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Starting Seeds Indoors

OK, I'm going to start some tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower and cabbage from seeds this year. I have grown celery from seed in peat pots on the windowsill for the last 2 years but I have never grown anything else indoors. I have learned much by reading threads here but I would appreciate any advice. Here is what I plan:

Buy some trays and cell packs and use soiless mix not potting soil.
Water from the bottom.
Use fluorescent lights and keep only a few inches above the plants.
Use scissors to cut off extra plants.
I made a chart telling me when to start depending on the last frost date.


If you see anything that I missed, please let me know because I am new at this. The main thing I was wondering is how much light should I give them (how many hours per day?)


Thanks
 

 Zone 7b  Southeastern PA

I was thinking the same as you- this is my first year as well, and I want to start tomatoes, peppers and eggplant inside. I've been saving yogurt containers, but was actually thinking about purchasing one of those trays with pellets- I won't use more than 20 or so since I have a pretty small garden. But I've read conflicting info about how long to leave the lights on- some say 24 hours, some 16, and some only 12. Can't wait to hear the answers! Good thing to know I'm not the only one!
 
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I usually start my tomatoes, coles and peppers inside and anything else I can cram in my space...I just use the cardboard containers that you can bury right in the ground. I fill them with my seed mix, and turn on the plant light over them (a couple inches higher than they) early and off late. I have them on a drainpan and covered to hold in the moisture. The seedmix needs to be damp and then just give them a mist each day. Then, when it's time to upgrade their pot I put them in dixie cups which I can label with a marker and poke a hole in the bottom for drainage and they move to the window. But, I just got a greenhouse and so hopefully they will take moving out there well this year Wink
 
www.upstatesc.locallygrown.net
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quote:
Originally posted by brownrexx:
OK, I'm going to start some tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower and cabbage from seeds this year. I have grown celery from seed in peat pots on the windowsill for the last 2 years but I have never grown anything else indoors. I have learned much by reading threads here but I would appreciate any advice. Here is what I plan:

Buy some trays and cell packs and use soiless mix not potting soil.
Water from the bottom.
Use fluorescent lights and keep only a few inches above the plants.
Use scissors to cut off extra plants.
I made a chart telling me when to start depending on the last frost date.


If you see anything that I missed, please let me know because I am new at this. The main thing I was wondering is how much light should I give them (how many hours per day?)


Thanks


Looks good to me. That's how I've been doing it for decades now, & the method hasn't let me down yet.

As for light timing, since I like being home when any extraneous electrical stuff is on, I turn my lights on as soon as I know I'll be home for the day, & then turn them off the next morning when I might be leaving. This means on overnight,for the most part; & off during whatever times I might be gone during the day. Sometimes these times are longer; sometimes shorter - but it still seems to work out extremely well.
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"My body is a temple - unfortunately, it's a fixer-upper."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"And no, I'm NOT being snarky."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Zone 7a, Culpeper, Virginia

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The lights should be just an inch or two above the plants, not a "few" inches. Otherwise you have it well covered. The current issue of Orgainc Gardening magazine has an article about seed starting in it, I see, for when I get a chance to read it.
 

The sign of a good gardener is not a green thumb, it is brown knees.

West central Michigan along the lakeshore.

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Sounds like you got a plan Browny. Your toms and peppers may enjoy some bottom heat but it's not that big a deal, they'll germinate okay at room temps,faster though if they have a little heat. I like about 16 hrs a day under the lights and have started using a timer to turn them on and off. One other thing you might consider is giving them a little wind from time to time, like with a small fan. A little breeze helps keep the surface around the stem dry and does wonders for growing strong stems.
For cellpacks,trays,humidity domes and that sort of stuff I like novoselenterprises.com
 
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I agree with bottom heat for starting seeds, go to the library and get Nancy Bubel's The New Seed Starter's Handbook. Or buy it. You won't waste your money. She wrote for the OG magazine.

This table tells you how long it will take a seed to sprout at SOIL temps, NOT air temps.

Here's a clip:



PS: Pull your glasses down off your head if ya need to, print is rather small on this scan. Much more readable if you were holding the book.
 
