Newbie trying indoor gardeen.

North Bay Village, FL

Oregano. They did quite well until I went out of town; Cilantro and Oregano died from lack of water. Our home is in Miami, FL and faces directly south. We get plenty of sunlight which has led to growth of tomatoes, Basil, and a blueberry bush inside so far. I'm waiting on seeds to germinate for sage, oregano, cilantro, spearmint, arugula, and chamomile.

The seeds have all been planted for a full week without growth up to this point. Chives stopped growing for a few days while the shades were entirely open all day long. A day and a half with them partially open to only permit direct sun for three or so hours has caused Chives to grow again. The grow light has been used for just a day and is on during the day.

An image is available for viewing at

As the image shows, there's plenty of sunlight. In fact, I think there was too much sunlight for the above seeds to germinate so I'm not having the shades open entirely so as to limit the sun exposure. The grow light is about 20 inches above the plants with a reflector that pushes the light to all of them. It's a 5500k full spectrum bulb. Another bulb, which is blue spectrum, is on the way.

I have a few questions and welcome to additional input.

1. When is the best time to use the grow light to compensate for sunlight?
2. Should I use the grow light when the sun is shining to get the plants light all around?
3. Should I open the shades entirely at this point, or am I correct in there being too much sun (7am to 7pm) for the seeds to germinate?
4. How much water should I be giving the seeds? Currently, I'm misting the soil twice a day with about three to four squirts from a small spray bottle.

I cannot grow outside as we are in an apartment without a personal area. I attempted to do some potting and loose dogs destroyed my work, so definitely stuck inside until we move in a year (hopefully).

I'm very new to gardening in general. Thanks in advance for any thoughts to be shared.

This message was edited Oct 24, 2012 7:02 PM

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I don't think amount of light had anything to do with lack of germination--I think it's more likely that things were too wet and the seeds rotted, or they were planted too deep, or something like that instead. That being said, light is going to be more important once the seeds germinate, if the seedlings don't get enough light then they will tend to grow very leggy. Also, 20 inches above the plants is too far away to do any good once things sprout--you want the light no more than a few inches above the tops of the plants.

North Bay Village, FL

How much water would be proper for the seeds?

Just put the seeds in and not water them at all until sprouting?

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

I agree with ecrane3 and can only add that the quality of sunlight in October and on is nowhere near the quality or strenght as it is during the summer. Seeds do not need light until they germinated. If it is recommended that seeds need light to germinate, it is another way of saying that the seeds are too small so surface sow. Don't cover them.

As far as compensate sunlight with growlights, I would think in the morning and late afternoon since your window faces south.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

Quote from derekcentrico :
How much water would be proper for the seeds?

Just put the seeds in and not water them at all until sprouting?

Really? What happens if seeds take 2 weeks to sprout.

Just keep the soil moist, not wet. Cover with saran wrap or place in plastic bag, keep out of sun until sprouted. When sprouting occurs, lift the saran wrap up or open the plastic bag a bit to allow air and the sprouts to adjust.

North Bay Village, FL

Blooma, are you directing that what if 2 weeks to me? That's something I've been reading about and it can take upwards of 3 weeks for sprouts sometimes in soil apparently.

Should I be concerned with rot at this point? I've only sprayed a couple of times a day with mist and twice in the past week put about 2 tablespoons of water across the potted soil. If they have rotted, I need to resow. If they are just slow, I would overpopulate the pot.

I'll get some wrap and put it on them tonight.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

Whenever I sow seed I premoisten the soil first in a container. Let the soil sit so that it is throughly moist. After a few hours, sow your seeds. If seeds are small, make a slight furrow then sprinkle the seeds in it. Tap lightly so that there is good contact of the seed with the soil. Water just enought o settle the seeds. I use a baster, or you can use an empty dishwater container with a sprout.

Misting seeds I doubt does anything. Water have to be past the seeds since that is where roots go.

