heat mats and lighting

Shirley, IN

I am going to try my hand at growing seeds indoors but I have a few questions. I was told that you have to have a heating mat or they wont grow is this true ? My husband is going to build me a growing stand but the cost of heating mats is way out of our budget. also when you have lights in the stand do they have to be able to move up and down or can they be fixed in one spot. lastly we are going to use shop lights does one bulb work better than another. thanks Tammy

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Some seeds germinate quicker and grow better with heat mats but not all of them. Google heating cables - much less expensive than heating mats for what you might need.

Lights should be able to move up and down. They need to be close to the growing plants and raised as the plants grow.

We've only used shop lights - one warm, one cool.

Pulaski, GA

I am using an old electric heating pad that still works. It does keep the soil warm. So it seems to be working.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3b)

As reported by Dr. Norm Deno (Second Supplement to Seed Germination and Theory), published studies by Henry M. Cathey showed that unless you are starting seeds in unusually cold conditions (e.g. the poorly-heated homes of a century ago, unheated greenhouses, very cold basements), heat mats are unnecessary. Room temperature (~70 degrees F, ~20 degrees C) is ideal, and temperatures above it are not necessary or desirable, except in very rare cases of a few specific species.
So, anecodotally, I know that people think heat mats are helpful or necessary, but that belief doesn't stand up to testing. I've certainly never found any use for them in a house with central heating even though my planting area is in the basement.

Shirley, IN

Thank you for the responses, I am going to give it a go with out the heating mats. my basement is also the garage under our house so it stayes no cooler than 65 so I am going to start them there.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Our basement runs from 60 to 65 so we used a cable, as directed in a long box of sand, but saw no difference at all with getting the dahlias to start growing.

If you use supplemental heat just remember to keep a sharp eye out for the soil drying out. You don't want soggy soil but not dry either. Just damp soil is ideal.

Shirley, IN

I wonder what is best , soil or soiless for growing . are basement has a lot of hummdity but we run a dehummidifier.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Soilless mix!

Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

I just drug into the house a huge box with a 48"x20" heating mat, a 4' 8 - tube T5HO mixed bulb fixture. 2 4' single T5HO fixtures a thermostat for the mat, timers for the lights. Now to start my $5.50 seeds. I hope I have not lost my mind. I will let you know if these things are better than my 2 10 yr old shop lights. (i'll get them new bulbs) The shop lights allways give my seeds a good start so no getting rid of them. Oh and a humidifier, 2 gal Zinsser Perma-White anti mold and mildew paint. I don't think my partner will say "Just get what you want" ever again. Wishing us both luck. Please let me know how you do. JIMT. Mobile AL.

Shirley, IN

JimT I wish you luck also! I look at any cost spent in gardening as an investmant in my health and sanity. It keeps me off the couch so I am not quite as big of a couch potatoe and I find it to be a great stress reliever I enjoy it so much and it even makes me get a little exersize in . Basicaly for me the biggest cost is getting started , the growing stand, and lights , planting trays but I look at it as a one time cost that I can use over for several years and with luck and the great advice from the wonderful folks here at DG it could pay for itsself with money I'll save not buying flowers or vegetables. I know there are other hobbies that can cost a lot more , for me gardening is pure wholesome fun and so rewarding . I know I am driving my family nuts cause all I talk about now is getting those seeds started down stairs and all the new things I am learning on DG, Thanks so much every one . Tammy

Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

Tammy, Just got the big lights up and all of those skinny bulbs in and to light at the same time no easy thing for me. Should have been like putting in a shop lite bulb but no, you need fingers the size of tweezers, not my grandpa's sausage fingers he gave me. 2 hrs not counting finding the studs to hang them. I'm using all of my old aquarium stands and stuff as plant stands. Got new bulbs for my old workshop fixtures. 2 min. to put in and hang. I love your reasoning behind starting your own plants.Your family will miss your plant gab once it really starts taking hold. We will both be busy keeping everything healthy. Then we can step back and say "I did that." Let me know how you are doing, I'll do the Same. JIMT. (Tell me all of the seeds you are going to start, )

