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Article: Seed Starting 101: Setting up Light Shelves for Starting Plants from Seed Indoors, Without a Greenhouse: Do I HAVE to use lights to start seeds

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Forum: Article: Seed Starting 101: Setting up Light Shelves for Starting Plants from Seed Indoors, Without a GreenhouseReplies: 8, Views: 64
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connewgarden
Hanmer near Sudbury, ON
(Zone 3a)

April 14, 2009
1:36 AM

Post #6406374

We live in zone 3a and are preparing to build a hoop greenhouse and hoop polytunnels over cold frames in raised beds to try and extend our growing season. (We'd like to try to garden year-round but haven't found proof yet that WE can do it up here.) So I'm getting ready to plant seeds in peat discs so they'll be ready to put into these structures as soon as possible.

This is already going to be expensive, so I don't want to add more expense by buying grow lights or building something similar. Can I get away with leaving the peat trays and seedlings on the dining room table in front of the patio door? It faces east. There is a fan and light set up overhead, but I cannot lower it.

I also would like to avoid the second step of moving seedlings into bigger pots. Can I? Is it better to plant seeds directly into big pots from the get-go than to put them in peat discs and not transplant them? I just want to make this as simple and inexpensive as possible.

What's the worst that can happen to my seeds and seedlings if I do what I've described above?

Thanks,

connewgarden
critterologist
Frederick, MD
(Zone 6b)

April 14, 2009
1:54 AM

Post #6406508

There are lots of ways of starting seeds. Different things work for different people. In the Seed Starting 101 series, I've described the methods that work best for me. Can you grow seedlings in other ways? Of course. Using methods that you know work for other people can improve your chances of success, though, so one thing to think about might be whether or not you're willing to just purchase plants if yours don't work out well. (If you *must* be successful, then it makes sense to do more to improve your chances.)

Some people grow seedlings on the window sill every year -- when I tried that, I got really leggy, spindly seedlings, but even leggy seedlings can be fine once you get them planted in the garden.

I use take-out containers as seed starting trays -- easier and less $ than peat pellets. Some people love peat pellets, some don't... if they work for you, then by all means use them.

Starting seeds directly in big pots can increase your risk of damping-off when growing seedlings inside, since the big pot will hold a lot more moisture around those little roots.

Good luck, and have fun with your seeds!

connewgarden
Hanmer near Sudbury, ON
(Zone 3a)

April 14, 2009
7:19 PM

Post #6409685

Ok, reading between the lines I think you are saying I am NOT likely to be successful. You didn't address the grow light issue except to mention growing seeds on a window sill which results in leggy seedlings. That is not practical for more than a few seeds--something like radishes that have a short maturation time anyway--if you only have a couple of accessible windows with narrow sills. So I'll take that as a no and that I MUST set up something to keep my seeds warm. Hubby will be so pleased (tongue in cheek).

Concerning the leggy seedlings--this comes from being too long in a small container, right? Meaning that I must take great care not to plant seeds too early and also be ready to transplant if/when they get too big for it. That will be the hardest part--because I really want to get started and get a jump on our growing season since it will end so soon and would like to avoid an intermediary step. The plan is for the seedlings to go into the greenhouse or the cold frame/raised beds asap but they are not even built yet. Hubby is waiting for another couple days off in May, and I don't know how long it's going to take him to build these things. Plants going into the greenhouse will mature there; we don't plan to use the greenhouse as a temporary station.

Well, I already have the peat discs so I'll use them for bigger plants--especially since it looks like I have to transplant the seedlings twice anyway, no matter what I do. Here's a thought--how easy would it be to plant seeds in plastic containers about a foot square and a couple inches high (cookies and candies come in them) and then at the right time slide the soil and seedling mass out and place that whole thing into the garden (minus the container, of course)? Is that too big to reduce damping off problems even though it's shallow, while eliminating a transplant step?

Oh, yes--you mentioned sterilizing your potting-mix. Doesn't that kill beneficial bacteria, too? Do you sterilize all the mix you put your plants into or just the seeds you are starting inside? I just heard about this idea of sterilizing the medium a week ago and am startled! Tell me more!

Thanks
critterologist
Frederick, MD
(Zone 6b)

April 14, 2009
10:20 PM

Post #6410558

No, I really am saying that you might do just fine doing things as you described... others have certainly done similarly and been fine. I can't guarantee you'll be successful even if you follow every step I describe. ;-) But if you want to be sure of having the best healthy, stocky little seedlings, then I think lights are the way to go (inexpensive shop lights).

