help $200 budget

pacojamOctober 31, 2010

Hello newbee need help

Just purchase my house last year and I finally plan to get around to concentrating on my garden. I am starting a from scratch and even though I read a lot of the messages I am lost but I learned why my first foray in seed planting failed dismally.

I am trying to set up seed starting system for 200 plants (heirloom tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, eggplants, cabbages, lettuces, etc) on a limited $200 budget. From what I read, it look like I will be getting most of my supplies from local hardwares stores, home depot, lowes, costco and or bj. I might do a little internet shopping but the shipping fees will eat too much of my budget.

First on my list is a sturdy shelves system. I love the ones with caster but it might be out of my budget if I can't find one locally. Second is the plant grow lights (confuse but fluorescent might be my best option at the moment), power cords, surge protectors and ?. How many fluorescent systems and bulbs should I buy if I go that route? Although led intrigues me because of it low energy efficency, there is a lot of conflicting materials on how effectives they really are and it does not appear cost effective. I would appreciate some feedbacks on how much each grow light system will cost to run and increase my budget because if I am successful I will look to improve in the future. Third is the heating mat(s) if I am able to find an inexpensive one. I was thinking of placing the seeds that need to be germinate on top of boiler but fram what I read it might be too hot so I might go the water heater route.

Has anyone tried using eggshells to start seeds in?

Fourth is planting pots. Most of the vegetables I bought last years were hybrid in plastic pots so I will wash and sterilize those pots with soap and bleach.

The $200 budget is just for the inexpensive seed starting system in new york and any and all assistances will be greatly appreciated. Thank you all

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I've just begun starting seeds indoors, so I may be talking nonsense.

Here's my setup: I've been successful germinating seeds under three 4 foot T8 fluorescents, and these are fairly cheap to buy and run. I paid $20 for the fixtures, plus $5 each for quality Philips bulbs. You can probably find fixtures for $5 to $10 less; I was just lazy.

I don't have a heat mat; I keep my setup in a room with a couple of computers on 24/7. It's by far the warmest room in the house. If it gets particularly cold out, the heat from the lights' ballasts keeps one end of my setup between 20ðC and 30ðC, depending on room temperature.

I lucked out on Craigslist and found a used 48" x 24" x 60", four-shelf Metro wire shelving system on casters for under $100; normally they retail for $400+. This was my big splurge. The three T8s light a single shelf.

Digital programmable time / extension cord was $10 at the hardware store, on sale.

That's about $200 right there, not counting seed money, nor the cost of soil, fertilizers, utility bills, and sundry supplies.

I start my seeds in egg cartons with seed starting potting mix. I've tried eggshells for fun in the past, but for large numbers of seedlings ...

I'm skeptical that you could take care of 200 plants with this setup, though. The amount of lights required to take care of that number of plants, for one thing. If I were to fully light up my shelves with T8's, I would be looking at a cost of $200 to $400 before anything else ...

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 1:14AM
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You'll need:
3 72-cell nursery trays $15 (includes tray with holes, tray without holes and 12, 6-cell flats)
25 quarts Ferti-lome Potting Mix (or something similar) $10
Two shop lights - $30
4 lb. bag Tomato-tone Fertilizer (or similar) $6
40 packages of seeds (maybe less) - $90
1 2'x 4' piece of paneling - $8


    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 11:31AM
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paco if you want cheap bottom heat Google "the door garden" check the post "home made bottom heat" a very good Idea that I will use for heating my worm bin. I do not use a heat mat if I have seeds that require warmth I use coffee filter germination. You can do a lot of seeds in a few plactic bags that way. You do not want too much heat after germination or your plants will get leggy Yes t-8 shop lights work for me.


    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 7:36PM
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Thank you dirtgently

I figured my $200 budget is too low but my wife lost her job when the hospital closed so at the moment I am trying to be frugal. Most of the sturdy affordable shelves system come without casters so you were very lucky to find one on craigslist. I will keeping checking craigslist and ebay.

