Starting seeds indoors

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Hears The Water, Dec 17, 2003.

  1. Hears The Water

    Hears The Water Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I am wanting to start some of my garden's seeds indoors this year. My problem is that the past three times I tried to do this I failed miserably. All three times the plants where so tall and skinny. I think the term is leggy. I think I read that this was because the light source was to far away. Is that right? I do not have any fancy lights and was hoping to just use the light from the window. But I am not sure if that will work. I would welcome any and all tips for starting seeds. I have some cardboard egg cartons that have clear plastic lids that I had hoped would work for the very very start of it and then use the lids as bottoms to collect water later on after you do not need to greehouse thing going on. Will this work, or is is better to just start them in medium sized cups? What kind of soil is best? Would a drop light work and if so what kind of bulb? I am sure there are some realy good web sites out there that will tell me how to do this, but I am hoping that some of y'all that do this a million times would have some pointers for me. I thank you in advace for any and all help you can give.
    God bless you and yours
    Debbie
     
  2. RANDEL

    RANDEL Well-Known Member

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    starting seedlings indoors at the window will work just fine if the window gets direct sunshine. i would want my seedlings to get maybe six hours of sun per day minimum, and more would be better. if you havent got that much sun at one window you could move them once or twice during the day, following the sun around. i've never used any sort of "greenhouse" around the indoor seedlings. ordinary veggies and flowers shouldn't need it. if the house gets below 50 degree F at night though it might be different. you might also place them outside during the day and bring them in at night or during bad weather. you could build a cold frame of old window and bales of hay, railroad ties or whatever. if you use an outdoor coldframe you can keep it from freezing at night with old blankets or carpeting. you have to get a feel for how cold it's getting inside the coldframe, tho.

    seedlings will also get leggy if too crowded. the best salvage-type planters i ever used were the blue styrofoam mushroom containers from the produce counter with holes punched or melted in the bottom for drainage of course. i often start seedlings in these and then transplant them to individual containers when they start to crowd.

    ive started thousands of seedlings following these guidelines with little trouble...at least till they went outside.
     

  3. Zack

    Zack Well-Known Member

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    Standard florescent will work if very close and you have enough wattage or any HPS (High pressure sodium)security light will work, not vercury vapor though.
    HPS lights get hot so not too close, 8" should be ok for 150 watt HPS.
    You can also use a small fan to gently sway the seedlings to stiffen their stems.

    Lowes sells a 150w hps light for about $80.00
     
  4. KrisW

    KrisW Well-Known Member

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    I have also started all my seeds like Randel says, for years and years in egg cartons.
    I’m lucky enough to have a north facing garden window in the kitchen where I put them.
    I do put them outside on sunny days when it's above 50. They do get a bit “leggy”, but just plant them a little deeper than normal.
    Might lose one or two, but that’s the way it goes.

    Kris
     
  5. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I have a flourescent light set up to start seeds.
    Timing is everything. A plant that gets leggy in the window or under the lights will not do as well as a healthy compact plant. If you start the plants too early, they won't do as well when you put them in the ground.
    I have found the plants get leggy under the lights if I leave them in the initial seed starting containers.
    The last few years, I have transplanted the seedlings from the "flats" to larger individual plastic cups with a hole in the bottom. I do this when the first root comes through the bottom of the initial planting container. Usually, the side roots haven't developed well and it takes just a little practice to get the plant and dirt out of the original container without damage. So, I plant more seeds than I need. I transplant them all, but due to space limitations under the lights, I give away a bunch. I give them away as soon as I transplant. The difference was amazing. I also found that a dilute fertilizer intended for seedlings helps avoid the legginess.
     
  6. diane

    diane Well-Known Member

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    I agree that you can start them in a window, and I did it for years. I now have a shop lite with "growlux" bulbs in it and a bench it hangs over that I can rotate my plants around so have avoided the leggy aspect that I always disliked.

    Timing is really important if you are not going to use a light. Plant too early and you will get plants that are going to have a difficult time when you put them out. Tomatoes seem to be the least important ones as far as leggy because you can just plant them sort of "sideways" and they develop roots all along that stem and make a very strong plant.

    Seed packages give you the amount of weeks to plant them before your last frost. I already have some geraniums and gerbera daisies coming up, but I want them to be in full bloom by mother's day so I started rather early. Now I just have to figure out where I am going to put everything as the months go by. :haha:

    Lowes has the shop lights and bulbs and I ended up spending about $23 for the whole thing. Very worth it in my opinion.
     