I only transplant seedlings once before setting them out in the garden. Have you read the rest of the seed starting articles I wrote? You'll find a list at the bottom of this article. You might also want to check out my articles on winter sowing... that could be a solution to some of your space concerns.

I don't think soil-less potting mix from the store has beneficial bacteria in it to start with. My article on damping off addresses sterilizing mix.
connewgarden
Hanmer near Sudbury, ON
(Zone 3a)

April 15, 2009
7:18 PM

Post #6414809

Thanks, Jill. After reading your posts and several more in this forum--including what I could see of the Winter Sowing forum--I decided to return all the peat pellets I bought and do winter sowing instead. I bought/downloaded Monica Milla's "Fun With Winter Seed Sowing" (http://www.thegardenfaerie.com) and her e-mail said I still had time to winter sow if I hurry (as long as the evening temperatures stay below 60F. With that system I won't have to set up my house with growlights or worktables, etc., or go through all the stages. I can put my plants in soil mix in peat pots in temporary "greenhouses" (and when the raised beds/hoop houses are built) transplant the already hardened off seedlings in there. In the fall before it freezes I can do the same but without the temporary "greenhouses" because the hoop covers will provide the "greenhouse" effect. Then all I will have to do is go out and check moisture content once in awhile. That will be relatively easy, because we're going to build five (?) beds straight out from the end of the patio with patio stones between them. It will look somewhat as if we have a long patio with five raised beds on it. Hubby saw and liked some hinged hoop house tops, so that's what he's planning on building. I will be able to brush off the snow, open the roof, and apply water if necessary.

I really appreciate your help figuring this all out!

Connewgarden
connewgarden
Hanmer near Sudbury, ON
(Zone 3a)

April 15, 2009
7:26 PM

Post #6414830

By the way, I see people have put their zone in instead of their country--I have the country. Is there any way I can change that????
critterologist
Frederick, MD
(Zone 6b)

April 15, 2009
8:51 PM

Post #6415212

Seems like it should show your zone & your country both... if you can't figure out how to do it in your "Preferences," post on the Dave's Garden Forum for help, or just contact admin (use the link at the bottom of the page to DMail them).

Low temps for WSing are only necessary for things that need cold stratification. Check my article (last year, March or April) about using the WS method to grow annuals.
connewgarden
Hanmer near Sudbury, ON
(Zone 3a)

April 17, 2009
5:42 PM

Post #6424364

Thanks, Jill. You are a gold mine of information!!

I had checked the preferences but didn't see a way to fix the zone until you said I should be able to. Only then did I see that the links on the RIGHT side of the page allow me to change and add information. Whew! I even added my picture...

Yes, I had read your articles. Those, mixed together with all my other research, have been very helpful in working up a plan. I prepared winter sowing containers yesterday and am about to go and put in the seed. Because the last few days have been very warm and I'm concerned that the seeds might think it's time to germinate, I just negotiated with hubby to build the first raised bed cold frames next week so I can place the seedlings in there if they should happen to germinate right away. Hopefully the seeds will wait long enough that he can get all the raised bed cold frames built in time so I can put the seedlings in their permanent locations!

After that he can start working on the hoops to go over the raised bed cold frames for extra protection when fall arrives. We'll be able to start next year's growing season earlier by planting hardy seeds in the raised bed cold frames covered by hoops this fall as well as winter sowing seeds directly into the raised bed cold frames next March or April.

Does that sound like a plan?

This message was edited Apr 17, 2009 1:46 PM
critterologist
Frederick, MD
(Zone 6b)

April 17, 2009
6:05 PM

Post #6424450

It does sound like a plan!

You might want to start some things from seed inside next year, just to get a head start on the growing season. I'd never see blooms on my Torenia or peppers on my habanero plants if I didn't start them ahead of time.

Good luck.

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Other Article: Seed Starting 101: Setting up Light Shelves for Starting Plants from Seed Indoors, Without a Greenhouse Threads you might be interested in:

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Great information! doccat5 12 Jan 20, 2008 2:20 AM
Great article! wind 9 Jan 17, 2008 8:35 PM
Wonderful! gloriag 1 Jan 17, 2008 9:51 PM
Thanks Critter! Seandor 3 Jan 21, 2008 5:28 PM
Planting Out Probs Jax4ever 3 Jan 18, 2008 12:40 PM


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