Ariana Terry lives in Yankton and is a South Dakota Master Gardener intern, and president of Yankton Town & Country Flower Club. She germinates a variety of plants from seed that grow to be starter plants. She likes to grow young plants at a reliable range of temperatures and humidity whether she’s starting plants in mid-winter, early spring or for fall planting. The space for her nursery is not far from the back-door entrance to her home. That location adds more changing temperatures in cold and hot weather. Extra wall and door insulation that she and her husband installed, keep temperatures more constant.
She constructed the nursery, beginning with a sturdy 7-foot high x 4-foot wide metal plant stand with wire shelves. The wire shelves allow water to fall through and allows air movement within the unit. A shop light with 2 standard florescent bulbs is fastened to the underside of each shelf, with the cord plugged into an electricity strip beside the stand.
Upper shelves are outfitted with heat mats, and the light is positioned closer to plants growing there. Heat mats are a help in winter seed germination of warm-season plants. At that time, planting soil may be cooler than average room temperatures and a heat mat warms the soil.
For more control of temperatures and humidity in the nursery, Terry positions a high/low thermometer and humidity reader inside the unit. She helps stabilize temperatures by installing sheets of thin, reflective insulation. She buys rolls of the aluminum-faced insulation at Menards. She lines the back and sides of the plant stand with the insulation. If necessary to maintain consistent temperatures, she could also face the front of the stand with insulation. The reflective sheets of insulation also add reflected light inside the nursery as the plants begin to grow. Adequate nursery space is a consideration for germinating plants.
“I start milkweeds (and other warm season plants) on the heat mat in February or March,” Terry said. “Cold crop seeds such as broccoli don’t require warm soil, so they don’t need heat mats. Some plants don’t even need light to germinate. You can even germinate them on a bookshelf away from light until you see growth, but they must be checked, to put them in light then, or they become leggy and worthless.” She starts plants, one group after the next as the growing season nears. This way she grows more plants in the confined nursery space in a busy spring.