I’ve decided this year that I am going to try to grow my own starter plants. My garden was enough of a success last year that this year I am getting a little more serious. I’m fencing in the back yard so the girls have some room to run without me worrying, and I am not going to have to worry about deer and wabbits eating all my bell peppers, so I thought I would get emotionally invested in my plants, and what better way than to raise them from seeds.
I picked up this little beginner Grow Light System for dirt cheap, and I’m putting that in the basement next to my washer and dryer and $500.00 towel rack (the exercise bike). Basically, I guess I need the following:
Some sort of timer so the lights go on automatically.
Seeds (I would prefer to go with organic seeds that will help out a small company with my purchase- something mom and pop if possible)
some sort of hydration plan.
I want to start small with maybe some tomatoes and peppers, and maybe some herbs (basil, etc). Where do I start? What seeds should I buy? When should I put them in? How long every day should the light be on? Etc. Also, my basement is kind of chilly (60’s). Will that be a problem?
Let me recommend the awesome site Sprout Robot that I just learned about for those of you who like me want to get into growing food but don’t quite have it down yet.
Edit: just as an explanation, the site gives you a suggested planting / harvest calendar based on your location, and you can sign up to have them send you seeds, etc.
You want to know what kind of ‘organic’ seeds you should put in your brand new Grow Light System that’s down in your basement.
… too easy.
Have you seen a Notary about updating your last Will and Testament?
Tomatoes and peppers are considered warm season crops. Don’t start the seeds until April. Usually you can buy organic seeds at a well equipped garden center, or mail order. Seeds of Change comes to mind. If you grow lettuce or spinach, they are considered cool weather crops and you can sow those seeds directly in the garden in April, as soon as the threat of frosts are about 80% done.
Follow the directions on the seed packets for how long they take to germinate and how deep to plant the seeds. Follow lighting by regular daylight hours.
Edited to add, horticulture was my past career.
You forgot: New front door. For when the DEA kicks in the one you’ve got now looking for the pot your growing in the basement. Based entirely on the heat signature from your grow light.
get a cool bong
No-knock DEA raid in 3… 2… 1…
A grow light? This will not end well.
Someone call Balko.
OT: but did you read that thing on Digby about Glen Greenwald and the BoA security firm.
I’ve previously bought from these folks
and gotten quality merch.
AFAIK, a fence won’t keep out rabbits. They never seemed to have any trouble just burrowing under ours, and we had no tasty veggies growing inside, just the same grass as all the other yards.
Look into Seeds Of Change for your seeds. They’re not Mom and Pop, but they’re not too far off.
Also check for a local seed library – saves you money over buying seeds. Here are a couple of examples:
Police stations sell those lights real cheap…
Garden Guide on rotating maters and peppers.
I am so glad that I am not the only one who reacted a certain way when I read “Grow Light System”
start with clones. dolly the sheep, christine o’donnnel, etc.
I buy from http://tomatogrowers.com/ They have peppers and eggplants, too. Someone here about 2 years ago recommended them, and I’ve been really happy with em.
Here’s the link to Seeds of Change
I did this for years, but finally quit because I never could grow much that came close to the greenhouse starts. My plants were always leggy, reaching so hard for light. I had trouble keeping the watering right–one day I’d find them all dried out, so I would soak the trays, and then soon enough mold would develop. If I sowed only a couple of seeds in each peat pot, none would germinate–but if I threw a bunch of seeds in, every dang one of them would sprout and then I’d have the tedious job of thinning the little critters. I did enjoy watching for the little green shoots, and cheered when the true leaves emerged, so you might find pleasure in the experience all the same. I always got best results from Park Seeds–a mail order house. Oh, and be sure to label your pots well, or you will be mystified later.
So you want a light timer so you don’t have to go to the basement. You want automatic watering so you don’t have to go to the basement.
Are there any other gardening responsibilities you don’t want to do?
The exercise bike didn’t have a chance!
Sixty degrees is a little cool to start plants, and especially plants like peppers and tomatoes. You may need a heat source you can put under the pots to keep the dirt warmish in order for them to grow and thrive. There are tons of plants I’ve started right in the ground, which is less work and also they do not suffer from transplant shock that way. Broccoli, spinach, cabbage, carrots, and tons more do not have to be transplanted. You need to get them in early of course, but plants like that love the cool. You can actually sow lettuce seeds on top of the snow if you wish to start way early. When the snow melts they will wind up on the dirt and will begin to grow. Start trying things, read up on growing times, and good luck!
