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Seed starting help/ideas?

Post Number:#1  Unread postby FourRingCircus » Fri Jan 06, 2017 10:19 pm


OK, novice gardener here. Finally had some good success this past year :cheer1: And with a snowy weekend in sight, what better way to spend it than starting to plan out the spring/summer garden? :lol:

Anyway, seed starting is something I have never done well. I don't think there is enough light anywhere in my house... the things that sprout are always beyond leggy (6"+ of "stem" that never actually gets any leaves or anything) and the couple of things that did appear to have potential didn't make it since I haven't figured out how to harden them off properly (or maybe they were doomed from the get-go due to lack of light and not as "normal" as I thought).

A guy that works at DH's plant has a metal shop business on the side and takes the unused item from the plant back to his place. This past weekend we were over there dropping something off and he had a stainless steel table with a rack and fluorescent light fixture on a rack above it - perfect seed starting table! DH is going to check with him to see if we could have it if he didn't have plans for it. If not, I want to try and rig up one for myself down in the basement (would likely need warming mats though, I think?). Found this one on Amazon - https://smile.amazon.com/iPower-GLT5XX4 ... merReviews . Thoughts? Are there better options? Just not sure the best route to go. I do have a small greenhouse, but it's not heated so I don't know exactly what to do with it :oops: I still have a lot to learn, obviously :roll:
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Re: Seed starting help/ideas?

Post Number:#2  Unread postby Rainey » Sat Jan 07, 2017 9:57 am


You're much farther south than I've ever gardened so I have no idea when you should be starting various seeds or when you can safely plant them out into the garden. A common mistake is to start them too early, so that they get leggy before they can go into the garden. I have doubts about using grow lights in the basement. We try to get all seedlings out into natural daylight and moving air whenever the temperatures allow and that would be harder if they were in the basement. I'd try to figure out how to use the greenhouse you have. You might get more helpful advice with more information. What do you want to start indoors? What outdoor temperatures would you anticipate when you'd be starting them and while they are growing? Do you have good information about how far ahead of planting out to start different things?
Sorry not to be more helpful. Even with experience it gets harder to predict and plan as spring and fall seem to be less reliable in recent years. Keep good records and keep on trying--and good luck to you.

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Re: Seed starting help/ideas?

Post Number:#3  Unread postby FourRingCircus » Sat Jan 07, 2017 10:53 am


Our frost date is April 15 - but a lot of the older generation wait until May 1 to be safe. I am going by a guide I got through rareseeds.com for when to start specific seeds. My friend is good with plants (college degree for landscaping, worked at a couple feed and seeds for several years) and has helped me a LOT over the years, but sometimes I feel like a pest so I try not to over burden her with too many questions :oops: . SHe saw my plants last year and said that they were definitely leggy, trying to find good light. They are pretty much 6" long sprouts - the baby leaves at the tip and that's it. Then they fall over, break, and shrivel up. This was on the kitchen counter by one of the only available windows. It's East facing. I do have one West facing one in the living room. Zero South facing windows (the basement had a couple, but we put up a large carport so that blocked out the majority of the light). No North facing either (not that they would be ideal).

Found a pic from this past year... not a good one, but you can at least get an idea... you can kind of see some fallen over ones on the left, the others just kept getting longer and longer, never got any more leaves.

WIN_20160331_194140.jpg
WIN_20160331_194140.jpg (510.76 KiB) Viewed 507 times


Greenhouse is a small stand alone I bought cheap from my friend's neighbor ($25!). Missing a couple glass panels - I am going to get some of the clear roofing panels to put in on top and I think that's all I will neeed. It has narrow metal shelves along the walls. It had some other features that would have been neat (mister, window that opened when it got above a certain temp, etc.) but they don't work anymore. I would say it's 3'x3' maybe? 4'-5' tall.
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Re: Seed starting help/ideas?

Post Number:#4  Unread postby Stephanie » Sun Jan 08, 2017 9:57 am


Last year, I bought a 4' fluorescent fixture, screwed it to a 4' piece of plywood which was as wide as the fixture, and screwed legs on each end of the plywood. The plywood was free, (I work in a woodshop). I don't think the whole setup cost me more than $30. I keep the whole thing in a corner of my bedroom where I keep a fan running 24/7. As the plants get taller, I just shim up the legs to keep the plants from touching the light. In previous years, I had the same leggy plants that you've shown, and nothing ever survived. I didn't last year. I'll be starting a few seeds over the next week for this spring. I want to get several perennial herbs going in my yard, and possibly some perennial flowers too. Another 4 or 5 weeks and I hope to get some pea seeds in the ground. BTW, I'm in growing zone 8, although you'd never know it by the weather today. There's 5" of fresh snow on the ground and it's 18°F. Boy, I sure hate having to refill water bottles 5 and 6 times a day! Fortunately, I usually only have weather like this 4 or 5 times a winter, at most.

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Re: Seed starting help/ideas?

Post Number:#5  Unread postby alforddm » Sun Jan 08, 2017 10:48 am


Stephanie, did you use a plain florescent light or a plant light? I was thinking about getting a cheap light from Walmart and then putting the florescent plant bulbs in it but didn't know if that was really necessary or if the plant bulbs would even work with a regular fixture.

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Re: Seed starting help/ideas?

Post Number:#6  Unread postby FourRingCircus » Sun Jan 08, 2017 11:04 am


Stephanie wrote:Last year, I bought a 4' fluorescent fixture, screwed it to a 4' piece of plywood which was as wide as the fixture, and screwed legs on each end of the plywood. The plywood was free, (I work in a woodshop). I don't think the whole setup cost me more than $30. I keep the whole thing in a corner of my bedroom where I keep a fan running 24/7. As the plants get taller, I just shim up the legs to keep the plants from touching the light. In previous years, I had the same leggy plants that you've shown, and nothing ever survived. I didn't last year. I'll be starting a few seeds over the next week for this spring. I want to get several perennial herbs going in my yard, and possibly some perennial flowers too. Another 4 or 5 weeks and I hope to get some pea seeds in the ground. BTW, I'm in growing zone 8, although you'd never know it by the weather today. There's 5" of fresh snow on the ground and it's 18°F. Boy, I sure hate having to refill water bottles 5 and 6 times a day! Fortunately, I usually only have weather like this 4 or 5 times a winter, at most.



alforddm wrote:Stephanie, did you use a plain florescent light or a plant light? I was thinking about getting a cheap light from Walmart and then putting the florescent plant bulbs in it but didn't know if that was really necessary or if the plant bulbs would even work with a regular fixture.


I was wondering if I could use just a stock fluorescent fixture - good too know! Definitely a cost savings there! Curious about the bulbs as well...

Also glad to know that I'm not the only one to fail with leggy seedlings :roll: . Each season I learn a little more, and I have a little more success so at least I am headed in the right direction :yes: . We have snow here as well (although we were more onthe ice line, missed the bigger snow by just a few miles) and are supposed to be at or below freezing for 90 hours or something like that. Definitely not typical for us! The kids are having a blast though! And here I am, daydreaming about the next gardening season (not that I wish for summer to be here, blech... spring and fall are A-OK for me though!). I am wondering how much of my gardenia bushes I am going to lose - they are horribly overgrown anyway, but the weight of the ice:snow:ice combo has pulled them all down...
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Re: Seed starting help/ideas?

Post Number:#7  Unread postby alforddm » Sun Jan 08, 2017 11:53 am


heritage wrote:Also glad to know that I'm not the only one to fail with leggy seedlings . Each season I learn a little more, and I have a little more success so at least I am headed in the right direction .



:lol: Not the only one with leggy seedlings. :lol: Last year was my first time trying to start seeds (well first time with a garden period). They were def leggy. This year I'm getting a plant light. Just have to decide on what to get. When it was time to plant the tomatoes and peppers outside they were only 2" tall. Most of them made it though. I think our soil is badly lacking in calcium. I only got some cherry tomatoes and despite their trying to make blossom end rot kept getting all the larger tomatoes. We are going to get a soil test, lime well, and try again. I did eventually get a good harvest of peppers after I put milk on all the plants. I should have tried that with the tomatoes. Actually watering them probably would have helped as well.... :lol:

I've got my fingers crossed for a bumper crop this year!

