Watch me clean: a look at the growing table (part 1)

Although it's not quite time to start seeds -- even the types that need a big head start on the season like cardoon and some other seeds that have long germination times -- my growing table is really about as messy as it can be, and I thought I should get started on it now, rather than waiting until I need it to be clean. Since there's probably nothing interesting about watching me clean a table, I'm going to turn this into the first half of a look at my setup here, as some people have asked about it.

It's a homemade two-shelf table in my basement, with the top shelf reserved for overwintering plants and the bottom shelf for starting seeds. The bottom light isn't needed yet so it stays off, so I tend to use that lower table as a "temporary" storage area. Then days, weeks, and months go by and it's completely out of control.


It's never been this bad before. For some reason I just piled stuff up this year:

The grow lights are high-intensity flourescent fixtures, each containing two 105W bulbs. These put out a lot more light than a regular flourescent bulb, enough that I can grow full-sun plants without having to keep the lamps an inch above the plants:

Since they do use more energy than regular bulbs though, I don't like to keep both of them on all winter long -- hence the unused table and resulting junk pile.

So let's dig in to this mess and see what we have....

Besides a lot of empty containers, lids, and plastic saucers (which I'll use when I run out of room in the storage boxes I use underneath most of the plants), there are some interesting things here. Small planters of various shapes and sizes:

Veggie seed packets I never got around to using last year... some I think were meant for the fall crop I got too busy to plant:

A large container of black pepper. What, really?

I don't know why that's down here, but I think we were cleaning out kitchen cabinets and were going to throw it away, and I decided I might be able to use it in some sort of critter repellent concoction. I have not done that yet.

That's half (or maybe a third) of the table cleared of "stuff", leaving just the detritus of a year's worth of growing plants:

Different types of leaves, some seeds, plenty of dirt, and pennies? I don't remember what the pennies were for, but there are two possibilities: the first is that this table is right next to the laundry area, and they probably got put here after being discovered in pants pockets headed for the wash. The second possibility is that I used them to help level the storage boxes, as the tables are sloped slightly toward the front (done purposely to keep any spills from going off the back).

Anyway, a few shots of Windex and this part of the table is clean:

The other half (or two-thirds) of the table is similarly cluttered with various interesting and not-so-interesting items. The fish food I used when feeding the tadpoles I rescued two years ago:

(That is only still in this area because I cleaned off some other shelves -- it hasn't been on the table for two years!)

Also several bags of seeds that I collected this past year and didn't put away:

Hmmm, some of them are from 2009 too. Guess I was a little lazy. Speaking of lazy, there are a couple I didn't even bother labeling:

I guess I was thinking these are distinctive enough seeds that I would remember what they are without labels. That's partially true... although I didn't remember immediately, I did eventually figure out that the top ones are Black-eyed Susan vine, and the bottom ones are Berlandiera lyrata ("Chocolate flower"). I'm glad I found these now, because I want to plant Chocolate flowers again -- their smell is amazing in the morning -- and if I remember correctly they were difficult and/or slow to germinate. I should get those started soon...

So a little more Windex and the table is all clean, just like it is every year at this time (and pretty much only at this time):

You may be wondering what the table tops are made of. They're essentially large sheets of plexiglass, or something similar. Many years ago the office my mother-in-law had worked at forever closed, and I inherited some old office furniture. An old clear plastic chair mat was one of the items I got, but it cracked while we were moving it, so I stuck it in the garage for "future use". It turns out that it's the perfect material for this plant table because it lets light through, cleans easily, and is pretty lightweight. Plus its second life as a table kept it out of the landfill, which makes me feel good.

So that's the first look at my growing table. I'll take another look soon when I start some seeds.

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TC  – (February 9, 2011 at 6:36 AM)  

Nice work on the re-purposing for table top. I always love it when I can find a second use for something and qualify my hoarding. Did you special order those fluorescent lights? I was looking for those type locally but I wasn't sure where to look. I ended up using 4 standard fixtures in my grow room. I will post my set up on my blog later tonight if you are interested.

Alan  – (February 9, 2011 at 9:35 AM)  

TC - yes, I got them locally, but you can get them online too. You can't just pop them into normal fixtures though. I believe these are "Sunleaves Satellite" units, but they're 5 years old or so, so the design may have changed a little. The price has gone up a bit since I got mine, but they're not exactly cheap.

Nat  – (February 23, 2011 at 2:17 PM)  

Very nice, I love the plant area, reminds me of my own cluttered corner of plants. My roommates think I'm loosing my mind, as the jungle grow bigger in the corner of the room. Nice to know others have similar interests.

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