The Fishing Nerd

Gardening - starting from seeds - tips?

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I've done this on a small scale a couple of times, picking up packs of seeds from Home Depot along with those Jiffy (?) seed kids (with the starter medium and plastic domes).  Worked well, although I only did about 20 plants.

 

I'm looking to do more this season - tomatoes, cukes, eggplants, peppers, herbs.  I was wondering if there's a better setup than what I've got, where I'm basically leaving the plants in my bow window's sill to get some light.  It's still pretty cold there because of the draft, so I was considering moving to the basement with warming mats and some lights.

 

Overkill?  Does anyone do something along those lines?  I see some people go a bit farther (with racks that have individual lighting on each shelf), and some go way farther (building a mylar enclosure or an outdoor temporary greenhouse out of polypropylene).  Any resources you'd suggest if you do?

 

Thanks in advance...

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Every time i've done it the plants start out pretty leggy...once the ground warms up it's a non-issue and they grow extremely fast.  The best setup will involve heat mats and lights.  You can start your plants way early that way and not plant tooth picks in the ground come June.

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1 hour ago, Fly By Nite said:

Every time i've done it the plants start out pretty leggy...once the ground warms up it's a non-issue and they grow extremely fast.  The best setup will involve heat mats and lights.  You can start your plants way early that way and not plant tooth picks in the ground come June.

i went with the heat mats this year and plan and starting seeds this weekend, however past experience has shown me even if lets say tomatoes are planted small come mid may, they all eventually "catch up"

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1 hour ago, The Fishing Nerd said:

I'm looking to do more this season - tomatoes, cukes, eggplants, peppers, herbs.

Let me put it this way.....

 

Peppers and eggplant you had better sow them TODAY. 

 

Cucs generally are best direct seeded in the garden, but if you want to start them then 3 or so weeks before you think you would put them out. Be aware they like consistently warm humid weather outside so setting them into the garden early gains you nothing.

 

Tomatoes, sow indoors about 6 weeks before you feel that the night time temps in your area will consistently be about 55 degrees. Again, setting them you early gains you nothing and can even set them back.

 

Herbs - As much as I have tried, I have found it is better to just buy nursery seedlings of those. Parsley you would have already needed to sow back in February, basil can be finicky staring from seed but perhaps the easiest, and many of the others like cilantro and dill are better off direct seeded in the garden or planted from bought seedling. Oregano and thyme are perennials and while can be started from seed, don't expect much until at least next year....better to just buy a pot of each, will give you some harvest this year, and you will be amazed as to how fast it has spread next year. Same with chives.

Edited by Steve in Mass

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I find planting seeds as good wintertime therapy-  I've been ending up with 16-20 flats of flowers, veggies and herbs most years  Some don't make it every year, but enough do to fill the gardens up and there are a lot more varieties available via seeds than as plants....but i still do buy a lot as plants each year. I grow lots of heirloom tomatoes I'd never find as plants

A couple of quick thoughts

1) Cheap shop lights work just fine-  get the plants close to the bulbs-  I move mine up as the plants grow-  it keeps them from getting leggy. 

2) heat mats are really helpful for some plants, but it depends what you are growing.  Tomatos, peppers and other heat loving plants will germinate much faster with a $20 heat mat.  

3) Don't over or underwater-  those plastic domes work well until germination.  The seedling mix, size of pots, airlfow, and temp all really influence how often you need to water.  I've lost many plants due to both under and over watering.  My best tip would be to avoid very small pots-  eg 4 packs are better than 6 packs and to check the plants often.

4) Seeds are usually pretty cheap-  at least for what you've described. It's OK to overplant as far as density and thin them.  Or just you can just transplant the extras and give them away-  it's why I give away dozens of tomatoes each year

 

Have fun...and start soon

 

 

,,,,wishing I had a small green house and a bigger garden

 

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PS-  I prefer plastic pots-  those Jiffy peat pellets are a great concept, but I've found them and peat pots to dry out too quickly.  I recycle the pots each year-  a 10% bleach rinse or dunk and a rinse in the utility sink. A silver Sharpie is a quick way to label vs tags

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I've usually just put a single 100W equivalent CF or LED bulb in a 12" reflector over my starts, I don't do that much, like 24 peppers. But I've never started them this early. Do I need fancier bulbs, does it make difference for starts? 

 

FWIW, Id buy them if I could find them. It's those mini sweet peppers you find in the market in bags of mixed colors.

Edited by gellfex

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Thanks all, interesting food for thought here.

 

Most of my gardening is raised, container based - either in bags or in Earthbox type boxes that are self watering, so I liked getting a jump start last year with smaller plants since they have an easier time forming roots inside the containers than the starters you get from a garden store.  I had great success with the tomatoes (except for the fact that someone who basically gets paid to do math for a living should know that 24 tomato seedlings are way too many for my garden).