MARYLAND zone 6
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I would add maybe a small fan once the plants are a couple inches tall. I use those little clip-on fans. The air movement strengthens the stems, I think it also helps with keeping any mold off the soil.

I don't like the little peat pot/pellet things. In my experience the plants just don't do as well in them. I also used to make newspaper pots - I thought that was the best idea ever, but the plants never did very well. One year I did half of everything in newspaper pots and the other half in plastic pots and the ones in plastic were a lot healthier plants. I still don't understand why, but I quit making newspaper pots.

If you use bottom heat - take them off the heat once germinated or they can grow too fast and get leggy. I keep my lights on for 16 hours a day, except onions. Day length triggers bulbing and if they start bulbing too early you end up with golf ball sized onions.

I love starting my seeds indoors. I always start too many and I'm still working on NOT starting them too early. Be strong! and follow your chart Smiler
 
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Hi Pogo,

Yep, once the seeds have germinated, off the heat they go!

Don't ya just love the seed germinating time? Life is back to normal! Holiday's are over!

New year, new growing life! Lordy, I'm HAPPY!
 
MARYLAND zone 6
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OK, hubby is going to rig up a fluorescent light for me and I checked out the trays and cell packs. I was amazed that the trays were only $1.29 and the pack of either 18 or 24 pots was only 99 cents. I thought that it would be more costly.

Anyway I will go with 16 hrs/day of light.

Thanks all.
 

 Zone 7b  Southeastern PA

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Aaaaggghh!!!

Please, PLEASE, don't let all of this stuff about needing to set up fans, bottom heat, yadayadayada - end up steering anyone away from starting your own seeds. I've seen this happen again & again. People make it sound more complicated than it has to be, & then folks don't want to do it. NONE OF THIS STUFF IS NECESSARY.

All you need are cheap fluorescent lights set up so they're just an inch or two over your seed containers. THAT'S ALL! PERIOD.

I've started/raised EVERYTHING YOU CAN THINK OF - FOR DECADES NOW - Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Okra, Beans, Melons, brassicas, ALL greens, seedling root crops, herbs, flowers - EVERYTHING - using nothing more than cheap fluorescent light sets. No fans, no extra heat, no extra ANYTHING!


Lord, people - why do you all have to make this so complicated. You're just scaring beginner gardeners away, & that's sad.
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"My body is a temple - unfortunately, it's a fixer-upper."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"And no, I'm NOT being snarky."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Zone 7a, Culpeper, Virginia

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What's this about taken seeds off the heat once germinated. Is that bottom heat your talking about. You don't mean to stop the lights from above do you. I had lights over the plants until I was ready to plant last year.
 

Live, Love & Garden, veggie gal

Coastal Newport Beach, CA, Zone 10b

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You never stop the lights.

And - as you've already surmised, in my opinion the bottom heat isn't needed in the first place. Just another way for companies to waste your money.

Boy - if people really knew how unbelievably easy it was to start seeds without all the additional crap so many folks insist is necessary, everyone would be doing it.
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"My body is a temple - unfortunately, it's a fixer-upper."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"And no, I'm NOT being snarky."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Zone 7a, Culpeper, Virginia

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Ah - but that's just it. Folks here DO insist that you need bottom heat, fans, yadayadayada to be successful. And it's simply not true.

As to the Xmas bow on my pony - it was removed as soon as the pic was taken.
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"My body is a temple - unfortunately, it's a fixer-upper."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"And no, I'm NOT being snarky."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Zone 7a, Culpeper, Virginia

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I certainly hope I haven't discouraged anyone from starting they're own plants or suggested that it has to be more complicated than it really is. As Breezy has pointed out it is quite simple. In my above post I mentioned bottom heat but also pointed out that it is not necessary. I also posted my reasons for using a small fan. Again, a fan is not necessary. As far as lights, again, not necessary. How is that for being down right simple? You will however most definitly have better results from using supplemental lighting. As far as the value of bottom heat, fans, and the other tips and techniques offered you'll have to determine for yourself.
 