Shirley, IN

JimT I started some seeds in my laundry room , it is more of an exsperement really. I gatherd flower seeds off my plants this past fall . I dont know if they will grow or not and I hate to plant a couble of flats of them and then they not grow it would be a waste of my materials so I figure I would plant just a couble of each . If they grow I can go ahead and move them down stairs and plant the rest of the seeds if they dont I can buy seeds . I planted petunias ,sweet william , verbinea clematis and vinnca. I was at Rural king today and I seen they had seeds in , I couldn't help it I bought bannana pepper and carrot seeds . cant wait to plant . I'll let you know how every thing does.Tammy

Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

Tammy I was just going to watch some TV then hit the sack.You have given me the kick in the pants I needed. I too will start some seed.Including the seed of one of a few seed pods given to me by a guy on a deep dive vessel where I was steward more than ten years ago I don't even remember what country the guy was from (maybe i'll keep some roundup close by for those.) Thanks for the inspiration. i'm starting some Coreopsis Cosmos cilantro & culantro. HA, all c's. Sleep well JIMT.

Shirley, IN

JimT , I have petunias and sweet williams coming up yea!! I have a seed I have no idea what it is to. i forgot to label it. just curious did you get snow where your at?

Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

Hi Tammy, Congrats on your seedlings! Nothing with mine yet. I guess a week or so. While I have some photos of snow sticking in my backyard, and a snowman about 4' tall with Oreole eyes, carrot nose, and a grapefruit slice smile.The kid building it was 12 then. He's over thirty now. So not too much of the white stuff. Last nights low was in the 20's But next week we may have low temps in the 60's & almost 70 in the afternoon, It drives plants crazy. Last year I harvested over 200 Meyer lemons from my 2 bushes, by the end of Jan. This year 0. We have crazy weather and need our own zone. The twilight zone I think. I'm so glad you have seedlings, Hope I have some to tell about soon.Goodnight JIMT.

Shirley, IN

JimT , wow thats a lot of lemons . is there a chance you may get lemons this year? I hope you see some seedlings soon, and I am sure you will . I would like to see some sunshine here, but looks like another snow storm this sunday .

Plantersville, TX(Zone 9a)

My seedlings are under a cabinet light, about 4 inches. My seedlings are still leggy. What is wrong? Is the bulb,flouresent, too small?

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

How close is the top of the plant to the lights?

Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

Hi Tammy,Got seedlings. Cilantro, Basil,Gazania,,, Chtysanthemum Carinatum(Tricolor Daisy) I 'm Trying the dasies cause I've never seen them for sale In Mobile & they look like huge gazanias. At Burpee.com just saw a petunia "Black Cat" I've never seen a Realy Black Petunia, $17.00 for three plants! in this heat!! Nope.I noticed At work we have Alot of African Iris Maybe I'll meet some of the ground crew.They seem to discard plants like crazy. I'll Take em.Early next month I'll direct sow some cosmos and 4 O' Clocks no need to start them inside down here, they grow like weeds. The 4 O' Clocks love any water spigett. Cosmos anywhere they don't care. I became scarred of damping off so put a fan in the plant room.I'ts funny I do not talk much at work but on here I have to make my self shut -up.If I properly learn to use my camera I'll send you pic's No matter how it works out. Well 2:30 gets here earlier and earlier Talk to you laterJimT.

Shirley, IN

Tammy ,just wanted to say it is good to see you out puttering in your yard again , you are getting around good you all healed up now ? and I can't wait to hear how your flowers are doing , has hubby built that stand yet?
Annie

Shirley, IN

JimT I seen that black petunia in the catalog too it's to pricey for me but it is pretty. I have never heard of an African iris or seen one I am going to look that up. I am glad that you have seedlings I would love to see pictures when you can and if I ever figure out how to post pictures I will get some of my seedlings, I am not to good with computer stuff. 2.30 is that am?
Annie hi there , Yea I have been out in the yard a litttle, I move around better now but I dont get out often or stay out long when I do. I just dont handle the cold well I dont know if it is from the injuries I had or if I am just getting old { lol } . I am doing better than I thought i ever would and I am very thankfull I am able to garden . I have bad short term memory and they dont know if it will get better but that doesn't bother me much . thanks for asking . I dont have that grow stand yet but the way I keep putting things on all his shelves down stairs I figure it is just a matter of time before it starts growding him and he'll get busy on it. I saw a picture of your rose arbor it is beautiful .















