growing under grow lights

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

I posted this question in another forum but thought I might posted in here as well to see if I can get some answers.

Hello I am a fairly new gardener so this question might sound silly to some of you.

I have been trying so grow veggies from seed for about a month now and I do have a small set up of grow lights that are set up in my bedroom.

I have tried to grow lettuce from seed but even though they were under grow lights the stems were too long and spindly, therefore the plant always wanted to bend.

I've read in other forums throought the internet that I am supposed to place the lights very close to my new seedlings expecially lettuce so they don't become spindly and long.

My question is, I always place my seeds on top of the frindge until they start poking out and then place them on the grow lights but different seeds and vegetables or herbs come out at different rates so how can I adjust my lights accordingly if some of my seedlings came out before some others and therefore have had time to grow.

Example is parsley or cilantro, according to the package it takes a good 2-3 weeks for the seedlings to emerge or even pepper takes a little longer than say tomatoes or cucumbers or basil which for me took just 48 hours to emerge.

Will investing in a heat mat solve this problem or is there any other way to do this?

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

I don't think you will need a heat mat since the lights generate quite a bit of heat. You could pick up a cheap digital thermometer with a little wire sensor and put the remote under or in the tray. That will give you a good guide of temperatures and day/night fluctuations

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Thank you Joanabanana.

I have been doing a lot of research and some people use their electric blankets instead of the heat mat.

I think right now I will just keep my seeds on top of the fridge and see if that works. This heat mats are just so expensive, and to tell you the thruth I much rather spend the $ on a rain barrel, which I think I would use more.

Aurora, IL

your plants are getting leggy, because you have no wind on them, plants grow during the night,
what I do is keep a fan blowing on them, once leaves start forming after a while you could probaly take the fan off.
(I haven't cultivated too many different kinds of plants Indoors,
but I have noticed after the second set of leaves they seem to grow smaller, and not leggy I think this is the most Important time to keep a fan on them.
like I said I haven't grown that many types of seeds indoors though)

I have also hung a papper clip On a plant before It didn't grow as leggy as the rest did.
They will be even smaller if the fan is on 24 hours a day
(at least for my plants when I was first starting them off.).

have you considered germinating In a terrarium it holds In the humidity
I have left some Of My Ginkgo seeds IN a grocery bag
(outside In the shade, and it's not even summer)
right now the soil is as warm as baby bath water (or small kids bath water)

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Thank you Francis_Eric for the tip.

Yes I have heard that before from other folks that it is good to place a small fan and have the wind make the stemps stronger. I have not yet placed a fan in my seedlings but I was finnaly able to purchase a timer so the lights go on and off automatically and also place my grow lights a lot closer to the seedlings, they really seem to be doing a lot better now and are not as leggy as before.

I wish I could start all my seeds outdoors but we've been getting really bad rains every day and I am afraid that the poor seeds would not survive.

So far I've only planted some lettuce outside in containers from seed and they seem to be sprouting great and also mesclum salad but have not tried anything else.

I will definetely place a fan close to my lights and see if this helps with the problem.

The terrarium idea sounds like a really good one, are they prety expensive?

Aurora, IL

A (closed ) terraium can be anything thats closed and lets light through
a storage container with ceram wrap over it if your really Ona tight budget (or glass)
, those things that cover a cake (I jkust asked some one A cake keeper)

it just need to be enclosed let light in , and hold in humidity.

have you heard of

you could ask on that site or also give stuff away.
we gave our working washing machine to some people when we upgraded.

very useful if your looking for things people wouldn't have any use for no a days
(records 8 tracks or like a mentioned cake keepers)

I was searching, the other day, And I found this On terrariums (So I saved it)
he shows how to make one out of a light bulb.
(I just saw a light fixture thrown out The same day I found his web site Now I wish I would of grabbed it.)

Aurora, IL

this is just for starting seeds
I put ceram wrap directly over a pot I thin k iT killed my tree,
it was a paw paw tree so maybe it's just the species because of too much heat.
I think it needed more air though. (since roots need oxygen.)

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Be careful with terrariums, plastic wrap, etc...if you aren't careful they can hold in too much humidity and increase your chances of damping off and other fungal problems. I have a set of domes that fit over my seed starting flats, and I leave the domes on until the seedlings germinate, but once they've sprouted I generally take the domes off in order to avoid fungal problems like that.

