Dear Tom –
When we toured your farm last year I recall thinking that the supports you use for seed flats in your propagation house looked affordable and effective. Will you remind me how they are assembled?
– Jean in Clyde
Dear Jean –
The basic idea is to use stock panels held up by T-posts. We add rebar wired between the T-posts to add a little more rigidity across the stock panels.
Most farm supply stores have the posts and the stock panels. Ours came from Southern States. Stock panels are welded wire fencing for livestock that come in several sizes. Ours are 5 feet by 16 feet with a wire diameter of about one quarter inch.
Plan on overlapping them about a foot if you use more than one panel. They can be cut with bolt cutters, metal blades in a circular saw, or a hack saw.
Compare your seed flat width and length to the width of the stock panel if you have more than one size to choose from. Our panels fit 10 by 20 trays nicely.
T-posts are the steel posts that are often green with white tops that support most barbed wire fences When you decide the height of your rack, buy T-posts that height plus about 18” to go in the ground and six inches or so to stick up above the stock panels. Those posts can also serve to mount sprinklers or hoops for row cover in cold weather. We made ours about workbench height (36”).
We spaced pairs T-posts about four feet apart down the length of the panels and near the outside edge on both sides. Keep your seed flat size in mind as you place the posts (multiples of 10 or 20 inches if you use 1020s.) A post driver may be worth the investment if you are doing several posts. A post driver is a pipe with the end welded closed and handles that are designed specifically for driving T-posts without endangering your fingers.
We wired a half-inch length of concrete reinforcing rod (rebar) between pairs of T-posts just below the intended height of rack. They extend nearly the full width of the panels.
Just drop the panels over the top and you are ready for plants. The panels are $30-50 depending on the size. T-posts are $5-10 depending on height. Rebar is about fifty cents a foot at builder supply stores. As I recall it took about an hour for each rack working alone, once the tools and parts were assembled and cut.
Commercial farmers: got a question for Tom? Email us!
Tom Elmore is co-owner and operator of Thatchmore Farm in Leicester NC. He has grown certified organic fruits and vegetables for 25 years and serves on the Boards of the NC Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association and the Organic Growers School.