I live in NJ(zone 7). I want to start peppers and tomatoes early but I do not have grow lights at the moment. I was wonder if anyone(particularly in zone 7) has had success starting peps and toms in seed trays under a small hoop house that, for example, would fit over top of my raised garden bed(4' x 10'). And, if so when did you start them relative to last frost?
I start my tomatoes and peppers in the house, on a heat mat with light, in front of some windows. Once they have germinated completely, but before they get their first true leaf, I move them to my unheated greenhouse. Too long indoors, even with lights, and they get soft and leggy. Trying to germinate them in the greenhouse is just too cool, especially for the peppers. What I have developed is the best of both.
My dates look like this-
April 1 sow seeds in flats indoors
April 15 move flats to greenhouse May 1 transplant from flats to small pots
May 25 transplant to outdoor garden (more like June 1 for the peppers)
A flourescent shop light fixture plus one warm bulb and one cool bulb (NOT the $special$ grow bulbs) will work fine for a couple trays of starts. A timer is nice but not absolutely needed.
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi.
"Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus