• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • r ranson
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Mike Haasl
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Joseph Lofthouse
  • James Freyr
master gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • John F Dean
  • jordan barton
gardeners:
  • Jay Angler
  • Greg Martin
  • Leigh Tate

Passive seed-starting

 
Posts: 32
Location: Zone 5, Ontario, CA
10
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi everyone!

This will be my third year starting my own seeds (it's addictive), and I've come to realize that most of the information I can find about seed-starting (even from permaculturists) involve using shop lights to get their seedlings established. The question is, I can't seem to find out the why of doing things this way. Does anyone have any info/tips on getting good germination and happy plants without blasting them with fluorescent lights? Or can you tell me why that's the most popular way?

Thanks!
 
pollinator
Posts: 1515
Location: Denmark 57N
424
fungi foraging trees cooking food preservation
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I can tell you why I do it, it's to get them started before they would naturally manage. for example volanteer tomatoes outside here germinate late may to early June. but my tomatoes are sown in April to be planted out in late may/early June when the outdoor ones are just germinating. This means I actually get ripe tomatoes. Now of course I could germinate my tomatoes on a windowledge and grow them there, but I have very limited window space and I start 1000's of plants every year inside. so I have to use lights. If I want ripe chillis or to grow onions from seed I need to start the seeds in January there's only 5 hours of light at that point so no matter what I would have to use additional lighting. I so also start hardy crops under lights like lettuce, this I could perfectly well do in a greenhouse but I don't have a permanent greenhouse.
If you have a longer season or are willing to heat a greenhouse you can start everything in the greenhouse under natural light. or for those of you will long summers just sow everything direct.

A side bonus of the lights is heat, it keeps my potting area around 25C whereas the house is only 18C and that really helps with germinating certain seeds, keeping all the seedlings in what is in effect a large box also helps with moisture and stopping them drying out and the biggest bonus of them all is it keeps the cats out of them!
 
pollinator
Posts: 209
45
duck forest garden chicken cooking building
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Hayley Stewart wrote:This will be my third year starting my own seeds (it's addictive), and I've come to realize that most of the information I can find about seed-starting (even from permaculturists) involve using shop lights to get their seedlings established. The question is, I can't seem to find out the why of doing things this way. Does anyone have any info/tips on getting good germination and happy plants without blasting them with fluorescent lights? Or can you tell me why that's the most popular way?



It's because not everyone has large south-facing windows that get plenty of sunlight that they can or want to dedicate to seed starting. And even if they did, that's still a limited amount of space to grow seeds.

If you had a sunroom, hoophouse, or greenhouse, that'd be a different matter.

For me, to produce tomatoes in my area, I have to start them *eight weeks* before the last frost. Which means they can't survive outside, so I have to grow them indoors. This is because of the growing season and weather in my area. Others only need to start them 4 weeks or 2 weeks or zero weeks before their local last frost. It depends on your area.

I don't yet have a hoop house, and the only available space I had to put them was a dimly lit pantry, so I have to use fluorescent lights. Seeds need alot of light to start germinating (you're trying to mimic sunlight), so even a brightly lit room isn't good enough - you need a bright bulb fairly close to the soil. People use fluorescent bulbs because they happen to be long - 4 feet or so. This is convenient for covering alot of seed pots with a close strong light.

I don't buy special bulbs or anything (I already had some generic ones on-hand - but would get a different light spectrum if I was buying new ones), but seeds do need alot of light, so I rigged up 4 fluorescent bulbs (that I already had) on a 36" wide 16" deep chrome wire shelving (that I already had), with 4 lightswitches and a timer to control the lights (like $20 total expenditure). I've been using that for three or four years now successfully, but I just a few days ago ordered a cheap incandescent rope light long enough to weave throughout the shelving, to provide additional warmth for the seeds, so they germinate and grow faster. It hasn't arrived yet, but the incandescent rope lighting was $22 for 50 ft, which will allow me to weave it through all four shelves of the entire shelving unit. This is far cheaper than $12 x 4 = $48 worth of seed warming mats that wouldn't even cover the shelves. It'd be more like $70 to cover the shelves entirely with seed warming mats - but again, seed warming mats aren't necessary for me, as the pantry is just-barely warm enough, but I think it'd likely be enough of a benefit to be worth investing $22.

 
pollinator
Posts: 177
Location: SE Indiana
113
dog fish trees writing
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hayley, looking at the locations of the folks commenting there is a pretty a wide range of climate. I'm in southern Indiana about 38 degrees N. I don't use any kind of artificial light and actually just direct plant most of my stuff. I think using such artificial things is a tad anti-permaculture but I imagine if I lived far north where winter is long and sunlight is in short supply I'm sure I would change my mind on that, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

I also do have nice south facing windows and on  occasion do start something there, mostly though it's just a convenient place to do germination tests.  Anything like tomatoes that I might want to start a little sooner than could be done just by direct planting I do in an unheated cold frame.
 
gardener
Posts: 3299
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
399
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm struggling to get into this this myself.
A low impact way of starting warm season crops is winter sowing.
Winter sowing is basically sowing into plastic bottles of soil.
The bottles are left outside and act as tiny greenhouses/cold frames.
The plant growth self regulates according to what the microclimate of the bottle dictates.
The bottle is basically a harden cloche with a bottom, important for protecting against rodents and slugs.
Cold season plants can be started in the dead of winter this way, others like tomatoes and peppers need to be started in April or so, but its not clear this method will  give enough of a head start for those with short growing seasons.

Corn doesn't seem to work with winter sowing.

gift
 
Rocket Mass Heater Manual
will be released to subscribers in: soon!
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic