Our grow shelves are up and running, in preparation for spring planting, which is just around the corner. We were able to construct each grow stand for about $125 from Menard's. This price includes 8 shop lights, 16 fluorescent 34 watt T12 bulbs, and the necessary plywood and 2" x 4"s to make the frame. Not bad for a stand that holds 1200 plants and will last for many years!
Right now, the only seeds we've planted outside are onions and peas, as there is still too much risk of frost for anything else. In a few weeks, we will transplant our cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and mustard greens to outdoor plots, but we will have to watch the forecast closely for a frost alert. If a frost is expected, we will cover everything with old milk jugs to protect them from freezing weather. Shortly thereafter, we will be adding lettuce and other greens to the garden, hopefully before the end of April (or else our lettuce won't be ready for market in early May!).
So for now, our garden is just indoors. we used a seed starter potting mix of coconut fiber coir, peat moss, composted bark, and composted chicken litter (purchased, not our own). We've got about 1400 seedlings going, and I am expecting a germination rate of about 90% or so. I hope to add another 1000 seedlings before mid-April. Most of these seedlings will be moved to the greenhouse in about a week or two, once we feel confident we can keep nighttime temps well above freezing with our tiny wood stove.
WOndering when the right time is to plant your vegetables for your area? Check out Mother Earth News' article: "Know When to Plant What"