Plantersville, TX(Zone 9a)

Like I said in my previous post, my plants are 4 inches from the light, & are still leggy. I'll put them 2 inches from light & see if that helps.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Close to the plants is best. Always watch that they don't burn though they do recover.

Thumbnail by pirl
Shirley, IN

Behillman , what are you growing? I am starting to have the same problem , my neighbor told me I wasn't leaving my lights on long enough so I leave them on longer . But my friend who started hers the same day as me has left her lights going 24 hrs a day , her seedlings are also leggy. mine where about 6 inches from light so I moved them closer , I hope that moving them will help yours good luck and if you got time let me know how they do.
tammy

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Lights on 16 hours should be sufficient.

We once left them on 24 hours, not realizing it, and had edible lettuce in three days.

Shirley, IN

pirl , I am going to leave the lights on 16 hours and see what happens. I can't leave them on 24 hours , my electric bill is more than I like all ready I dont want to make it go up no more than I have to. do you water your seedlings once a week and how much do you give , do you have a certain method when you water ? I was told to put water in a shallow pan then set your container in the water letting it soak up the water put I am really afraid of over watering them. do you recommend this way to water?

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I didn't mean to imply that leaving them on 24 hours was good! It really isn't.

That sounds like a great method of watering. Anything is preferable to top watering, which only encourages fungus gnats. If you do get the gnats just put a small glass of apple cider vinegar near the tray.

You don't want to flood the seedlings so just leave them in the shallow pan for 5 or 10 minutes and then remove it.

Plantersville, TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks , you guys. I think I did cut the lights off when I went to the store. Silly me. I think I might have thought it wouldn't hurt the plants. I'll try the l6 hour bit.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Please let us know how your plants respond. Thanks and good luck.

Columbia, SC

I am going to try and plant seeds for the first time for flowers and vegetables. I will plant them in small solo cups and drill drainage holes in the bottom. I was then going to place them in a container with water in the bottom. I will place these in one of my closets of my home so the temparature will remain around 70 degrees. I have a few questions...

1. I will need to transplant the seedlings in April so when should I begin planting the seeds?
2. Do I need special lighting?
3. Is there anything else you would suggest I do or change?

Wish me luck..I have no clue as to what I am doing. :)


(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Sterilize anything that comes in contact with the seeds and soil-less mix you'll be using.

You only want to water the cups when the soil is dry so don't put them in a closet with a tray of water. Why put them in a closet - just for the temperature? They'll grow fine in 65 degrees and with lights. Depending on how many seeds you plant to grow, you can start with one typical "shop" fluorescent light set up with one "warm" and one "cool" light. Just remember, as they grow you'll be potting them up and that will take more space - maybe more lights.

Use damp soil when planting the seeds and you won't have to water for at least a week.

Just use a skewer to poke the holes and do it from the inside downward - not in reverse or they'll hold more water and that's not what you want.

Cover the entire tray with Saran Wrap (or any plastic wrap) until the plants germinate, then loosen, then remove it entirely.

Raise the lights (having them on chains makes it easy) as the plants grow.

Plant roots can't absorb food as fast as you may think so when they're actively growing, about 2" high and after they have their first "true" leaves, just use food at half or quarter strength.

For planting outside on April 15th I'd plant the seeds February 15th. Go to the next size cup (like 16 oz. size) March 15th, plant outdoors April 15th.

If you have more questions just ask and if I think of anything else I'll post here.

In this photo you can see the chains for the lights and how the lights have to be adjusted in height as different plants grow at different rates: impatiens and coleus stay low while tomatoes grow large.

Good luck.

Thumbnail by pirl
(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Plastic wrap covering trays:

Thumbnail by pirl
Shirley, IN

pirl, that is a nice growing setup you have. How often do you need to use plant food on your seedlings? I love the plastic wrap idea . Its cheap and I like it because it is clear enough to see through. once your seedlings get there true leaves is this when you thin them out ? I would like to transplant any extra seedlings that came up , I assume that there should be one plant per cell ? I am worried that I may damage the roots of the seedlings when I try to transplant them , has this been a problem for you , do you have a certain way to remove seedlings with uot damaging there roots? thanks for any info. Tammy

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Thanks. Remove the plastic wrap as each seedling sprouts - don't wait for the true leaves. You can fold back the plastic so the seeds yet emerged will stay damp.