From what you are saying, I might be able to germinate my seeds if I place them close to my boiler so I will eliminate the heating mat from my list. The fluorescent light ar easy to get and I am very happy to hear they are cheap to run.

Seed money, soil, fertilizers, utility bills, and sundry supplies are separate. I am justing to get ideas on inexpensive and sturdy shelves with casters, grow lights fixtures, the best bulbs. How many bulbs should I buy?

After my dismal failure last year, I figure try planting 200 plants and hope for 75 to 100 plants but your point is taken that 200 might be to high with my budget and set up. What do you think is a more realistic number?

Again thank you for your assistance

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 7:40PM
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@wordwiz: what's the paneling for? Shelf?

@curt_grow: the rope light's ingenious idea. I've posted a link to the article below. Can you describe coffee filter germination? I'm not sure how it substitutes for having a source of bottom heat.

Here is a link that might be useful: Home Made Bottom Heat for Seed Starting (or pet bed)

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 7:46PM
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"25 quarts Ferti-lome Potting Mix (or something similar) $10
4 lb. bag Tomato-tone Fertilizer (or similar) $6"

I will definetly get the Ferti-lome and tomato-tone. Do I still need to also buy sterile seed starting mix or will the Ferti-lome potting mix alone also work?

What is the "1 2'x 4' piece of paneling - $8" for?

again thank you for your assistance

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 7:58PM
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You don't really need it - it is just a shelf for your plants. I've grown seedling by setting the trays on an unused dresser.

No, you don't need any sterile starting mix. I like Ferti-lome because it works for me - there are alternatives. The reason I recommend Tomato-tone: I was looking to grow seedlings that were short and stocky, not tall. This wonderful lady (named Pam) from a grow forum told me about it. It's low in nitrogen but when used to water from the bottom provides all the macro and micro nuits seedlings use. It's also OMRI listed, just in case that counts.


    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 8:51PM
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taz6122(N.W. AR.6b)

I recommend using a mechanical timer for your lights NOT a digital as suggested earlier. When the ballasts power up there's a power surge that could damage the timer or the ballasts. See this earlier thread.

Here is a link that might be useful: Timers and fluorescent lights

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 10:16PM
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pacojam; While the coffee filter germination does not directly replace the warming pad, it does work well for me. Fold a drip coffee filter in half label it with seeds/date using pen or pencil. Arrange seeds in the folded filter leaving room for root growth. Pepper size seeds only need 1/4-3/8 inch, place on dinner plate and spray with a light mist til damp. Then place filter and enclosed seed into a plastic bag and put into a container or lay onto a warm surface. When the seeds have developed roots transfer to starting pots. Keep seeds/roots damp when transplanting. The filter will keep the roots growing with out being penetrated, Making for easy transplanting. You can check on the seeds any time by holding the bag up to light. I transfer when the root are about 1/2 inch long. well before any leaves are starting. Dibbling a hole and spraying the seeds into the soil vertically, covering completely and placing under lights I like 75-80 degrees f. for the germination of tomatoes and peppers. All other plants I direct seed with no problem right in my kitchen 65-70 F.


    Bookmark   November 3, 2010 at 2:27AM
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Just a quick update

I will be getting a 54" X 36" X 14" 5-Tier Chrome Steel Shelving Unit on sale at Lowes from 11/26 to 11/29 for $49 dollars unless I see a chrome shelving unit with caster on sale. There is also a 5-tier heavy duty steel shelving for the same price but I figure it wood rust. If you add to choose one which one wood you choose

Is there a brand of fluorescent light that is highly recommended? I figure with the saving on the shelving unit I can upgrade on the lights.

I am shocked that I might be able to set up a system for $200.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 9:05PM
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Curt grow I will give the coffee filter germination a try. I will give you an update in the future. Thank you

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 9:16PM
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