Growing plants from seed

joeorganictomatoes(6A)October 4, 2013

Anyone have any suggestions on what type of equipment I will need. I see grow lights and full spectrum lights offered in various sizes and wattage. I'm not really looking for anything too big, a 24 "fixture would work for me. I'm not sure if I could use full spectrum light or if a grow light is best and then what wattage would I need. I'm probably going to try my luck at growing 24 plants...Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated...Thanks

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el cheapo plastic shelf with regular shop lights will do wonders
it is far more about keeping it good about right temps, enough light, enough ventilation taken all together than any specific uber spectrum light settings... am talking from standpoint of regular fun addict seed grower, you can go as high tech as your soul wants to...

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 11:59PM
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Thanks Linda for the info.. do u use a heating pad underneath the tray? I have an "el-cheapo one but it doesn't have a temp control setting. to adjust the temp anywhere. It came with a plastic tray set for growing seeds. Maybe it doesn't need one. Also have you ever used Jiffy products to start the seeds or do u prefer using plastic containers/trays and adding your own starter seed mix (if so what product do you use?) and cover with plastic. Maybe with a heating pad I wouldn't need the plastic cover. Sorry for all the questions. How many seeds do you start each season? Growing plants looks like fun if it is easy and I can be successful at it. There are soo many varities I'd luv to grow that aren't available from the typical box store or even the local nurseries.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 1:03AM
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I can answer the jiffy pot question as I bought a large quantity of them and have been using them for years.

I don't start my seedlings under lights any more, but I put the jiffy pots inside various large plastic containers like celery keepers, and I put them on my window sills, moving them around to catch the sun.

I have used regular potting mix and the seedlings have done ok. I think the trick is to pot them up soon, and don't let them get root-bound in the tiny peat pot.

I have found it better to use home-made pots of newspaper. I have a little pot maker, but a wine bottle will do as a form. Seedlings grown in the newspaper pots are easier to release, and I like to pot them up into waxed cartons used for OJ or milk which I save all year.

I have some lovely trays with individual plastic cells for starting seedlings, which I bought years ago from Gardener's Supply. They sit on top of wicking mats which hang down into a trough, and have plastic covers to prevent draughts when the seedlings are little. They were great to use in the days when I grew under grow lights, but they needed special (very fine) potting mix in order for them to work properly.


    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 8:39AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Joe - if you go over to the Growing from Seed forum here you'll find answers to all your questions in the many discussions there. Plus it has a great set of FAQs that cover all the basics. Just click on the FAQ button near the top of their page.


Here is a link that might be useful: Growing from Seed forum

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 11:10AM
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Growing from seed forum sure has plenty of info.
I start my seeds on coffee filter inside of plastic bag on warm surface. I presoak majority of my seeds for few hours at room temp water. Once it germinated it gets placed in small cell trays, usually one or two seeds per cell. Trays are covered with plastic cover and are on electrical blanket on low setting under shop lights. Once I have cotyledons out I open plastic tray. Air circulation is a must. My set up is in unheated florida porch so room temp is fairly low. Over the years I figured out by trial and error what works best to get my seedlings stocky and green. Am not saying my set up is best but works for me. I grow on average 400 seedling of tomatoes, about about 200 of peppers and eggplants each, and some other change.
Winter sowing forum is another forum to grow many many plants successfully, tomatoes can be done under snow but you have to live in the zone when your accidental seedligns have enough summer to grow and produce- my season is too short for this.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 1:54PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I'm not really looking for anything too big, a 24 "fixture would work for me.
They have both 24" and 48", wide and narrow shop lights.
I bough a 48" narrow one that uses T8(slim) 32Wat tubes. For $12.90 and the light tubes cost about $10. So the whole thing is under 25 bucks. Now I need to get a heating pad. It can help to germinate faster. Once about 4 years ago I did without the mat. You are not going to need the mat after germination. Then your plants will needs light(Of course water and nutes too)

Make sure to:
--- label anything you plant, directly in the planter and also make a chart on a paper.
--- Make sure to right down the date you sowed/planted. This is very helpful for the impatient newbies. LOL
--- Also write down germination date/duration for future reference.