 

I'm going to expand, might not go after the cukes and eggplants, but I'll at least give some peppers a shot.  For herbs, I think I'll take Steve's suggestion as I do those in bags and I've never had a problem with them shooting up.  I do have some oregano and mint from last year, and the Thai basil I grow seems to come back like a weed every year even when I haven't cared for it the best.

 

Has anyone ever tried making a temporary greenhouse out of plastic?  I figure I get two in one, maybe help the plants along and solidify my standing as the neighborhood hobo.

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35 mins ago, rathrbefishn said:

PS-  I prefer plastic pots-  those Jiffy peat pellets are a great concept, but I've found them and peat pots to dry out too quickly.  I recycle the pots each year-  a 10% bleach rinse or dunk and a rinse in the utility sink. A silver Sharpie is a quick way to label vs tags

This on all accounts^

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18 mins ago, The Fishing Nerd said:

Has anyone ever tried making a temporary greenhouse out of plastic?  I figure I get two in one, maybe help the plants along and solidify my standing as the neighborhood hobo.

Don't know where you are, but up here we have Ocean State Job Lot that this time of year has a fairly good, if sort of disposable after a few years, Green house type thing with 5 shelves. They get $20 for it. Worth the money and time saved verses building one yourself.

 

Am sure it must be available in all areas if you look hard enough.

 

There are lots of methods for "tunnels" and such right in the garden if you want to take the time and effort. some relatively simple, some more permanent and involved..

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50 mins ago, Steve in Mass said:

Don't know where you are, but up here we have Ocean State Job Lot that this time of year has a fairly good, if sort of disposable after a few years, Green house type thing with 5 shelves. They get $20 for it. Worth the money and time saved verses building one yourself.

 

Am sure it must be available in all areas if you look hard enough.

 

There are lots of methods for "tunnels" and such right in the garden if you want to take the time and effort. some relatively simple, some more permanent and involved..

I'm in Brooklyn, and sadly we've got none of those.  My setup is a bit weird; the garden goes to a seasonal home I have out in LI, but gets started in Brooklyn.  I set up in trays because it makes the transport a little easier, and then when the weather is above the 50F mark I move them out to the garden in LI where I have an automatic drip watering system set up.  I usually go to plastic pots from the Jiffy set up, and then into the Earthboxes after.

 

The LI garden has chicken wire all around to keep deer and other animals out, I thought about making it into a tunnel style greenhouse by adding some conduit.  This isn't a big space, only about 15x20, so I can putz around with something and just decide later that it wasn't for me.

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Well. I’ve tried the plastic stretch on a frame outdoors.     It works but I don’t think it’s worth it.    The ground was still to cold. And I had seed rot.    

The only thing I start early is tomatoes from seed. On the porch 

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5 hours ago, gellfex said:

I've usually just put a single 100W equivalent CF or LED bulb in a 12" reflector over my starts, I don't do that much, like 24 peppers. But I've never started them this early. Do I need fancier bulbs, does it make difference for starts? 

 

FWIW, Id buy them if I could find them. It's those mini sweet peppers you find in the market in bags of mixed colors.

If it has worked for you in the past, no need to change up.  If you're trying to grow full size plants and get them to the point where they will flower/fruit, then you really need to pay attention to the color spectrum of the bulbs.  You can get full blown grow lights or just mix a daylight and cool light bulb in a 2 bulb fixture to better approximate full spectrum bulbs. I've used incandescent, fluorescents, and even a metal halide fixture over the years.  Cheap fluorescent shop lights with daylight and cool light bulbs have proven just fine for me .  16-18 hours on day . Since you'll presumably be moving these peppers out to natural sunlight I wouldn't worry about it if it's been working.  

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10 mins ago, rathrbefishn said:

If it has worked for you in the past, no need to change up.  If you're trying to grow full size plants and get them to the point where they will flower/fruit, then you really need to pay attention to the color spectrum of the bulbs.  You can get full blown grow lights or just mix a daylight and cool light bulb in a 2 bulb fixture to better approximate full spectrum bulbs. I've used incandescent, fluorescents, and even a metal halide fixture over the years.  Cheap fluorescent shop lights with daylight and cool light bulbs have proven just fine for me .  16-18 hours on day . Since you'll presumably be moving these peppers out to natural sunlight I wouldn't worry about it if it's been working.  

Eh, working is relative aint it?  I've had them get leggy, but I can't remember why. Does anyone use fans? I've noticed starts outside have stronger stems than inside ones, and was wondering if the breeze causes them to strengthen. I've had leggy ones I just put out get destroyed by a windy day. I'm also not so sure whether a good south window is better than lights. You have to keep rotating the tray or they get bent to the window.

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I start my indoor seeds 3 per yougart cup in a sunny window or outside in a sunny corner under a cloche. Around the NY area you can direct sow-kale, chard, lettuce, beets, radish, arugula, snow/snap peas, carrots etc.

 

Frost tender plants-start indoors March 15 for a May 15 plant out. Start peppers indoors April 15 for a June 15 plant out.

Indoor seedlings must hardened off before planted outdoors.

Edited by cheech

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