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Re: Seed starting help/ideas?

Post Number:#8  Unread postby Stephanie » Sun Jan 08, 2017 1:37 pm


alforddm wrote:Stephanie, did you use a plain florescent light or a plant light? I was thinking about getting a cheap light from Walmart and then putting the florescent plant bulbs in it but didn't know if that was really necessary or if the plant bulbs would even work with a regular fixture.


I'm using a 32W T8 bulb. It's a standard bulb. I admit a grow bulb would likely give better results since it has a fuller spectrum. But, this is working for me a lot better than the results before I set it all up. Keep the bulb as close to the plants as possible without touching them.

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Re: Seed starting help/ideas?

Post Number:#9  Unread postby FourRingCircus » Sun Jan 08, 2017 10:20 pm


Saw this article tonight off of Baker Creek's FB page...

http://www.lagniappemobile.com/start-winter-sowing-now/

__________ Sun Jan 08, 2017 10:20 pm __________

wintersown.org....

Might pull out the greenhouse (currently invaded by last years dead weeds) and give it a try, along with a couple clear plastic tubs maybe? Worth a shot anyway! Lots of images on pinterest (link from the above website) shows them buried in the snow... so I assume our Zone 7 would be just fine for it. Really really wanting some tomatoes out of some seeds I saved year before last. I planted them in the ground and they came up, but too little too late I guess. A few green tomatoes late in the season, but they never did ripen.
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Re: Seed starting help/ideas?

Post Number:#10  Unread postby Marinea » Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:16 am


Heritage, I am not that far from you. If you let me know what you want to grow, I will let you know when we start seeds and what varieties we have found work best.
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Re: Seed starting help/ideas?

Post Number:#11  Unread postby FourRingCircus » Mon Jan 09, 2017 8:53 am


Marinea wrote:Heritage, I am not that far from you. If you let me know what you want to grow, I will let you know when we start seeds and what varieties we have found work best.


That would be great! And very helpful :) Let me search through my seeds and see what I have... things like the squash, gourds, and okra all did well beign direct sown last year... other things, not so much :? .

The usual for sure - broccoli (2 types, Early Purple Sprouting and Rapini), Brunswick Cabbage, peppers (California Wonder, ordering another type, will have to check the name), tomatoes (saved seeds from one from my dad, not sure if it was a Black Krim, Purple Cherokee... my dad had saved seeds for a couple of years and couldn't remember what the original was... Blue Beauty, Amos Coli), Brussels Sprouts, Eggplant (Fingers Mix), Watermelon (I have Georgia Rattlesnake, I want to order seeds for Moon and Stars b/c I think the kids would have fun with those), Squash (Violina Gioia Butternut, Desi, although it did well direct sown... and zucchini), Pumpkin (saved pie pumpkin seeds, Curshaw Green Striped), Lemon Cucumber (did fine direct sowing), Regina Strawberries... also have seeds for Kohlrabi which I have never grown before, Asparagus, but I know that's a years long process... various Kales, beans, Sunflowers... Oh, and onions! I want to try onions this year - Getting ready to order seeds today or tomorrow...

Wow... that's a lot :lol: Between my garden and the kids, though, we have a pretty good amount of space to use. Expanding some areas for the pumpkins since my inexperienced self planted them in my main bed last year (on a corner at least!) :oops: :lol: . HUGE. The kids' beds were a bit too shaded so I am going to build them some new ones and use their current ones for Kale and salad mix (four 4x4 raised boxes).
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Re: Seed starting help/ideas?

Post Number:#12  Unread postby SarniaTricia » Mon Jan 09, 2017 11:58 am


We are in hardiness ZONE 7a...
My friend and I usually start our seedlings late February, early March....
Our Frost date is 25April here, but the old-timers say May24 is the planting weekend.
The exception being the cold hardy varieties, radish, kale, spinach...

I use grow lights T-5 bulb on a shelf in the heated garage with a brooder lamp on the bottom shelf to add more bottom heat.
Last year I tried to do it with out the brooder lamp and failed badly... good thing a have friends :D and great garden centres here....

