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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Seed-starting rack update

When my husband built me a seed-starting rack, we encountered doubting questions about our use of standard fluorescent bulbs. We did not, after all, use "grow lights" marketed specifically for starting seeds, but sold at a higher price than regular tubes. We decided this after reading several state extension service articles promoting the use of standard fluorescent bulbs for this purpose.

Blah, blah, blah. How about some voila instead?

These are salvia seedlings a week after I planted them. They sprouted after four days, which was awesome because the package said it would take at least 14. I also have black-eyed Susan and verbena flower seedlings so far from this same time period.

As further proof of the lights' effectiveness, the thought-for-dead houseplants I moved under the fluroescent rays are now putting out new growth. The lights work! With the flowers making a successful test run, it's now on to tomatoes and peppers and other great veggies.

This is my first year with lights, but I've done seeds for years next to windows. I enourage you to try seeds, no matter your set-up. Click here for tips.

What seeds have some of you already started indoors this season?



Kristi said...

I've planted summer squash, tomatoes, basil, acorn squash, peppers, beets, and marigolds....here's hoping to a better harvest than last year (one tomato).

ChristyACB said...

I've got most everything except the "direct to garden" seeds for warm weather planted or well started.

My garden is actually already moving right along and I'm overjoyed to see it!

After that previous post I also did some research and this is what I found. I was so interested because I do have the grow light versions of the flourescents and they do cost more.

So far as I can tell, there is a small difference in spectrum at either end, with grow lights having the longer spectrum. However, this shouldn't make any difference at all to a young plant or one that lives indoors.

The only caution I found was that some plants started under standard lights can have a higher tendency to burn when transplanted outdoors because the spectrum changes abruptly. The cure is fairly simple though. The articles I found reported that this can be avoided by just making the transition to outside a bit more slowly to give the cells time to catch up. That's it.

So, now we all know and I'm dying to hear how yours go and if you experience this at all so I can expand my operation without buying the special lights for next year.

Jennifer said...


Great info. "Hardening off" is important to all seedlings, whether grown in windows or under lights, to help them gradually get used to outdoor conditions. About a week before planting in the ground, I'll move my flats outside for an hour in the morning, then back inside. The next day, I'll keep them outside for about two hours, and then increase the amount outside every day. (Don't take them directly to noon-day sun!)

Finally, it's also helpful to have your seedlings spend a night or two outdoors before transplanting so that they also acclimate to temperature differences.

I hope you have an awesome garden!

Mach Momma said...

I stumbled across your blog. I, too, love chickens and the such. A question: have you investigated beekeeping? They are fascinating and right now is the time to get them. We keep 12 hives and our son, who is 13, sells the honey at farmers markets.
The only worry is they usually cluster around water sources: pet bowls or leaker hoses. But they aren't aggressive like wasps. etc.
I will blog about them towards the end of April when we get replacement bees. Just a thought. We are really enjoying them.

Bucolic Bushwick said...

I have one of those grow lights, but I've learned that you can use any fluorescent light as long as it gives off a cool, white/almost blue light. 'Daylight' compact fluorescents work perfectly and can be found at any hardware store. I use GE Energy Smart Daylight CFL's, they produce the same light as grow lights and are much cheaper.

marisa said...

Mach Mama,

Welcome to our blog! I've read the book Bee Keeping For Dummies, and I really wanted to do bees this year. My neighbors are not really excited about the idea. So, we will wait until we get more land.

Send us pictures on your set up, we would love to do a feature on it.

marisa said...


How close do the lights need to be to the plants?

Jennifer said...

I'm starting the lights 4-6 inches above the pots, and will move them higher as the plants get bigger.