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Ecrane3: Yes that's what I have domes or I just use a zip log bag and as soon as I see a little sprout, even if all the seeds are not out I take the plastic off and place them under my grow lights right away, I read this on a herb book and that's how I've been doing it.

Francis_Eric, did you poke some holes in the ceram wrap, if not that might have cause the problem, I alway poke a few holes so the seedlings can breathe.

Francis_Eric: Yes I've heard of the freecycle I have not used it for quite some time now but that is certainly a good idea.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

To my experience, some vegetables just need more light than a grow lights can give them, or even a sunny room. I had been successfully sprouting all sortsa things - salvia, red hibiscus, petunias, etc. under lights but the broccoli I started just could not get enough light, even 24/7. They had to be moved outside.

I have also had the problem of different seeds having different needs in the same trays - it just doesn't work too good, does it?

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

What I usually do is buy the little six-cell containers to fill my flats with. Each 6-pack gets all the same kind of seed, and that way if some things sprout sooner than others or are ready to be moved outdoors sooner I don't have to worry about having all sorts of different things mixed together, I can just shuffle the 6-packs around so that all the un-germinated stuff is on heat mats with a dome, recently sprouted things have no dome/heat mat but good lighting, things bigger than that getting acclimated to outdoors, etc.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)


mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

O.K my new grow light system is almost completed. Now what type of fluorecent lights should I buy? I've heard that you can buy regular warm fluorencent lights instead of the plant lights, is this right?

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

I just got whatever fit my fixture, two 40 watts.

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Yes but don't some fluorecent lights generate too much heat for plants to handle?

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

O.K here's my new system. I am using my old grow lights on the first shelve but I am planning to add a lot more to the others.

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(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Actually, I think it's just the opposite - the incandescent lights create heat whereas aren't the fluorescent cool lights?

Oh, and I just saw on another thread, you should be using T8s (some kind of rating, I don't know what) instead of T12s. Here's the thread:

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Thank you pagancat, I think you might be right. I'll check that thread.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

You can also use one cool florescent & one warm florescent to achieve a wider light spectrum.

Something I tried last year was using one of those emergency blankets for reflection off the wall. I have my seed starting shelves in the basement, so it worked great to staple it to the wall. Looks like yours is located in a nice area, so you could attach the blanket to the stand on the sides & back.


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mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Wow Joanne you have a great system there. Mine is in the dining room, unfortunately we don't have basements here in mobile.
I did place some foil paper underneath where the bulbs go to try to get a better spectrum. By the way where did you get a light fixture with 4 fluorecent lights attached to it, mine only has 2 attached to it.


Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Santa went to Lee Valley Tools a couple of years ago

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

That really looks nice I'll have to check my local stores for something similar.

Denver, CO(Zone 5b)

It's my understanding that the lights need to be only 3 - 4 inches above the top of the foliage or else the plants will stretch to try to reach the light. I don't know how you set up yours, but hanging the fixtures so that they can be adjusted as the plants grow should help.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

That's important - sometimes even closer. You can buy lengths of inexpensive, lightweight chain at any big box/ ACE, etc....

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Yes I have them in chains so I can adjust the height of the lights as the plant grows, I have a few seedlings right now and so far so good, the leaves are almost touching the lights, so I have them pretty low.
Now I just have to find a nice house for my seedlings when they get big enough.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

One of the very best resources out there is from Garden Gate Magazine. They sell a book, DVD and fish fertilizer combo pack for seed starting. I have played the DVD for a garden group every year in January. Well worth the money. Google Garden Gate magazine & go to stores for the books & dvds. I would highly recommend the combo pack.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

I might have to do that - my only 'local' bookstore has stopped carrying it. I hate subscribing to magazines 'cause I often don't read every issue, but in this case.....

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Joannabanana, thank you for the info, I know my library carries organic magazine so I was going to check some out, I'll have to ask about garden gate, it does look interesting.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

You can only get the DVD from Garden Gate. It is made by them and is a MUST HAVE for seed starting advice. The book can be found anywhere books are sold or possibly your library.
The New Seed-Starters Handbook by Nancy Bubel.