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No problem here. I am far from discouraged. I already knew about heating mats and fans but I am only starting a couple of dozen plants so I will probably skip the mat and may use the fan later to strengthen the plants.

I am certainly not scared away by the lengths that some people go to for the absolutely best plants. Some people make a real science of gardening and I like that.

Anyway, I appreciate all of the input.
 

 Zone 7b  Southeastern PA

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Browny, everyone who has posted in this thread knows your're not a newby to gardening or to this forum. In your original post you were just asking others to take a look at your list to make sure you weren't forgetting something. I know you are well aware of all the different ways people do things on here. Everything from heatmats and fans to soaking seed in peroxide and pre germinating and on and on. And your right about some making a science of this, and then some use a very simple approach. Reminds me, you know a lot of people on here have suggested putting your cell packs on top of the fridge for a little extra heat.Just a thought, but still not necessary.
You did ask about seedless watermelon awhile back and I don't think anyone posted to your question. I was busy and didn't get a chance either so here goes. I plant a lot of melons and do plant some seedless.I've probably planted 6 different varities the past few years. Gurney's Delight or Trillion are a couple of good varities for bigger melons(15lbs). Big Tasty or Ruby for the smaller icebox melon(6-8lbs).You do have to start these indoors and use supplemental heat. There is a varity from Harris(I'll have to look up the name) that I direct seeded that came up and done well, but it is the only one I've ever been able to direct seed with any luck. When you start them indoors they have to go out no later than second true leaves. Any farther along than that and you just as well throw'em out and start over again, you just won't have any yeild. You also have to plant a seeded varity for pollination. Most packets contain a pollinator seed but I plant enough seeded varities I don't use their included pollinator seed. One last thing. Although I have had seedless melons that had not a seed one, most will have some small white seeds. And those are edible. Still want to try seedless melons?LOL I'll find the name of that Harris varity that I direct seed, you might want to try it.
 
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One of the benefits of growing your own seedlings is the fact that it really satisfies the "itch" to garden on long, cold winter days. You really have something you have to do most days, even if it's just a little watering or turning lights on or off.
 
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Thanks kel. I have definitely decided to try seedless watermelon this year but I did not buy any seeds yet. I had good success with seeded varieties last year so I am ready to try something new.

Bill - so true - I look at the herbs I planted every day but they are not really growing much. I may add a light.
 

 Zone 7b  Southeastern PA

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I always grow a seedless watermelon because they're so good. The seed are expensive, germination rates aren't that good, and the seedlings are usually kinda sick looking compared to the other melons I grow, but they're still worth it to me. I like Solitare and Trillion. The flavor is so good and the texture is crisp, plus no or few seeds!
 
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I found it Browny. It's actually a Ferry-Morse seed. It's called Ultra Cool (14-16lb). Go to homeharvestseed.com you'll find it, and at a great price.They also have good prices on a lot of seed. Looking through my notes I see that I did get the Gurney varity up from direct seeding last year also. Got hailed on in mid july so didn't have much for melons at all. Give that Ultra Cool a try it's one that will have almost zero for seeds.
 
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Heat mat? Heck I would never spend the outrageous price they want for them. A simple heating pad does the trick if you want heat to germinate seeds.

I am just very careful to put the heating pad on the floor, place blocks of wood to support the seed tray to prevent direct contact.

I do find germination to be quicker that way.
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Everything that blooms and grows, the garden angel scatters and sows...in the land of corn and pigs...Iowa Zone 4-5

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I find that peppers especially appreciate a little extra heat when sprouting. I usually pre-sprout my pepper seeds in a damp coffee filter in a plastic bag. Set that on top of the fluorescent light for a week or so and voila sprouted pepper seeds. Then stick them in your pot and they'll be up in a couple of days. Anyway, that's just what works best for me. I usually do the same with eggplant and sometimes squash, as I start them later and the lights are already going. Once they're germinated and growing, there may be some advantage to moving your light contraption and plants into a cooler space if you have one (lower 60's or so) -- slows down vertical growth, promotes thicker stems. At least it does with tomatoes. Not necessary though, just a possibility.
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - Elizabeth www.WordCures.com
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it's rather well established that specific plant seeds germinate better within a specific temp range.

