Growing seeds indoors

saoodhashimOctober 1, 2013

I live in Saudi Arabia and right now the high temperatures reach 100F at around noon. Gradually they are falling though.

Being a new gardener, with no outside space and just a roof top where I receive 7-8 hours of morning and afternoon sunlight, I wanted to start off with vegetables - tomato, cucumber and peppers in containers. Just planted seeds inside the house and in 3 days, the seeds have started to germinate and poke above the soil line. I thought it might take 2-3 weeks and by that time the temperatures would have bettered off for keeping them outside. However, not so. Now I have got a bit worried. What to do with these seedlings? Not much sunlight inside my home - just indirect sunlight through the eastern window - good enough for reading and writing.

Exploring the internet, I found that there is something called grow lights and then I found this forum. While I dont think the grow lights would be available locally, but I read somewhere that 80W of florescent tube lights or CFL should work fine if kept within a short distance of 6"-12" of the seedlings and lighting them for 12-16 hours.

I thought I will ask my local electrician to make a structure for me in a fashion where I can put 2 warm 20W Philips CFL and 2 cool 20W Philips CFL bulbs making the total as 80W for a row of seedlings.

The reason I am thought of using CFL is because I dont know if the local market has florusent lights catering to warm and cool categories. If florusenct is preferable according to the experts and it is possible to live without cool / warm categories, then perhaps I will plan for a florucent structure of. Am I thinking in the right direction? Is there any other better option?

As another option- without grow lights (which I actually did today i.e. the first day of the seedlings) - I have the option to give my seedlings 2 hours of morning sunlight. By then, the temperatures are around approx. 80F. The temperatures then climb sharply to 100 which would be unbearable for the seedlings. Then I can keep them on the eastern window sill for the whole day where there is good enough light for reading and writing for around 9-10 hours? Is this a workable solution without compromising on the health of the seedlings?

Would be highly indebted for some quick response from you all experienced guys.

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I'm new to gardening as well; but here are my 2 cents that may help you. Wattage of the fluorescent light has nothing to do with growth of the seedlings. It depends on two things: the spectrum of light (cool / warm / neutral) and the intensity of light (measured in lumens). You want the highest intensity of light possible, with lights available in both cool and warm range of the spectrum (these usually come in 3000K and 6500K spectrum). I won't go into further details about when and why to use each spectrum of light; but for you, I would recommend light in cool spectrum ie 6500K. Lastly, there are different types of lighting options available: T12, T8, T5. T12 consumes the most power (wattage), and gives the least intense light. So avoid those completely. T5 would be the best option if you can spend a bit of cash, because it gives off the most intense light, but at expense of more power consumption AND more expensive bulb fixtures and bulbs. T8 is between these two; although it gives results almost the same as T5, but definitely better than T12. I currently have set up a T8 fluorescent light setup, including 2 bulbs, 1 fixtures, stand, suspending chain to adjust height, and a timer, to automatically set the time for the lights for a total of around $65.

So, to sum it up, for you, I would recommend that you get either a T8 or T5 lights set up, with an electric timer and height adjustment option for the fixture, 6500K bulbs, 16 hours of light every day, set to height of 3-4" above the tallest seedling.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2013 at 8:41PM
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Thanks Mzmalik (sahab, if I have rightly figured out) for your input.

The information, especially the T5,T8 and T12 things was new for me. I too dont know whey they are referred to as T5, T8 and T12 etc.

My only concern over here is whether such lights are available and are they known by this name in Saudi Arabia or not. I am not sure and my bias is that the local market would not be aware of such technical stuff.

Is there any other layman style to refer to these tube lights? I have seen philips 6500 lumens 20W bulbs in one of the big super markets over here. Dont know whether such tube lights are available. These days, because of eco-friendly culture, tube light is fast losing its race and CFL are taking over. The specialized need of grow lights - well over here in saudi container vegetable gardening is not a well known hobby and therefore no market for it. So such specialized tubelights - i dont know if I will be able to find it.



    Bookmark   October 2, 2013 at 2:55AM
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T5, T8, T12 merely refers to the diameter of each tube. T5 being the slimmest. I guess that's all that is important to know. And if your local market is not aware of these terms, then just try to find a lighting setup which consumes minimum power, gives out the most lumens, and is in the cooler spectrum of light. You can know what spectrum a light bulb is by seeing its color. If it is bright white / blueish light, then it is on the higher spectrum ie what you should use for seedlings. If it has a yellowish hue in light, then it is warm spectrum and you should try to avoid that light. I guess that's as basic as it can get.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2013 at 4:59PM
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