Seed-starting 101 - Should I even try?

zaphod42January 16, 2014

I'd love to try and start a few annuals inside this year. Tried the basement last year, but it just wasn't quite warm enough down there. I'd like to give it another shot and try them upstairs, but I don't have the set-up for the fluorescents. Can I do it with a sunny window? Start them upstairs and then, once they germinate, move them downstairs for the flourecents? What about a special bulb that I can put in a regular desk lamp? Thanks!

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

of course you should try ...

most seeds do need warmth for germination.. so good idea about upstairs.. there is no reason they have to grow in one spot forever ...

though cold is not good for early growth either.. can you tell us how warm the basement is.. dollar store thermometer???

you would be much better off.. buying a 10 dollar [or whatever they are these days].. fluorescent shop light.. 2 bulbs .... with the standard florescent bulbs.. rather than messing with some expensive bulb for a desk lamp ...

the most important thing.. under lights.. is that the lights are about 2 inches from the plants .. to simulate sunshine... in a work room.. two hooks.. and an unfinished ceiling.. and some hardware chain... you can make a cheap.. flexible setup ...

at the link.. we have been discussing various issue of seed growing ...

and finally.. i suggest you start with easy plants ... do NOT go all foo foo.. and get discouraged ... and choose those.. which dont mind cool spring ... rather than plants that require warm soil to grow with vigor .... and that would be ones that bloom early ... rather than the june/july bloomers ...


ps: which ones???? perhaps a new post ....

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 10:46AM
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That should work just fine. Last month I had some seeds I wanted to test, to make sure they were viable. I just sowed a few in a small pot and set them near a window (not directly in the window). The seeds germinated fine at room temperatures.


    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 10:53AM
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I've got all the set up in the basement, it stays at about 58 degrees down there. I just don't have the space to set up lights upstairs. I was looking at Zinnias and Celosia to try with. I think those are more warm weather. I have Bishop's Flower and Bachelor's Button that are more cold tolerant, but I was planning on outside sowing those. Bishop's Flower not recommended to start indoors. Neither is Bachelor's Button. Says it doesn't transplant well.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 11:00AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

58 is too cold.. not only for germination ... but for vigorous growth after ...

at the link above ... he is struggling with too much heat..

you need to find the happy medium ... pun intended.. lol ...

could you tent the lights ... so that the heat generated by the ballast.. is trapped.. and increases the heat .. without burning down the house.. lol ... i ran my lights 16 hours on.. 8 off... running them at night.. for the heat ...

the alternative.. is a heat mat plus tenting ... from the hydroponics/brew store ... there are simple 72 degree mats .... that are not all that expensive.. surely you dont need one with a thermostat ... perhaps running the mat when the lights are off ....

the tent can be a dollar store plastic paint tarp and a few staples....

your variables are:

WATER ....

nothing more.. nothing less... perfect each.. and you cant lose ...

and sterilize your media first .. it avoids weeds.. and more importantly .. fungus/molds/mildews/ and vermin [fungus gnats, et al]


and wash everything first in 10% bleach ... trays.. pots.. tools.. trays.. etc ... its easier to prevent a problem .. rather than cure it ... think of it all as an operating room.. and clean ...


Here is a link that might be useful: random heat mat article

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 12:25PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

Yes. What Ken said. I can add that I usually start my seedlings upstairs in a very small bathroom. I close the door and run a small space heater to keep it toasty warm for germination. Then I move them downstairs to my basement where I have florescents, etc. No doubt heat mats or coils are more energy efficient...

I got hooked on seed starting a few years back and decided to invest in some plastic shelving units at Lowe's plus $10 shop lights that I hang by chains under the shelves. S Hooks make them adjustable as the plants grow. Each florescent will grow two flats of seedlings on the shelves. I figure I saved enough on Garden Center plants the first year to pay for my investment.

If you decide to try this, I recommend that you look for shelf units that ideally have adjustable shelf heights or, get as much head space over each shelf as you can find. That way, you can grow cuttings and/or tender perennials under there too.

My basement actually stays warm enough for plants year around, but I live in the Deep South. No doubt that makes a big difference.

Seed starting is fascinating and fun. Start small and simple. Then see how you like it.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 5:02PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I've always started my seeds in a cool (cold) environment but with bottom heat for germination. Seedlings develop sturdy, stocky stems when the ambient temps are maintained at 60ð or less. I unplug the bottom heat after everything has germinated.

I've never found a sunny window to be sufficient in maintaining those sturdy stems required for full, healthy plants that will transition from insides to outside without a blink.

Lots of people do, I guess! I sow all my seeds in a couple of plastic flats....probably a couple hundred in each flat. I transplant them into cell packs as soon as their stems are tall enough for me to grab. It would not be possible to do that if the seedlings are thin and leggy and weak.

Ken knows that I don't sterilize my medium. Have never had a disease or fungus gnat issue in the thirty or more years I've been doing this at home....nor in my big greenhouses, either. Cool temperatures, bright light, porous potting mix, low doses of fertilizer, and good air circulation all work together to produce a healthy little crop of plants.

Don't use peat pellets or peat pots or a medium that consists mostly of peat. Don't start your seeds so early that you have to keep them inside for three months before you can plant them outside! Other than that, you should have fun.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 5:57PM
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>>Start small and simple. Then see how you like it.

Or, start simple and get hopelessly addicted.

Rhizo, a light intermittent breeze also does wonders for stems. Keeping them cool for stems sounds a lot like slowing growth to have healthier stems. A breeze and brighter/closer lighting sounds like a different solution to the problem of leggy plants.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 1:36PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

Or, start simple and get hopelessly addicted.

Or, simply start and get hopelessly addicted.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 1:42PM
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YES...of course you should try. And yes, the seeds will need heat and moisture for germination, and some will need sunlight while others will not.

The window should work just fine to provide heat. When it comes to sunlight, you either push the seeds into the moist soil without covering them, or you cover them with up to 1/4" of your potting soil. You can cover the trays/pots with plastic to keep the soil and temperature more constant or you can get those little mini-greenhouse starter trays that have a plastic dome and can be reused every year. The plastic should be removed once they sprout.

As long as you have windows to provide decent light, you shouldn't need to worry about the bulbs at all.

The link will give you directions for starting seeds of a bunch of different types of flowers. What their requirements are etc. Hope this helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: Germinating Flower Seeds

    Bookmark   January 22, 2014 at 6:05PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

I agree with other posters. Just want to add a note regarding safety:

Be careful putting a special bulb in your desk lamp. Some burn so hot that they can melt a plastic shade or burn the paint off a metal one.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 10:02PM
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Thanks for all the advice. I'll give it a go and see what happens. I was gifted a heat mat and tray set-up recently. Tray is a self-watering variety where you fill the bottom with water and it wicks up. Can you still put that kind on a heat mat?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 12:37PM
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Sure can. They'll love it. Don't get it too soggy. Damp is more than enough.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 2:37PM
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