Lightly cover with saran or use a plastic bag with one end slightly open. Keep out of sun until sprouting. Open the bag or lift the saran if you notice condensation. You should not need to water very often. Below are 2 great links on seed sowing.

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

If seeds dry out once they begin germinating, the tiny roots will die. Evenly moist is the rule, not soggy. The Saran or plastic covering keeps the surface from drying out during germination. Once they are sprouted, most - incuding herbs and tomatoes- do best with 14-16 hours of light. I have my T-5 daylight bulbs on a timer, roughly from 4 or 5am to 7 or 8 pm.

Good luck!


North Bay Village, FL

Well, the one seed of arugula sprouted over night with the saran wrap over it. Hopefully more will pop out by tomorrow morning.

I bought another grow bulb which is 120w versus the 60w I currently have. The information didn't mention much else spec wise, but it had a number of good reviews. I plan to run both grow lights from 7am to noon and from 2pm to 7pm. The window shades will be fully open as I tend to always do. Should I go the entire length of day time?

I'll try to have the bulbs about one foot above the plant canopies. This will at least help somewhat, right? I'm only trying to compensate for the side of the plants not getting sunlight. Right now, they all grow very much toward the window.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

However you divide it the light, herbs and sunloving plants need 16 hours of sunlight per day. Don't matter what source.

North Bay Village, FL

So, if both lights hang about 15-20 inches above the surface of the plants along with several hours of sunlight, the lights will be of no help whatsoever?

I realize that intensity dissipates over distance, but I don't see how just a short distance ends up meaning there's no help... Any effective guides on that?

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

I will try to give you some insight on growing under lights from years of experience in doing so.

All fluorescents are not the same. Grow lights are made up of wavelengths within the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, green, and yellow of the spectrum that are suitable for plant growth that incandescent bulbs don't have. Plant lights are made to resemble full sun very closely and contain the wavelength in colors that plants need to grow. I don't want to get too technical so the above info is a short explanation.
The watt is usually related to the length of the fluorescent bulb. A 48" long tube will produce more light than a 24" one. The only information you need about a fluorescent light tube is that it is a grow light in whatever length you want.

You actually need 2 grow tubes placed side by side with 2-3" from each other in whatever lengths you choose. The reason is that there is a light fall off along the sides of the lights that is not strong enough to support plant growth. The strongest light is in the center. Place your sun loving varieties there and shade lovers more on the outer side. You can increase light at the edges by placing a large, white paper mat or board held up along the edges to reflect the fall off light back on to the plants.

This guide is suitable for plant lights, not for incandescent light. Measured from the top leaf.
Annuals, perennials, herbs, and vegetables---3-6" from the light
Cactus and succulents---3-6"
Observe your plants, if not enough light the plant will stretch upwards with leaves further apart. Move them closer to light source.

You can also increase light by using white paper, or aluminum foil, as I have done in the 3rd photo. As plants grow, I give them a "haircut" to prevent leaves from touching the tubes. This cutting won't hurt them.

Plants under lights are iris and daylily seedling from crosses I have made.

This message was edited Oct 25, 2012 2:00 PM

Thumbnail by blomma Thumbnail by blomma Thumbnail by blomma
North Bay Village, FL

Thanks for all that info.

The spearmint and herbs seem to do okay with just the window sill light from the south as per my reading. I think I can stick those closer to the window.

Then, put the tomatoes and the blueberries right beside one another with ONE of the lights hanging over them. I guess the full spectrum bulb.

Lastly, I can place the blue grow bulb where it shines on the all of them possibly?

North Bay Village, FL

Well, the arugula has taken off. Five sprouts and about ten seeds planted. Nothing else has sprouted. I went ahead and added more seeds and will withhold soaking them. The saran wrap will remain over them for a week or two in hopes of sprouting.

I did notice a number of seeds from sage and cilantro without any change when I was adding more. I don't know if drowned/rotted seeds will look the same or very similar or not. But, I guess I might have planted bad seeds...

