Most family gardeners can’t justify a greenhouse, so how can we teach and demonstrate growing healthy seedlings to them?
We will build and plant a cold-frame/hotbed! There are several designs, and the Garden Master CD has a good one you can use if you’re interested. It’s available in the Store section of this website.
In the region of Armenia in which we are teaching wood is very scarce and therefore expensive. Also, during the cold winters people are likely to burn any they can get their hands on to keep from freezing, so we use a different design.
We recommend an in-the-ground setup using steel rods as hoops, and covered with clear greenhouse plastic. We will use 6′ X 16′ or 2 X 5 meters. We dig the dirt out to a depth of 30-33″ or 3/4 meter. Fill 1′ or 30cm deep with manure, then 8″ or 20cm with sand, and 8″ or 20cm with the sand and sawdust growing mixture.
Apply Pre-Plant at the rate of 1 ounce per cubic foot of growing mixture or 1/2kg per cubic meter.
Plant seeds in one end of the hotbed, using about 18″ (1/2 meter)-length rows, all the way across the width. Cover with a second smaller greenhouse plastic, supported by 4′ or 1 1/4 meter rods.
Water well, then pay close attention to temperatures, using a thermometer. Open the plastic when temps rise above 80 degrees F or 30 degrees C.
When plants emerge, water with Constant Feed solution. This is made by mixing one ounce (two tablespoons) of Mittleider Magic Weekly Feed mix into 3 gallons (12 liters) of water.
Transplant into the entire hot-frame when plants have 2 sets of true leaves, with spacing between 2 1/2″ and 3″ or 6-71/2cm.
You can grow 2000 plants in your own hot-bed in this way, and do it in time that they can be transplanted into your garden as soon as it’s warm enough, or about the same time your neighbors are just planting seeds!