--- Make a record of fertilizing dates, rather than guessing and approximating games.

--- either get a seed starter mix or use fine sifted potting mix, with some extra pearlite. For newbie, the first option is better.

good luck !

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 4:46AM
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It's so easy. You'll have fun. One thing I will mention - don't start them too soon. A mistake many of us made when at one time or another.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 8:53AM
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Forgot to answer I like promix, but will work with anything fluffy. I do not like any water crystals i.e. moisture release blah blah or those with slow release fert. Nothing of it is needed and can be harmful if mix retains too much water.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 10:53AM
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Hubby bought me a big bag of Promix with those darned water crystals in it. I have read that it's not good, and I had put some in a large planter of Geraniums and they didn't seem very happy - sigh.

Has anyone tried it for seedlings? I wonder if it would be ok since the containers are smaller and (normally) dry out faster.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 12:11PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I have better luck with a potting mix like Fafard or Miracle Grow not the seed starting mixes. I got some organic seed starting mix once and nothing in it did well. I grow tomatoes every year so it was the mix not me. You want good drainage. A gentle fan on the seedlings will help make them stronger. Don't start them too early like I do and the harding off part is critical for success.

I have heat mats and don't find them necessary in my cool basement. The seeds germinate faster with heat I guess but I'm not in a hurry. I use cheap shop lights from Lowes and the cheapest 40 watt fluorescent bulbs. Odd sized bulbs are more expensive so check out the cost of bulbs before you buy a fixture. Any shelf that won't be damaged by spilled water and potting mix in a room that is convenient is all you need. At one time I fastened a couple shop lights in the space under my stairs that used to be the dog place. There was no shelf I had to sit on the floor to tend the plants.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 4:51PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Joe: you can start 24 plants under a 24-inch fluorescent, but it will quickly be too small for that many plants. A four-foot, two tube shop light with standard t-12 or T8 lights will give you more than twice as much room and light because it will illuminate a wider area as well as a longer one. No need for expensive grow lights. One warm light and one cool light give you all the light you need. The whole set up can cost less than $25. I start my tomato seedlings in 2" by 2" pots, then transplant to 4" by 4" (or bigger) pots when they produce their first set of true leaves. 24 4-inch pots would fill a space 8 inches wide and four feet long.

Don't waste your money on seed-starting kits, and you don't really need a $40 heat mat for tomatoes. Also, many people on this forum, including me, have a lot of problems with Jiffy pots or any pots made from peat. It's hard to keep the sides moist enough without risking soggy soil. Garden centers sell cheap plastic seed pots and flats, or you can use plastic drink cups if you add drainage holes to the bottoms and have a tray to collect runoff.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 5:59PM
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Thanks to everyone for all of the great information that you have given me. I was going to buy an expensive 4 bulb grow light fixture (24") but after reading all of the above it looks like I won't need it. With the zone I am in it will be a SWAG as to when to start my seeds. This year we had frost on the 24th of May. What happens if I do start too early. Will the bulbs (non-grow light) be able to give the proper light to plants that are 3 - 4" tall?

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 12:17AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Joe... I think you start too early then you have to repot them into bigger pots. Then you might not have enough room under just one 4ft light. Of course it depends how many you want to start.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 2:52AM
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You dont want to let them get 3-4 ft. tall. Aim for starting the seeds 6 weeks before you are going to plant them out - if it ends up 8 weeks you will be fine, but much longer than that and you will end up with tall weak plants that have a hard time when they are transplanted out.

You need enough room under the lights to pot them up into 16oz plastic cups. Deep is better than wide. Hang your lights on chains so that you can change the height as the plants grow, always keeping them an inch or two above the tops of the plants.

Last year I grew almost 1000 plants from seed inside (only about 25 tomatoes) it becomes addictive.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 7:47AM
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By SWAG do you mean "Seriously Wild A$$ Guess"? Not at all. Plan on starting them 6-8 weeks before your normal last frost date.