This was not posted at 4:20. That was an oversight.
I’m not growing anything this year due to needing to practically stand daily over every plant with a water hose for the months of April thru June when it doesn’t rain here.
Then there are the deer bandits that figure stuff out that is unnerving . I’m planning on spending a lot of time down in the New Mexico/Az bootheel on wildlife safari with my camera and a laptop, so no time for staying close by watering plants every day like the past ten years.
Once you get the yard fenced, you just need one of these to keep the girls occupied.
I don’t know I use the old coconut mulch in a plastic cup on a windowsill method myself. I tend to like it better because it keeps the roots separated and i can reuse the cups for a few years.
Burpee has how to’s on starting seeds and they sell the stuff to do it. They have reliable seeds.
Burpee has the first ever black petunia. It is lovely.
If it were me, I’d use plants. It’s easier.
Doing one tray of seeds is a good way to see if you like doing it.
Here’s is the all-you-need to know source for growing tomatoes. . We had tomatoes that grew thru October….in NJ!
The gardner will take care of it all.
@Michael D.: Maybe the basement is really, really scary?
Enjoy the no knock DEA raids you get free with every grow light!
I like Seeds of Change too. Be sure to read up on gardening in your area. Every area has tricks and tips that are specific to that area.
I’m a devoted gardener. Right now I have the newly planted (I should have waited until March, I really should have) avocado tree covered so it won’t get hit by the freezing temps tonight, and have Christmas lights set up around its base to add a little heat. The things we’ll do for our plants.
@mrmike: They’re very good for herb seeds but I prefer Fedco Seeds out of Maine for veggie seeds and seed potatoes. Great prices and free shipping. I also recommend these guys: http://www.highmowingseeds.com/ because they’re local.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds, short-season varieties from Maine.
Also, too: supporting small and organic is great, but don’t drink the non-hybrid koolaid. Unless you’re planning to save your seeds (which is a larger undertaking than many people realize, depending on the crop), hybrid vigor is your friend.
um, cole, a fence aint gonna keep that JRT in the back yard.
Oh what fun it will be for the little girl to bounce right over the top of it.
(I learned about this on youtube)
No need for grow lights growing pot in WV. Prime country for doing it out of doors. For years I grew 40 or 50 plants scattered out deep in the National Forest over the ridge in KY. Mostly to supply myself and friends.
When they started using Huey choppers to scout for plants from the air, I figured it was too risky and quit. Pot plants stick out like a sore thumb in our savanna plant world.
Just remember, Cole, if screaming guys in kevlar vests break your door down, do not pick up the golf club.
So, about that indoor garden. Just let the police know. Or get yourself a wind turbine.
I just took out my tomatoes two weeks ago. If I had covered them on Christmas when we got a freeze I might have been able to save them. But I was busy with family and other obligations and didn’t.
I’m about to make a pasta sauce with the very last of my tomatoes. They’ve been sitting on the kitchen counter and are finally ripe.
The main places I order seeds from:
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Fedco Co-op Seeds
If I want to go local (in terms of in Missouri):
Morgan County Seeds
I’ll be farming a half acre this summer. Most of the seeds these folks carry are organic. With Johnny’s they will say if they are or are not. With all organic seed you order make sure it is not from Seminis (which is a fully owned subsidiary of Monsanto as of five years ago).
Would love to stay and participate in the discussion but gotta run off. Good luck everyone with their veggies this summer. A good time to grow your own as food prices are gonna be substantially higher this year (due to bad crop seasons in Russia, China and elsewhere).
Just Some Fuckhead
I sent ya the link for The Fabulous Beekman Boys heirloom seed collection. It also comes with a forum.
Don’t underestimate the usefulness of a thrift store electric blanket for this purpose.
Seed Savers Exchange offers a lot of heritage seeds and while not mom and pop are small and do some good things to keep interesting traditional varieties going and growing. Plenty of organic available, too. I’ve had great luck with their herbs.
@Cris: I totally agree. Many of the open-pollinated varieties just can’t compete with the hybrids. My garden is my family’s main source of vegetables, not a museum.
Just got my seed order from Seeds from Italy and I’m very pleased with it. Awesome seed counts. I’m way too cheap to spend $5.00 for twenty tomato or broccoli seeds as I’ve seen in a lot of the catalogs this year.http://davesgarden.com/ has reviews of just about every seed company and mail order nursery in North America; I would advise checking out their ratings.