  7. Hears The Water

    Hears The Water Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thank you all so very much for all of your imput! I am going to get brave and try this. But Since my hubby works at The Home Depot, I probably will not be buying my lights at Lowe's ;) .
    God bless you and yours
    Debbie
     
  8. unregistered6474

    unregistered6474 Guest

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    I started my seeds inside last year for the first time! We strung up a grow light from the ceiling (just a gro-light fluorescent in a regular shop fixture). We had it strung up by chains that we could adjust so we could raise the lights as the plants grew. We started it off right above the pots, so that it was almost touching the seedlings. As they got taller we raised the light higher. They were still a little leggy, but they did ok. As soon as the days started to warm up, I'd put them outside for the day and then I'd bring them back in at night.

    If you have leggy tomato seedlings, you can plan them very deep. They will just form new roots along the stem. In fact, I even take off the bottom set of leaves and plant the non-leggy seedling a little bit deeper in the ground than they were in their pots. The plants don't seem to mind.

    Good luck! I am getting anxious to plant things already -- the seed companies are torturing me with catalogs!!!
     
  9. Sedition

    Sedition Well-Known Member

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    I used a similar set up my first year. Last year, I dedicated myself to a “grow closet” with a serious $500 budget. Hey, I’m cheap, alright.

    What I did was to space off an area about 6’ x 5’ and frame it in with insulation and drywall. I put pre-fab plastic shelves that I bought at Sam’s Club on the two side wall and the back wall, giving me 12 48” growing shelves for $90. I adjusted the shelves so that each shelf was a little bigger than the one above it. 12”, 18”, 24” and the top shelf – for a total of 7’ tall. That way, I could move flats to a taller shelf as the seedling got bigger, rather than messing around with adjusting the height of the lights.

    One thing I discovered using a single light set up is that plants don’t get enough light. They get leggy no matter what. So I did two things.

    First, I learned a trick from a guy I used to know who grew some special plants in an aquarium in his apartment. I lined the walls with aluminum foil, shiny side out. Then, I glued more aluminum foil to sheets of carboard I cut off of boxes, and duct taped these to the sides of shelves. This maximized the reflected lights reaching the plants.

    Second, I used multiple shop lights. I found that on the 18” and higher shelves, I could wedge in 2 sets of shop lights underneath each shelf – 4 fluorescent bulbs total. I already had six sets of shop lights, and I bought 12 more sets at $7.95 each at Menards. Bulbs cost me almost another $50. So, between the framing, the shelves, and the lights, I only spent about $400. And, this lets me have 48 flats of plants growing at any one time. I’m doing a better job of scheduling my garden this year, so I’m not going to end up with as much of a problem of having huge tomatoes hogging up all the shelves while it is still too cold to put them out.

    And there are two tricks to really doing awesome on starting your own plants. One is to provide heat. Keep the temperature at least 75 during the day, and 65 at night. Warmer is better, and soil heat is mcuh better than using a space heater, especially on your seedling humidity domes.

    The second is humidity. Before I had the grow closet, I used the top shelves in an old cabinet. For humidity, I put a 1 gallon bucket full of water in there, with an old dishrag to wick the water out of the bucket and into a nearby flat. I literally had a quart of evaporation every day in our very dry Iowa winter air. Now, I use a Goodwill purchased humidifier ($2) in the closet. Keeping your humidity over 60% will help seedlings get started, as well as discourage damping off surprisingly. Because the seedlings look more healthy, you will be less apt to over water and cause damping off.
     
  10. diane

    diane Well-Known Member

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    Dang Sedition, been thinking about your "closet" all afternoon!!! :haha: Had one just like in the attic back in the 70's but I didn't grow tomatoes. :eek:

    Times being what they are I would consider having a LEO friend in for coffee and show him your TOMATOES. :p That amount of bulbs is going to bump up your electric bill a bit. I have a son-in-law who is a police officer and I was a bit of a joke among the county cops when my big banks of lights could be seen from the road. By march I have about 20 of them going. Two big shelf units in a south window and you can see the "glow" 1/2 mile away. :) Everyone teased my SIL about what his MIL was growing under them there lights.
     
  11. HilltopDaisy

    HilltopDaisy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I grow my seedlings in a window. I use a set of shelves that come right up to the window, and line the back and sides with the bubble-wrap with aluminum foil on both sides. It's some sort of insulation, I had it given to me for free! The stuff is great, seems to intensify the sunlight. I agree that the single biggest mistake is to start seeds too early. Nevertheless, I can hardly wait to start playing with seeds and dirt!