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Starting seeds with ... eh ...

 
Savannah Thomerson
Posts: 78
Location: zone 6
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We've just moved into our new home and have yet to construct a hoophouse or cold frame. We're ready to start our seeds but we've run into an issue of direct light....

Our log cabin has an overhang all around it and none of the windows get legit direct sunlight for long amounts of time. The best solution I can come up with (for now) is to start the seeds on a table and rotate the table around to a window getting decent sunlight throughout the day.

Any BETTER ideas? Or advice?

 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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what zone are you in? And what seeds are you trying to start?
 
Savannah Thomerson
Posts: 78
Location: zone 6
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Rob S. aka Blitz wrote:
what zone are you in? And what seeds are you trying to start?


I am in Zone 6 and am trying to start a LARGE VARIETY of annual seeds, including:
canteloupe
seminole pumpkin/squash
different varieties of tomato plants
cabbage
habanero peppers
eggplant
celery
pumpkins
parsnip
watermelon
louffa gourds
amaranth
butternut squash

As you can see, most of these varieties are slow-growing and we thought it would make sense to get the slowest growing first.

 
Todd Hoff
Posts: 63
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For seed starting you don't need light, just a warm pad or something to keep them warm. After they sprout you need light. I'm using led lights, but a lot of people use fluorescents with success.
 
                                  
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You might find the technique of winter sowing seeds helpful.  www.wintersown.org.  I have not tried it yet.
 
            
Posts: 177
Location: California
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You can buy small-scale greenhouse kits from home improvement stores for a couple hundred bucks nowadays (if you're not inclined to build your own). Being that you're in zone 6, you should be able to manage seedlings in a greenhouse without supplemental heat a for a number of weeks prior to outdoor transplanting (maybe a month, give or take a couple weeks depending on your specific micro-climate); that's a pretty substantial head-start for summer veg. Germination is a separate issue for which you'll probably want to employ a heating pad, as was mentioned in a previous reply.
 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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As others mentioned, heating from underneath is the best for germination. You will be able to get away with cheap flourescent full spectrum light for 2-3 weeks after they germinate. After that I would suggest putting them outside in the real light at least partially each day which would require you to have them on something portable. Im in zone 6, PA....Im fortunuate to have a sunroom to use, but this time of year the sun doesnt come in as much as over the winter. Ive had a few weeks of descent weather during the day, if I had a cold frame of sorts I could have moved them out there during the day and kept an eye on them. I havnt had too many issues with any of those varieties in terms of length of season, so Id say if you start them in late March early April then you should be fine.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Some of these ideas might help:  http://www.wintersown.org/wseo1/How_to_Winter_Sow.html
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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if you have some flourescent lights put them as close as you can to those and it will help more than trying to use a window with insufficient light..

also you can set seed flats  out in a protected spot during the day if it is above freezing and then bring them in at night ..a big hassel but better than no light.

also you can reuse things like the clear plastic containers that salads and other grocery foods come in and start the seeds in them like a little greenhouse and set them out during the day, or you can use some dowels or sticks to hold plastic away from them and slip the entire thing in a pastic bag and put it outside..

if you have any old windows or pieces of plexi or other clear product, you can make a temp cold frame by laying the transparent product over things like hay bales or wood or whatever to make a box to sit your seedlings in (coldframe)
 
Savannah Thomerson
Posts: 78
Location: zone 6
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I can't thank you all enough for your kind responses.

Based on your responses, we have decided to start our seed varieties on a mobile table which will be rotated from indoors at night to outdoors on the south side of the home during the day. We feel confident that the outside temperatures throughout the day will stabilize above freezing

However, we may choose to use fluorescent lighting on the seedlings if necessary (if it gets too cold outside).


Thanks again! Very pleased to have stumbled upon this wonderful forum

 
jacque greenleaf
pollinator
Posts: 488
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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If you have electricity, fluorescents work well. Don't bother with the full-spectrum bulbs. Use standard shop light fixtures, with one cool white and one warm white bulb. Keep the lights close to the top of the emerging plants. The cost of the electricity is still less than the cost of buying transplants, assuming you could even find transplants of some of the seeds you are growing.