On the subject of the War on (Some) Drugs, a girl I dated for a while is HS just got busted for pot. She’s had horrible headaches for years, bad enough that the heavy duty opiates couldn’t help. She eventually dropped out and home schooled her senior year. I (I’m kinda proud and ashamed to say) introduced her to pot, and besides the obvious benefits, it was the first thing that actually relieved her headaches. (Hence the pride.) Flash forward a few years. She’s now married, has an adorable toddler, and works for her parent’s business, which she’ll probably take over eventually. But last week, her door was kicked in, she was thrown to the ground, handcuffed. (Hence the shame.) All in front of her little girl. And all for a few ounces of the only thing that lets her live without agony.
Pot was the only thing she’s ever done, she didn’t deal, and she doesn’t have a criminal record, so hopefully she’ll get off pretty easily. I’ve always found the whole subject outrageous, but when it hits close to home, it’s especially awful. Even with the relative acceptance of the younger generations, I don’t see things changing for a very long time, if at all.
@MeDrewNotYou: fuck. I hate that story and the millions like it.
It’s against the law for the pigs to scan using IR detectors without a warrant.
John, I’ve got a good bit of experience with this sort of stuff. So I have some suggestions:
First, 60 F is a little on the low side for your seeds to germinate. Tomatoes and peppers are going to want it a bit warmer. You can buy little heating pads to set underneath germination plats/trays to get your temp up or you can put a little space heater nearby. Also elevate your tray off the floor and keep the dome on your tray to keep humidity up. Keeping the lights close will help with the temp too. Alternatively, you can try sprouting the seeds in a wet paper towel inside a plastic bag and transfer them to growth media (gingerly) after they sprout.
I really like to use Jiffy 7 Peat Pellet for seedlings. The Wal-Mart and Lowes in my town carries already them preloaded in trays with lids on them. You just hydrate them to get them to expand and use a little bit of potting soil to cover the seeds after you drop them in the hole. These things are great. The hold water good and it’s almost impossible to overwater early on. Plus, it’s easy to pluck them out and plant in a cup once the roots start emerging from the pellets.
A good rule of thumb is to expect it to take 6-8 weeks to get plants big enough to set outside under good conditions starting them from seed, so backwards plan from that.
If you get one of those plats to sit under your light, you can raise 72 plants total with the Juffy peat pellets, but they will probably get crowded on you over time. If that’s a problem, you can shell out ~$20 more for a 4′, two bulb fluorescent light at Lowes and get you some plant bulbs that put out light at the proper wavelength. That way, you can move them to 12 oz cups and get nice happy root systems before you put them outdoors.
\Don’t forget to give your plants a bit of acclimation time prior to setting them outdoors. That usually helps early on.
good luck! You could greatly expand your garden in that basement, too. A couple hundred square feet of the right crop and you’ll make way more than you will working for “the man” You could easily clear 80K a year with 200sq feet once you figure out what you’re doing. ;)
I knew the BJ store was just a front to sell John’s next “special harvest”.
@KC45s: yes, I second http://www.seedsavers.org/ Our friends get almost all of their seeds through the exchange.
You can go main stream and/or try out some rare heirloom varieties.
Their Heritage Farm also raises the rare Ancient White Park Cattle, and can help others start herds of the same if you’re feel exceptionally adventurous!
Cheap lighting and a cheap electric blanket? Just out of curiosity, who’s been in charge of Rosie during your family fire drills–you or Tunch?
Please make a new tag for these gardening posts, something like ‘I’m buying this grow light for my basil’. Instant classic.
Thanks to, believe it or not, Scalia and Thomas (along with Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer).
Agree on Johnny’s Selected Seeds. They’re a smallish outfit that sold themselves to their workers a year or so ago, good merch and fair prices. They offer organic as well as non-org. Plus they’ll give you lots of advice on how to grow stuff.
Get a basic book out of the library on growing stuff and then just do it. It’s not that hard, especially on the basic stuff, and the only way to really learn is by doing. Just pay attention to your climate zone and when stuff can be planted (or seeded) outside, then count backward to the time you should be starting indoors. If you’ve got half way decent soil and sun, everything should be fine. Talk to local nursery (which may also be a good source for seeds and/or seedlings) about local pests and how to combat them. We never had much problem with rabbits — they’d just nibble a few things, then go scarf up the clover in the grass. But groundhogs ate our entire garden last year. Every single last bit of leaf and stem down to the ground — until they were, um, dispatched.
