From the Ground Up Blog

Homebuilt Germination Chamber for Small Farm, Cut Flower, CSA & Organic Growers

I would like to share how I germinate peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants from seeds with a homebuilt germination chamber. This easy, speedy method has resulted in excellent yields throughout the years.

When I first began my career in agriculture, I worked for a large wholesale greenhouse that used a Biotherm heating system under their benches for the germination house. The house would hold approximately 1,000 plug trays for each rotation.

On my farm, my production is smaller and I always have seedlings at various stages, which require different temperatures. The soil needs to be kept at about 80° F for pepper and tomato seed germination, however; cole crops, pansies, and petunias grow in the same starter house, which need a soil temp of 60-65°F to grow.

My Homebuilt Germination Chamber

Many years ago, I built a germination chamber inside my seedling greenhouse by utilizing an old steel shelf I had in the barn and a piece of Styrofoam from a walk-in cooler.

The rack is about 40” deep, 60” wide, and 96” tall. I placed the rack on a foam panel that is located on the ground. This acts as an insulator from the cold. I wrapped the rack in a sheet of row cover fabric and clear plastic sheeting.

For extra heat, I have a small, electric milk house heater for cold spells and an inexpensive slow cooker. On most days, the slow cooker is very sufficient to maintain the soil temperature needed for the crops I am starting. The slow cooker provides an even temperature and offers humidity. A soil thermometer is utilized to monitor soil temps.

Seed Germination Chamber

With an investment of less than $100.00, this germination chamber has been in use for over a decade.

What Can Be Grown With A Germination Chamber?

I start everything from petunias to seedless watermelons, and have even used this chamber for grafting tomatoes. Inside of the greenhouse there is no supplemental lighting, but in the basement of my home, I have a smaller version with mounted lights.

How Effective Is Germination?

On average, I am seeing germination in 7 to 10 days for peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes and 3 to 5 days for cole crops and cut flowers.

I highly recommend you try this very basic unit to get fast and reliable germination for a small scale or beginner grower. This method can also be used for organic seeds that do not have extra seed treatment protection as quick emergence is a bonus to get those seedlings off to a healthy, fast start.

Once seedlings pop from the soil, you can simply place them on the benches in the greenhouse and start the next batch.