Pictures below. Note that the camera makes it a little darker than it actually is, and the hurricane passing by out there isn't helping with the light.

Thumbnail by derekcentrico Thumbnail by derekcentrico Thumbnail by derekcentrico
(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

YIkes! How is the hurricane affecting you? We're expecting it Monday

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

Are the pots with seeds and saran placed in the sun, or where sun can reach them? If so, move them or you will have cooked seeds. They won't need sun until then sprouted.

North Bay Village, FL

@Pfg It's past now. Had lots of rain and wind with a number of downed trees. Today's humid and sunny.

@blomma Okay. I moved the unsprouted containers to the kitchen table. So far, 5 arugula and 1 chamomile have sprouted. I left the arugula by a window with the blinds closed. The chamomile is on the table with the others in hopes more pop up.

North Bay Village, FL

Allright, I'd like some insight on when to remove the saran wrap. I'm attaching photos.

Arugula - five have sprouted up entirely with one more slowly popping through.
Sage - three are popping through now.
Chamomile - nine have popped up although they remain very small still. One is almost touching the saran wrap level (few millimeters from the top)
Cilantro - one is sprouting up now

The Spearmint and the oregano have not sprouted at all yet. From reading, I'm under the impression that these might take a couple of weeks under the saran wrap and lighted conditions where light is recommended for these two plants.

Photos are ordered on upload: cilantro, chamomile, arugula and sage.

Thumbnail by derekcentrico Thumbnail by derekcentrico Thumbnail by derekcentrico Thumbnail by derekcentrico
Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I always remove saran wrap/plastic covers once the seeds sprout. If you leave it on after that, it tends to keep too much moisture around and not allow enough air circulation so you'll be more prone to have issues with damping off.

North Bay Village, FL

Thanks for clearing that up. So this is awesome, only two left to hope for some sprouts.

Curiously, has anyone considered putting foil around the base of the plants in their containers? Would it be beneficial to assist in the reflection of light if I put foil around the on top of the soil? Clearly, I'd need to leave room around the base for water and oxygen...

North Bay Village, FL

Quote from derekcentrico :
Thanks for clearing that up. So this is awesome, only two left to hope for some sprouts.

Curiously, has anyone considered putting foil around the base of the plants in their containers? Would it be beneficial to assist in the reflection of light if I put foil around the on top of the soil? Clearly, I'd need to leave room around the base for water and oxygen...

About this, here's a photo of what I did with foil. Any input on this? Is it going to be more detrimental than good?

Thumbnail by derekcentrico
North Bay Village, FL

Everything is growing great except for Spearmint and Oregano. Neither have sprouted. Any further suggestions on these?

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

derek, the foil is a great idea. i use it on my wall around my plant stand to bounce light. As far as oregano and spearmint, I think they may take longer than most seeds. At least according to my daughter who is into herbs. check out my link given above about sowing seeds. You may find info on how long for germination on sowing oregano and spearmint.

North Bay Village, FL

All is going well with everything except the oregano and spearmint. I kind of think it's time to give up on them... Chives aren't doing so well either. Oh well, can't win all the battles.

Two questions:
1. How long can these plants go without being watered? We will be out of town five days next week. My plan was to really water them good before leaving. The tomatoes, blueberries, and basil are all large and growing - each has a hydrospike for watering from a bucket so those are good. I'm worried about the small, but growing, sage, arugula, cilantro, and chamomile.
2. How long can plants go without a lot of direct sunlight? I have the two grow bulbs and have kept the window open so they are saturated with light for almost 11 hours daily. I plans are to keep the shades cracked open, but not pulled to the side. I'm thinking five days with just grow bulbs and about 1 hour of sun should be okay?

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

Derek,although plants may become leggy they won't die from lack of sunlight for the time you will be away.

As far as watering, that they can't go without. You may want to rig up something like a tent with saran wrap to prevent them from drying out. If you do that, use only the grow bulb. Sunlight can produce too much heat and humidity in an enclosed area.

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