I can already see the Digby post about Cole getting tased.
What about kind bud?
I like Territorial Seeds. They offer organic and conventional seeds.
Timer-Schmimer. I leave the lights on all the time. Have them close enough to the plant that the leaves just miss the bulbs.
You will want a heat mat if you are going to try starting peppers and tomatoes.
The Organic Gardening (magazine) website has a useful chart for deciding when to start seeds based upon the last frost date in your area.
I have found that Farmers Almanac,although it is from 2007, is the most accurate on last frost date (LFD). The LFD here in Philly has moved up two weeks from the time most other books and websites say.
Use a soiless seed starting mix with no chemical fertilizers in it. If you don’t want to make your own, you can buy a good one from Gardens Alive!.
@ John: According to Steve Solomon, founder of the Territorial Seed company, you’ll want to get your seeds from a professional provider that supplies farmers. The inside dirt on seed companies is that the good seeds all go to farmers who demand 95% sprouting success and plant uniformity. Amateur gardener seed packs get the leftovers and sweepings which will produce lots of no-sprouts and weak plants. Since amateurs are amateurs, they blame their lack of knowledge and skill for the sprouting failure.
This is all detailed in Steve’s book, Gardening When It Counts which I highly recommend. Ignore that it’s targeted at the peak oil audience; the book is full of great basic gardening info like the tip above. Here’s the Google book link. Check out page 106 for the low down on seed companies, and page 119 on how to start seedlings. Amazing the the whole book is online to read.
When is your frost free date? Start your tomato seeds about 8 weeks before then, peppers and eggplant are generally slower to germinate and grow to plant-out size, start those 10-12 weeks before last frost if possible. Both peppers and eggplants germinate best if the “soil” is quite warm, a heat mat will help, tomatoes are not as stubborn.
Use a sterile soil-less mix for germination, not potting soil! As soon as they begin to germinate place them under the lights no more than 1″ – 2″ below the light.
This is my first post here, sorry if I sound bossy but this is one of the few times I felt I have something to contribute.
Check out Tomatoville
its a great forum about tomatoes and other veggies.
There have already been many good suggestions of places to buy seed but if you are looking for a small and worthy place to buy seed you might want to consider Sandhill Preservation Center.
Yeah, I couldn’t believe that Scalia and Thomas voted that way on Kyllo v United States.
That said, I still think the pigs use them, then invent/find probable cause on other grounds to justify a search.
But hey, a couple a layers of 6 ml black plastic over your windows will take care of the lights. Besides, the heat output from those two little 2′ T5 lights is minimal. Where you start running into problems is when you get a a couple of big ass 1000 watt high pressure sodium lights fired up.
For a heat source, you need heat mats. See here at Dave’s Garden (a great source for informationon starting seeds, by the way):
Oh, and to whomever suggested the blanket, please reconsider.
Also, that is not a very good light (I have the exact same set up), so after the seedlings get started, you’re probably going to need to leave it on about 18 hours a day. Timers are a great idea. You’re going to water, but you could start hydroponically, and use a different medium like stone wool.
Every good gardener gets the itchy hands about this time of year I think, but don’t start too early, or you end up with a bunch of leggy, unhealthy plants.
I didn’t suggest it for me, I suggested it for John.
I beg to differ, don’t know about your State but so long as they are not actually on your property, they can scan from the road all day long and twice on Sundays here in NC, and we have a client with a dismissed lawsuit to prove it.
@MeDrewNotYou: That story is just horrible – wish the cops would just get with the idea that there’s lots more people they could brutalize than folks self-medicating. (No, I don’t really mean that about cops and other people.) As far as growing veg plants, I’m far more north than WV, and don’t start anything till late March/early April. Have seen amazing basil plants in coastal Maine in August. A lot depends on length of daylight and shelter from wind – Scandinavians grows ridiculously beautiful dill. But on an individual farmer basis, hothouse lights seem to be the domain of those who might attract the kickers-in of doors ..
I offer you one word of caution – Tunch. I gave up starting seeds since every cat I have ever owned felt that under the grow lights in the nicely planted flats was a great place to nap.
Those lights are OK, but I prefer the 4 bulb version to the two bulb version. You get more lumens per unit area that way. It’s also crucial to keep your light close as possible to the plants because the amount of light reaching the plant dissipates rapidly the further away you get. That’s what causes your plants to get “leggy” reaching for the light.