Seedstarting is cheap entertainment too!
 
duane hennon
gardener
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Location: western pennsylvania zone 5/a
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I use white plastic buckets (recycled cat liter containers or from bakeries) as mini-greenhouses. these can be easily moved indoor or out to catch the sun, and the lids allow for temp adjustment. may not be practical for large volumes but it works for me


Ludi - I like the site on winter sowing

 
            
Posts: 77
Location: Northport, Wash.
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We have had luck with just laying our starter pots on the ground, where the sun hits, and covering them with clear plastic, held down with rocks on the edges.  While they are sprouting, knock together some sort of cold frame with scrap wood to give some room for the sprouts to grow.
Nothing fancy, but will get things going.
 
Savannah Thomerson
Posts: 78
Location: zone 6
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Good point Kurt. I much prefer "knocking things together" over buying new pre-made stuff anyways (I'm currently doing this with a fence - should be interesting, heh)
 
            
Posts: 77
Location: Northport, Wash.
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Another option is hay bales stacked in a "U" shape with an old window over the top opening.  Use bales under the plants too if the plants need to be off the ground a bit.  Then reuse the hay for mulch around the garden when they are not needed anymore.  Some creative stacking can make a sloped top for the window.

Just another thought, even though you already have a plan.
Nice website by the way.
 
Dave Miller
Posts: 409
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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I am starting a bunch of seeds in my basement, everything seems to be going fairly well.

I made a poor-man's warming mat as follows:

1. Put a sheet of rigid insulation on a flat surface.  I used foil-backed rigid insulation.
2. Lay out strings of incandescent Christmas lights on the insulation so that there are about 15-30 bulbs per 10x20 tray.  Try to make them as flat as possible.
3. Carefully pour gravel over the lights until they are just barely covered.  The gravel helps to even out the heat from the bulbs, plus it provides a nice surface on which to set the trays.

For lighting, I used a cheap fluorescent shop light with a cool white bulb and warm white bulb.

I recently added a small fan since some of the seedlings were starting to fall over.

The light & fan are on a timer.  I have also been unplugging one Christmas light string at a time as the plants grow.

For moisture I put a little water in the tray, and supplement with a spray bottle with 1/4 teaspoon of vinegar in it.  Supposedly the acid in the vinegar discourages damping off.  So far it seems to be working.

The only weird thing is I'm getting moss growing on the soil surface in some places.  But it does not seem to bother the plants.

This whole setup (4 trays) only cost me $10 for 2 trays, I had everything else already.
 
Kl Willis
Posts: 6
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tyffdavi Hatfield wrote:We've just moved into our new home and have yet to construct a hoophouse or cold frame. We're ready to start our seeds but we've run into an issue of direct light....

Our log cabin has an overhang all around it and none of the windows get legit direct sunlight for long amounts of time. The best solution I can come up with (for now) is to start the seeds on a table and rotate the table around to a window getting decent sunlight throughout the day.

Any BETTER ideas? Or advice?


How about on the top of your cabin.
 
rg ely
Posts: 9
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Tyff: The responder who mentioned the importance of bottom heat is spot on. I have found it important for tomato and eggplant, and critical for peppers. If you don't have a heating pad or mat to use, find the warmest place you can in your house (top of fridge, near woodstove, etc.) Many seeds don't need any light to germinate, but the heat is needed. I start mine in moist potting soil and stretch Saran wrap over the tray or pot until the plants have germinated. When they have broken through you can take the Saran wrap off and put under lights carefully watching moisture. Plants at this stage need a LOT of light, closer the better to keep from getting spindly.

You probably need to start your peppers now, typically they take longer than tomatoes to germinate, and some take MUCH longer. I figure a week between peppers and eggplants then another week for tomatoes. I will start my tomatoes next week here in Louisville.

I think you might be early on the seminole and luffa. Although they both do have a long growing season, they usually germinate easily and they might get too big before it's time to plant them out. I think you could wait closer to the planting time (2 weeks?) then start them inside. You can jump start both of these by either soaking or pre-sprouting.

BTW, I have a Fragrant Spring Tree for you if you can guess who this is
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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can you just bring them outside in the day, and inside at night. you will have to do less hardening off this way if any when it comes to planting time.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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