there are exceptions -

wks BLF Opt. Temp
........75-85...basil
........86......beans, green
........84......beans, lima
........86......beans, soy
........86......beets, very flat curve
5-7...77......broccoli
5-7...84......brussel sprouts
5-7...86......cabbage
........77-94...cabbbage, chinese, very flat curve
........77......carrots, flat
5-7...59-86...cauliflower, flat some advant @86
10-12.68......celery
........86......corn, sweet
3-4...86......cukes
6-8...86......eggplant
8-10..77......leeks
3-6...76......lettuce
........90......melons
3-4...85......muskmelon
........85......okra, per johnnys packet info
6-8...77-86...onion, flat curve
6-8...70......parsley
........77......peas
6-8...86......peppers
........84......radish
........86......spinach
3-4...90......squash, summer and winter
6-10..76......tomatoes
........77-96...turnips, flat
3-4...95......watermelon
 
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Some seeds, those that need a warmer soil to germinate such as the tomatoes, do need some bottom heat. I have for years simply put those seed trays on top of the refrigerator which supplies ample bottom heat. I put the traysa in a sandwhich bag, seal it (after watering the medium and planting the seeds) and in about a week I take the now germinated seedlings out to the lights.
The heating pads can be difficult to control to provide the heat necessary and unless wrapped in something water proof can present a severe electric shock hazard.
 

The sign of a good gardener is not a green thumb, it is brown knees.

West central Michigan along the lakeshore.

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I love all this discussion. I have done it all wrong and wound up with things to plant out in the garden. I have even used (gasp) potting soil.

These are the things that I have experienced:

Don't plant too early! Unless you have the space set up for it. And those 24 little pots you start with, will need much bigger pots and much more space quickly.

Root bound plants have no advantage to the plants you buy at a box store or even a greenhouse.

Sometimes you will get dampoff - ugh! Not a real biggy, replant.

I have found that many things do much better directly seeded into your garden and covered with WOW or other covering. Take notes, and try it both ways. Last summer, my tomatoes planted by seed, were fully caught up to the ones planted in the house by the time it came for harvest. I am only planting 1, well ok, maybe 3, no ONE early tomato.

Also, don't worry too much about the lights, sometimes I forgot and left them on all night, and sometimes I forgot to turn them on, they were for the most part pretty forgiving.

Good luck, mk
 
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Wow, great info. Thanks everyone.

I may get out that heating pad after all. BTW most new heating pads seem to be waterproof since you can use them for moist heat. I never have but it is pretty well sealed in vinyl so I am not worried about shocking myself.
 

 Zone 7b  Southeastern PA

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Just do be careful! Many human-meant heating pads can get damn hot. I certaily wouldn't want to place thin plastic items on top of them for any length of time.
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"My body is a temple - unfortunately, it's a fixer-upper."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"And no, I'm NOT being snarky."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Zone 7a, Culpeper, Virginia

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I plan to try Mumsey's idea of placing the tray above the heating pad with some wood blocks or bricks. My heating pad also has a low setting which is pretty low.
 

 Zone 7b  Southeastern PA

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Wow! What a lot of info to digest! My only concern is the seed starting medium- I don't want to spend a bunch of $ mixing something myself, and then having it not work. I also don't really want to transplant more than once- from the pot, to the garden. I have a bunch of yogurt containers that I saved, but if I can find a tray with cells big enough, I would rather use that than mix my own. I'll be doing no more than 30 indoors- but I was not aware that I needed to start watermelon indoors- maybe I should add that to my list- I thought it was best direct seeded like other melons.
 
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Some seedlings do not transplant well, but those that do provide you with a very good advantage because you can time the outdoor planting time to better thwart any insect pests. However, that also menas you need to know when the adults that lay the eggs that become most of the pests will be around laying those eggs. Put your starts out after that time, or even as larger plants that some pests won't lay eggs on, and you will have fewer problems.
 

The sign of a good gardener is not a green thumb, it is brown knees.

West central Michigan along the lakeshore.

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quote:
Originally posted by lukeclaudia:
Wow! What a lot of info to digest! My only concern is the seed starting medium- I don't want to spend a bunch of $ mixing something myself, and then having it not work. I also don't really want to transplant more than once- from the pot, to the garden. I have a bunch of yogurt containers that I saved, but if I can find a tray with cells big enough, I would rather use that than mix my own. I'll be doing no more than 30 indoors- but I was not aware that I needed to start watermelon indoors- maybe I should add that to my list- I thought it was best direct seeded like other melons.


I never start melons or squash indoors unless I'm using older seed & want/need to test germination. I always direct sow them in "hills" as soon as ALL danger of frost is past & both the soil & night temps are relatively warm.

The problem with starting these guys indoors is that once they break ground, they take off pretty quickly - you can almost see them grow! Thus, you're really not gaining much since you'd have to start them pretty close to outdoor sowing time anyway.
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"My body is a temple - unfortunately, it's a fixer-upper."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"And no, I'm NOT being snarky."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Zone 7a, Culpeper, Virginia

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I've found that top heating works fine for starting pepper & tomato seeds. I do that just because it's easier and it works. I start the seeds in multi-celled trays and put those in a transparent storage container with a lid - the kind you can get at Target for storing things under your bed. I put a single incandescent light over that for warmth. Once they've germinated they don't need as much heat and I move them under fluorescent lights and remove the lid.

Breezy, the seed-starting medium is really inexpensive - and sterile. I get Jiffy starting mix when it's on sale.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by billkoe:
Breezy, the seed-starting medium is really inexpensive - and sterile. I get Jiffy starting mix when it's on sale.


Uh, Billkoe - you must be confusing me with another poster. Not only did I NEVER say that seed-starting medium was expensive, I frankly haven't mentioned seed-starting medium AT ALL on this thread.

For the record - seed-starting medium isn't expensive, & is relatively easy to find at any decent garden center. Just look for one that doesn't have fertilizer added.
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"My body is a temple - unfortunately, it's a fixer-upper."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"And no, I'm NOT being snarky."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Zone 7a, Culpeper, Virginia

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Yes... You're right! My too-quick read put you, not lukeclaudia, as the poster. Sorry! I should have directed the comment to lukeclaudia.

Sometimes my eyes go ahead of my brain. Just ask my wife.
 
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LOL! Smiler
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"My body is a temple - unfortunately, it's a fixer-upper."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"And no, I'm NOT being snarky."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Zone 7a, Culpeper, Virginia

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Thanks- I'll look for it! I guess I'll make some calls b/c the generic stores don't have ANY seed starting stuff yet in my area. There are plenty of local nurseries, just worry the cost may go up there!!!!

Do you think a 6 oz yogurt container will get a seedling 6-8 weeks?
 
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quote:
Originally posted by lukeclaudia:
Do you think a 6 oz yogurt container will get a seedling 6-8 weeks?


Yes. Although I start mine smaller & then transplant them into "Dixie" cups, yogurt containers, yadayadayada, if you prefer to start your seeds that way, it'll work fine.
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"My body is a temple - unfortunately, it's a fixer-upper."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"And no, I'm NOT being snarky."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Zone 7a, Culpeper, Virginia

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quote:
Originally posted by billkoe:
I put a single incandescent light over that for warmth. Once they've germinated they don't need as much heat and I move them under fluorescent lights and remove the lid.


Great idea Bill, I just went to Target and bought two cheap desk lamps on clearance and will use the incandescent bulbs instead of the heating pad. My celery seeds have always germinated fine in direct sunlight so I think that the top heat will be a good idea (I don't have enogh direct sun for all of them).

I'm thinking about using those compact fluorescents when I don't need the heat. Has anyone used thiese instead of the fluorescent tubes? I will only be starting one flat of seeds so it's not real big and I could use both lamps which have moveable necks so I can easily adjust the height.
 

 Zone 7b  Southeastern PA

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One thing I learned that is the direct seeded melons, cuc's, squash etc do so much better than transplants; I compared one year to see which would do better, and though the transplants had a head start, they got lapped by the direct seeded ones. So, thought I'd share the experience.
 
www.upstatesc.locallygrown.net
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