I start mine in 8 oz. styro-foam coffee cups and at the 3-4 week mark move them up to 16 oz. (planting deep by just leaving the top two leaves exposed). You'll find that they seem to start slowly, but then really take off. You might be tempted to think you don't need to pot them up if you're going to plant out in a week or so. There will be remarkable growth in that last week, especially if you pot-up.

I'd plan on about a week to harden them off before planting. This can be done in the ups and downs of Spring temps.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 9:14AM
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Linda, in my experience moisture crystals end up coming to the top when you use tray cells and just get in a way of figuring out whether mix needs water or not. I did not like it and will not be using such mix.
Joe, here in Chicagoland I have started seeds as early as Feb and as late as mid April. General suggestion here to plant out by Memorial day however I know that most years I can plant about about mid May if forecast does not predict bad drop in temps. For WOW I start end of April- beginning of May. Usually I run out of room under lights pretty fast so it is all depends on your space and your abilities to rig something outside- small cold frame is great DIY project and works wonders, they also have some small greenhouse setups which could work well if tied to something sturdy.

This post was edited by lindalana on Mon, Oct 7, 13 at 9:32

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 9:31AM
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This was my first year ever of starting tomato plants from seed, so by no means do I consider myself an expert; but there was one observation I made, and I don't know if anyone else has had a similar experience:

I started the seeds in a starter flat, one of those plastic ones like the one at the link. I also started some in a similar flat that had 72 cells. The seeds I started in the 16-cell flat did better than the ones I started in the 72 cell flat. (Logical; more starter mix per seed in the 16 cell flat.)

I then transplanted them into 16 oz pots. I used some styrofoam coffee cups for this, but I ran out of those and had to use some paper coffee cups instead (think the tall paper cups you might get a 16 oz coffee in). In all of these (paper and styrofoam), I poked a hole in the side of the cup near the bottom for drainage. Used the same starter mix (Miracle Gro starter mix, if I recall correctly)

The observation: the transplants in the tallish paper coffee cups did better than the ones in the styrofoam cups. Dunno why, but they had a more developed root ball which transplanted into the ground with much less fragmentation of the root ball of those which grew in styrofoam.

At any rate, this next year I'm gonna buy a case of paper coffee cups for all my seedling transplants.

Here is a link that might be useful: starter system

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 10:52AM
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I wouldn't buy expensive lights. Shop lights from Wal-mart work just fine. As noted earlier, if you are doing 24 plants, a 24 inch fixture isn't going to be sufficient for long.

I ran my lights on a timer and gave them 16 hours of light a day (I think). In case it hasent been mentioned, get a fan as well. You want it blowing on the seedlings for parts of the day as well. This year, I had it kick on every couple of hours for 30 minutes.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 11:39AM
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ediej1209(5 N Central OH)

I start my seeds in seed starting mix in egg cartons - 1 to an egg cup - and put them on top of the water heater. As soon as they poke through, I cut the top off of the carton and move them to a lit shelving area, and as soon as they get a hint of the 1st set of true leaves they go into plastic or styrofoam cups with several holes poked in the bottoms and SOILLESS potting mix, and also NOT the moisture control kind. (I tried it one year and lost more plants to Damping Off Disease than with anything else I've ever used.) Oh, yeah, and I use a plastic spoon to scoop the seedling out of the egg carton cavity. I love cheap - can you tell LOL!!!


    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 3:12PM
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I love cheap too, but I also know value. Value in the fact that better seedling growth in the early stages can make a big difference. The 2 foot - 4 lamp fixture I use is ideal, and I've seen the best small plants take off and become my best in terms of yield, and so I would recommend something, or exactly like in the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: ebay seller 99% positive results

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 10:40PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

In agreement with simmran ,

It is all about time and your efforts that both are so much more valuable than 30, 40 bucks. By starting from seeds we aim to extend our season and beat the mother nature at her own game.
Of course, another alternative is to buy established seedlings when the time comes to plant. But it would be even more costly AND you may not be able to find a variety that you are interested in. That is exactly the reason I want to start from seed. I will also implement some purchases of the ordinary varieties.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 12:53AM
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