Edit the type-o and also to say, the book is truly a reference book. There are no color pictures, so the DVD for me is where I gained the most info from. The book is great, but not the type to actually read cover to cover.

Thanks ;)

This message was edited Nov 16, 2009 9:28 AM

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Or even the New Seed-Starters, same author.... [giggle]....

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Joannabanana, thank you, I am a very visual person also and love to watch gardening videos. By the way there is a video that helped me a lot it is called organic gardening made easy by Lee Ohara, he explains how to start your organic garden using raise beds in a limited space, irrigation system, how to enrich the soil etc... very informative. So far my veggies are all doing good thanks to his system.

I am also looking into the garden girl series, she has a 2 DVD set on how to start your organic garden as well, she is all over youtube and I love watching her short videos, I think the DVD is an extended vertion but I am not sure, the whole thing is 4 hours long and only $20 which I don't think is much but I still have so many projects to do, like build more raise beds, buy fruit trees etc... and I only get so much $ per month to do it all, so I have to be careful on how I spend my $.

DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

ecrane3 - where do you find the 6 cell containers from?

Galesburg, IL


Here are two different suppliers of flats, inserts, domes and just about everything you would need for seed starting. The first is my favorite.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

I bought my 6-packs from Walmart when they are available, usually spring. They come in a seeding pack with a dome plastic cover. Park seed co. also carries them.

Plants get leggy from insufficient light, combined with too high temperature. Low temperature (60F) will produce a stockier plant if grown under sufficient light . Veggie plants require 16 hours/day minimum. Keep light source 2" from the top leaf.

Below is my plant stand I bought during the 80's. I haven't used it for a few years for lack of space. Now have space for it since I took down my 20 gal aquarium. The stand will be full of seedlings soon---flowers, not veggies. Chains hold the lights to allow adjustments. The lights are Grow Lux bulbs.

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mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Blomma that looks like a very nice setup, yes I think I have seen the 6-packs in Walmart as well, I will have to buy some when they come this year.

Shreveport, LA

carminator1 is your stand the one with shelves 24 x 48? I have one just like yours from HD that I've been using for 10 yrs now- it's the 24 x 48 one. I managed to squeeze 3 sets of lights on each shelf- PLENTY of light! Get as much light as you can- with fluorescent you can't have enough and nothing will stretch. It's too hard to move the lights up and down so I just turn extra flats upside down raise the plants toward the light. I tried the thermal blankets but kept ripping them so I lined the wall with white styrofoam sheets from the insulation dept and it really blinds you. With six tubes per shelf it hurts your eyes to look at the plants.

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Frank I think it is, so far I only have 2 shelves with lights but I am going to have to put lights on a third one as well since I just started a lot of tomato and pepper seedlings. I also was thinking of buying a small fan so I can conect it for a few minutes a day, I've heard that the air from the fan will make the seedlings get stronger stems as well and also will help with the legginess. I have my lights in the dining room so I really can't put any reflector sheets on the walls right now. I could probably add more lights into a single shelve, right now I only have a regular 2 fluorecent lights per shelving, but could probably fit 4 if I needed to grow more.

Running Springs, CA(Zone 7a)

I started my seeds inside for several years and just put the trays in the window. Last winter, after joining DG (Hooray!), I decided to try growing my plants under lights. What an improvement. And of course, I went crazy and grew more and more seedlings. I also wintersowed and that is another story. Yippee.

I bought inexpensive shelves and shop lights and everything worked great. The whole setup was in my living room which was a little weird, but was a great conversation piece and very convenient.

I'm getting ready to set it all up again. Can't wait!

I want to thank all of the members here who have posted such great information that led me to this place.

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mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

wow slopesower what a great system you have! very organized too. Your system is very similar to mine except I only have lights in 2 of the shelves right now I have to expand though, I just started tons of seedlings and need a place to put them. I have all my potting mixes and organic stuff in my other 2 shelves I really need a storage container to place it all it is just taking too much room in my shelving unit.

columbia, TN(Zone 7a)

I have been starting seeds and growing seedlings very successfully using regular cheap 4 foot shop light fixtures and bulbs sold in the 10 pack at home depot for 10 years and they work just fine. Have shop shelves set up with coated thin wire to hang the lights and knots in the wire so they can be moved easily.

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