First time help! Lighting ideas for next years seeds :)

heavenlyfarm(zone 6b)November 11, 2013

I'm hoping to start a lot of next years seeds indoors a few weeks ahead of time, well attempt it anyways lol I plan on saving seeds tho to start outdoors if it fails. I recently redid, our one spare room that has two nice sized windows side by side and I installed a rack right under the windowsills to start seeds next year in flats and pots. I was thinking of buying germination mats (are heat mats worth the expense and do they really improve conditions? I notice even at my bay windows, alot of the plants already seem cold when i touch the soil. thinking of buying the heat mats for those windows too?) to keep the temp warm and would like to also provide some sort of lights over top to help the seedlings and prevent them from getting leggy....this always seem to be my problem and they topple over.
Not sure what the best set-up would be? I'd prefer something not too expensive that will help provide healthy seedlings till they are transplanted outdoors....any ideas would be appreciated.

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Hi Michael,

Regarding the use of heat mats; they should only be used for germinating the seeds. Seeds will usually germinate without the use of heat mats, but will do so much sooner with a little heat added to the soil. Once the seeds have sprouted, the heat mat should be removed, you don't want to cook the roots :-) Heat mats usually have some sort of built-in safety device that will shut the mat off at a certain point (about 10 deg above the room temp I think). A much better solution is to use a separately sold thermostat made especially for use with heat mats. The thermostat will control exact soil temperatures. If a heat mat was left on constantly (trying to heat anything other than soil), I'm sure it would burn out rather quickly. But anyway, to answer your basic question ... yes, in my opinion, heat mats are very helpful and having at least one around is well worth the extra expense.

Hope this is helpful,


    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 1:59PM
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heavenlyfarm(zone 6b)

Okay, thank you! I never used heat mats before so I was wondering if it was worth it! I read you can also use them to help root cuttings? I have one heat mat that I'm thinking of putting my pots with african violet leaves that I've been waiting for babies from, would that be okay till they send up babies? It's been awhile and just wondering if the cold could be setting it back. I think I will also order more seed mats to use in Spring to put under germination seed kits!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 2:16PM
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Hi again Michael,

Yes, the heat mats can be used for rooting cuttings as well as for seeds. Normally, you don't want to use them once the cuttings have roots. Once rooted, and until you're ready to move them outside, seedlings are best grown at cooler temperatures. Warm temperatures would cause the seedlings to grow faster, and you probably would not be able to provide enough light to prevent legginess.

Regarding the African violets, I've never tried rooting them so can't be much help there. Off hand, I would think that the heat mat might be helpful.

About your lights ... I don't know what kind of seedlings you'll be growing, but normally just plain fluorescent shop lights (with a decent reflector) work fine. Because the blue part of the light spectrum seems to be more beneficial to vegetative growth, I usually use bulbs that have a color temperature between about 5000 and 6500 degrees Kelvin. The lights should be kept as close to the plants as possible without burning the leaves (usually about 2 or 3 inches from the top of the plants). If you end up using T5 bulbs (which are great), you may want to keep the light a bit further away (3 or 4 inches maybe) as those bulbs tend to get a little warmer than the T8 or older T12 bulbs.

Hope this is helpful, and I wish you the best of success with all of your plants.


    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 4:34PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

@ heavenly -,

There are 3 things to be considered in trying to start from seeds:

1) GERMINATING seeds: For this step you will need a warm environment: Heat Mat, Top of your frig, Top of your water heater. Depending on How big an operation you needs, you can germinated in paper towel or directly in the starter soil.

GROWING seedling:

2) you will need proper lighting. A window sill, is IFFY. Fluorescent Shop Lights are the most practical way to go. Again, depending on HOW much is involve , you will need and investment upward of $20 bucks. I personally have two $20 bucks system( =$40.00) and I will have about 30 pepps, 30 toms, 30 misc. THAT is the number of seeds now. So I can start/grow 2 or 3 of them in one 3 1/2" pot. So roughly I will have about 40 pots. To give my self some training( though have done it in the past) I am test germinating and growing a few right now, so that I won't have surprises down the road.

3) OK. once your seedling started, you will have to give them an environment that is neither too cold or too hot. I would say 60F to 70F should be fine. On the cooler side is better.

Generally 6 weeks before your average Last Frost date. Say, Your last frost date is May 15: Now count back 6 weeks. That will be like end of March (roughly).

First time I did this, I only started a select few tomatoes and peppers that I could not possibly find seedlings for. So I would suggest to start small scale this year.

Good Luck !

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 10:21AM
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