full compared to the conventional sessions being sparse. It was really telling in the Strawberry session. For 3/4ths of the session there was barely 50 people in the room during the industry talk of chemicals, fungicides, and matted row systems. At 11:30 when I was scheduled to talk about organic annual bed system the door opened and barely closed for the next 15 minutes as the room filled up with growers interested in a safer, more profitable way of farming.

The Organic movement is maturing. When i first started attending this conference there was very few young people. The next one had a lot more, and the next was flooded with young people. This time there was a new sound in the sessions, babies crying. All of us young, hippy farmers are growing up, getting married and having kids. It was exciting to see friend and newcomers alike with the next generation of farmers in slings and carseats.

It was an honor to be able to present 3 talks and accompanying papers at the conference. I presented on:

NEVFC Social Media 2013   White paper Social Media NEVFC 2013

NEVFC Strawberry White paper Strawberries 13

decision making 13 White paper NEVFC Decision 13

And To all of you, a very Merry Christmas to you! We appreciate your support through the year and feel honored to serve you.

NRCS webinar

I was privileged to be selected to give a webinar for the NRCS last week about high tunnel production. Webinars are hard to give, as you can’t see your audience or hear yourself, so feedback and feeling that you are connecting with your audience is tough.

We briefly covered high tunnel placement and construction, crop planning, and different crop production.

NRCS recorded the webinar. You can access that HERE.

 

Overall, it was a fun experience.

NOFA-MASS Seminar: Farm Profitability: Season Extension and Marketing for the Small Farm

Ben from NOFA_MASS recorded the sessions-

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/6pge57mfe5gahxr/hRkd5qaqIr

Session 1 – Farm overview, soil, fertility, disease, economics

Introduction: Soils, markets and finances at Kilpatrick Family Fam

Goals and Purpose of Year-Round Farming

Soil Health

Labs

Fertility management

Beneficial insects

Rowcover

Economics of High Tunnel Production

Economics of Winter Growing: budgets, depreciation and labor costs

Equipment

Cultivation

Mulch

SLIDES FROM SESSION 1

MASS 1

Mass 1 b

Session 2 – Farm Systems for Field Production, Tunnel Structure Intro

Washing and Packing Resources
Storage Facilities

Tunnel overview

Transplant/propagation houses
Soil
Greenhouses Manufacturers
Venting options

SLIDES FROM SESSION 2

MASS SE 2

Session 3 – Greens for tunnels and season extension
Irrigation, row cover and other tools of the trade

Seed suppliers

SLIDES FROM SESSION 3

MASS SE 3

Session 4  Marketing the Farm
The Why of Marketing
Educate the consumer

SLIDES FROM SESSION 4

MASS SE 4

NOFA-MASS SUMMER CONFERENCE

This year I was privileged to speak twice at the Nofa-Mass summer conference. Once on Starting up a CSA and the second one on season extension.

Season Extenion

CSA INTRO

Scott Viner Carrot Harvester Manual

We purchased a Scott- Viner Carrot harvester-  here’s the parts manual for it.

 

004R manual

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