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Benefits of a Dedicated Seed Starting Greenhouse

Spindly, leggy tomato transplants and bushy, overgrown lettuce seedlings reaching for light and competing for space on a kitchen counter or near a bedroom window are all too common occurrences for new and small-scale farmers and gardeners this time of year. Rather than spending your early spring days clearing more counter space, moving furniture and shuffling plant starts around the house as they rapidly outgrow their soil blocks, pots or trays, consider the many advantages of investing and building a Seed Starting Greenhouse on your property.

1) INCREASED SPACE – One of the primary benefits of a dedicated Seed Starting Greenhouse is having increased space for managing and caring for your transplants, especially when doing multiple transplanting and succession cropping cycles common to four-season farm planning and production. After germination, transplants need sufficient space from one another, adequate sunlight, and good air circulation to grow properly before being transplanted outdoors. Any decent sized high tunnel or greenhouse can offer a big improvement on available space, but it should be ideally set up to accommodate a seed starting and transplant growing process, including a gravel or concrete floor, a heater, ventilation fans, a watering system, benches, heat mats, germination chambers, as well as seeding and potting areas with bins of potting soil and other seed starting supplies. Some common greenhouse sizes are 22 feet by 48 feet, 30 feet by 72 feet or even as larger as 34 feet by 96 feet, all of which are sold from greenhouse manufacturing companies such as Rimol Greenhouse Systems. You can easily maximize floor space with an efficient bench layout design and reduce heating costs by sectioning off areas of the greenhouse with hanging sheets of plastic in early spring when only a smaller heated space is needed. Some greenhouses are even set up with half of the space as a seed starting area using gravel or concrete floor and the other half with in-ground beds for production. But due to undesirable soil compaction issues, it is best to avoid using a high tunnel for seed starting activities early in the spring and then switching the space over to in-ground crop production later in the season.

2) IMPROVED HEALTH OF TRANSPLANTS – A good rule of thumb is the healthier the transplant is going into the ground, the healthier the plant will be growing and producing throughout the season. Due to the increased space, better light availability, watering frequency, and a climate controlled environment as a result of using heaters, horizontal air flow (HAF) fans, endwall exhaust fans, ridge vents, roll-up sides, radiant heat bench tops, heat mats, automated overhead watering systems, misters, grow lights, etc., the health of the transplants can be dramatically improved. The specific benefits of these options can be discussed with your greenhouse supplier.

3) RETURN ON INVESTMENT – Once the decision has been made to purchase and build a dedicated Seed Starting Greenhouse, the main consideration is the additional cost. Of course there are various ways to reduce the cost by shopping around, comparing and selecting options, finding a good deal on a used model, and even building your own, but there are also many creative solutions to quickly return on your investment of a new, well designed and constructed greenhouse. With the addition of all this new dedicated space for the primary purpose of plant propagation, one option is to grow plant starts, bedding plants, and hanging baskets to sell to customers in the spring. Another idea is to grow micro-greens during off-peak usage times including early spring and late fall and sell the product to restaurants and local markets. Any unused space in late fall can also provide additional areas to dry and cure storage crops such as onions. And my favorite idea is to use the space to host a farm dinner, a teaching seminar or other farm-related events. Whatever creative ways you find to maximize the benefit of having a dedicated Seed Starting Greenhouse, it is clear that the plants will always be the winners and the space will be used and appreciated to its full capacity for many types of activities.


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