There are a lot of planting timeline calculators out there.... I think Burpee has one on their website.
Good luck.

Edited to add:
Just google "planting time for zone __" there are lots of timelines for you.
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Re: Seed starting help/ideas?

Post Number:#13  Unread postby Marinea » Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:00 pm


Broccoli and cabbage- now. Needs time to mature before it bolts in the heat. (Inside in pots)
Peppers and tomatoes- end of Feb. (Inside in pots)
Watermelon, cucumbers, sunflowers, pumpkins, beans, squash- we sow them outside after last frost
Onions- we do seeds outside in the beginning of March, bulbs at the end of April

We don't grow the eggplant or brussel sprouts. Our asparagus was started from plants as raising from seeds involves a lot of work. Hope this helps. Pm me with any questions.
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Re: Seed starting help/ideas?

Post Number:#14  Unread postby SarniaTricia » Mon Jan 09, 2017 1:03 pm


Thanks! :x :oops:
You got me all fired up and I just ordered $50 in seeds!!!!!
I know there is a tone of seeds at home.... but thinking about starting all those little seedlings.... planning were they will go in the garden.... I kinda lost my mind. (and $50...lol :lol: )
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Re: Seed starting help/ideas?

Post Number:#15  Unread postby FourRingCircus » Mon Jan 09, 2017 2:55 pm


SarniaTricia wrote:Thanks! :x :oops:
You got me all fired up and I just ordered $50 in seeds!!!!!
I know there is a tone of seeds at home.... but thinking about starting all those little seedlings.... planning were they will go in the garden.... I kinda lost my mind. (and $50...lol :lol: )


Muahahahaha :twisted: Can't fall off the wagon all by myself, now can I?

Getting ready to submit my order as well :lol:

I hope one day to get good enough at seed saving that I can fine tune what I already have, but with the kids being young and excited about seeds/gardening it is fun to switch things up a little each year with new and exciting things! THe moon and stars watermelon I am getting is actually a yellow flesh variety - I can't wait to see the look on their faces when (if?? :x ) we cut into a ripe one :lol: Our gardens are quite... colorful ;) That seems to be the biggest draw to a lot of what they want to plant but I have found that if they plant it and grow it themselves they are way more excited to give it a try!


Marinea wrote:Broccoli and cabbage- now. Needs time to mature before it bolts in the heat. (Inside in pots)
Peppers and tomatoes- end of Feb. (Inside in pots)
Watermelon, cucumbers, sunflowers, pumpkins, beans, squash- we sow them outside after last frost
Onions- we do seeds outside in the beginning of March, bulbs at the end of April

We don't grow the eggplant or brussel sprouts. Our asparagus was started from plants as raising from seeds involves a lot of work. Hope this helps. Pm me with any questions.


I think I am going to get some asparagus roots... I did several years ago with no luck, but that was my first time attempting a garden as a very lazy young adult and I am sure there were several things I did wrong :roll:

What tyoe of onions do you grow? I am wanting a sweet onion since that's the only way I can eat them (rarely raw, quite often cooked)... I buy mostly vidalia in the stores. Not sure if I need short day, long day, intermediate?? :shock:

I was thinking broccoli and cabbage would need to be soon if not now. Good to know! I will have to get some containers set up. I think I am going to move a glass table to our front (west facing porch) and set up some mini green houses there... would that work? It's pretty well sheltered, lots of afternoon sun to warm things up, and one wall is the house so maybe that would help with a few extra degrees of warmth?

__________ Mon Jan 09, 2017 2:55 pm __________

$53 later! :lol:

In my defense, some of that cost is live plants for in the spring (got my green thumb neighbor/tenant some Tiny Bananas, just for fun). Some strawberry plants that are described as having a bubblegum pineapple flavor - curiosity got the best of me.

Lets see - what else... a couple other minis for my neighbor - tom thumb peas and mini bell peppers. A couple onions to try. Tendril pea, yellow fleshed moon and stars watermelon, dinosaur kale, white hailstone radish, perpetual spinach, sweet potato squash..

There's a theme in my garden... I think I have a slight obsession with kale and squash, ha!
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