Just plant two seeds per cup and the strongest seedling wins. Cut the other one off at the soil line. We don't remove the second seedling - just cut it off. If you want to remove it then give it a try but wait until it has four leaves and avoid touching the stem - it's the weakest part. The roots are stronger. Be careful!

Don't feed them until they have their first two true leaves and only a weak solution. Remember the roots can't absorb much food at the start. As they grow taller you can give them more food.

You'd want to mix the food into water (a pail or Sheetrock pail works well) and feed them that way. Water from the bottom only and only when they need it. Don't rely on looking at the top and seeing it dry and believing they need water. Stick your finger down an inch and see if the soil is damp. If not, then water.

Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

Hi,Tammy, It seems i've way over seeded quite a few cells.Only a few have their second set of leaves I guess I'll wait a couple more days and then start to fertilize. I thought i'd have more time than this. I am glad pirl answered you in such detail i'll follow her moves. This is all new to me too. To me She has all her ducks in a row. Do y'all think I should use diluted fish emulsion? Would this bring in too much Fungus or bacteria? I have a Miricle-Gro product..."Quick Start Planting and transplant solution" Is this good for seedlings diluted? Is Making my own transplant pots from old newspaper a good idea? Or just buy peat or coconut pots? Should the Pots be 2" or 4"? And Tammy I've written to you three times before this. I went back to add or correct something, Pressed Backspace and Everything went away. It was so late, & I just got so mad that I've been holding my breath like a kid till now. I had no idea you had been injured. I'm glad you are using plants as an avenue to keep your self active.(and help folks like me) Your seedfriend JIMT. (D-Mail me,I'll D-Mail you)JIMT.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

There are many seeds my husband refers to as being "dust". They are so tiny that's it's almost hard not to overseed. Then you have a choice - pluck some out and hope they'll survive or just let them fight it out and hope the strongest survive. Each method has drawbacks so try it both ways.

The diluted transplant solution sounds ideal, Jim.

I've tried peat pots and poo pots but don't like either of them. If you use them be sure to remove the upper potion of the rim when you plant them outside or the rim will not be a help to growing plants with success as it will act as a wick. Also remove some of the bottom of each peat pot so the roots won't have to fight to get to the real earth, where you want them to grow.

The size of the pot should be determined by the plant. A tomato will want a larger pot than a petunia or impatiens or coleus.

If anyone ever wants to try fish emulsion make sure the container says DEODORIZED or you'll end up hating yourself and the stink.

We've never tried the newspaper pots, Jim, because we felt they'd get too wet and that's not good for the plant. I'm sure some people have had great success with it but I can't help you with a better answer.

Go very easy with any fertilizer.

Shirley, IN

I have tried fish emulsion it said it was deoderized but it still stinks I would hate to smell the un deodorized. I didn,t think it worked that great.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I've found the exact same problem - it stinks and I didn't see any difference. Of course, the difference just might not be seen by the human eye - I don't know. I would stick with the starter solution but I'd still dilute to less than what the directions say. New tiny roots can be easily damaged.

Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

Hi,pirl I just dumped the water from the water tray.I have some old litmus testing strips. Why I still have them or what they were ment to test I just don't know. But glad I'm a bit of a hoarder now. They are stiff enough to get to the bottom of the cells and very moisture sensitive. Now I won't have to disturb any roots with my sausage fingers to check for dryness. The next watering they get will have their first meal mixed in at 1/4 strength NO squashed fish juice. Then pot up!! I have enough basil up to...I can't even think of anything but Quarts of cilantro basil pesto. pirl,Do you know anything about a selaginella called Peacock fern? I left all of mine in ground and it has lived through a few low 20s nights and is turning some bizarre colours but they seem to be holding their own just covered with a layer of oak leaves. Am I pressing my luck by not bringing some of the plant inside? and is clump sowing a good idea for starting seeds inside under lights?JIMT.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Clump sowing of what plant?

Why not cover the endangered plant with a large nursery pot turned upside down to further protect it. Sorry but I don't know the culture of the plant or the low temperatures it can tolerate.

Good! No sausage fingers! You found the ideal solution.

Make sure they have a few leaves before you feed and go easy. I can't stress it enough: not too much food and go slowly with the food.

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