With the T5 lights, you can generally keep them about 4″ above the canopy and not burn the plants with the 2 light version John purchased.
A timer is a must as is 18 hours of light at the start. Constant light probably won’t hurt either with the peppers and tomatos either. A cheap $20 timer from Lowe’s is a must as well.
How does that square with Kyllo?
BTW would it be boorish of me to mention that there is a BIG OLD BANNER AD at the top of this page for Jonny’s Seeds “with seed starting supplies” right now.
Plant early, plant often
A fence to keep the deer out? Yeah, right. Make sure it is strong, tall and hard to knock down. I watched four deer jump my 48″ fence a few years ago and munch down on six tomato plants full of goodies.
I third Seed Saver’s Exchange. If you want to buy from a small, socially responsible organization, DON’T go with Seeds of Change, they are owned by M&M Mars
Cole, you are so cute and so gay.
When will you COME OUT already? You can come garden with me in Boston any time. :D
Sorry, Littlebritdifrnt, Kyllo v. United States says otherwise. Go up and click on Cris’ link at post 52 and read about it. It was about the very issue we were talking about.
The case probably got dismissed BECAUSE of Kyllo v. US. That doesn’t mean the cops aren’t breaking the law. The fuckers do it all the time.
Hell, there have been two or three counties in NC (Lumberton comes to mind) where the entire Sheriffs office got busted for trafficing and shaking down dealers.
Dunno but basically the Judge said that so long as the cops were not on the property but were on the public street they were okay. However, this was after an anonymous tip (neighbor with a grudge) that there was “drug activity” on the property so I guess that would rise to the “probable cause” standard. They scanned, found stuff they found “likely to be grow lights” and did the old kick down the door thing. Turned out the “grow lights” was the hot water heater.
baker creek seeds @ rareseeds.com is a good one too
Will have to ask my John who we get our seeds from (can’t remember offhand), but he let me pick some this year and I’m excited to see what happens with the San Marzano and heirloom tomatoes I picked. He always orders from the same outfit and we harvest more than we can possibly eat. Thankfully, John loves to can, too. Can’t help with the indoor sprouting either. We have a greenhouse and four cold frames where he gets things started. They work beautifully.
I keep my basil seeds from year to year and start them in the bay window. Starting now, actually, I’ve got my first sprouts. When I do need seeds, I prefer http://www.turtletreeseed.org/ but they’re out of NY and I’m out here in CA, so often their varieties do better in the east and midwest. That should be perfect for you.
I built an inexpensive seed starting system with a set of cheap freestanding shelves from IKEA, two standard shoplights, four full spectrum flourescent light tubes, and two heating mats. The mats were the most expensive item. I control the lights on/off with a couple of cheap lamp timers from Radio Shack.
For seeds, I’ve been Using Territorial Seeds and Johnny’s Seeds for years, they both sell organic and nonorganic seed.
I’d also reccomend Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening, makes small scale gardening nearly flawless. I live in SW PA, and I’ve found that starting peppers, eggplant, and other warm weather crops in early March to work well, with one “pot-up” before transplant. Other crops can be easily direct seeded in May.
Just Some Fuckhead
Back off, bitch!
They have a pdf catalog download. I always got seeds started indoors but during their hardening period outdoors they all pretty much croaked. There is always coldframe straight to ground in early spring.
This is how they did it. The tip gave them probable cause. THEN they scanned after they got the warrant. This is allowed under Kyllo. This is where they often lie and my bet is the cops were randomly screening looking for heat sources and THEN went and got their “anonymous tip”. Fucking cops break the rules all the time.
If you are looking for seeds, I highly recommend High Mowing Seeds. Their seeds are awesome.
Does anyone here raise indoor tomatoes, basil,peppers, etc along with their medicine?
I wonder if you can mix the 2, as in same light requirements, bug problems, etc.
be careful getting your seeds from Territorial because they get some of their seeds from Monsanto.
my electric company gave some big rebates to some indoor growers here to buy LED lights .. I forget the brand though.
edit: ooh! Found a link:
I’ve never tried it, stitch. You have to to go to a 12 hour light/12 hour dark cycle to get your ganja to flower. I don’t know if that would effect the flowering and fruiting of the peppers, tomatoes and basil, though. Should be relatively easy to find out.
If you are growing mother plants for your ganja clones, you can keep the lights on for those guys from 16-24 hours and it doesn’t hurt them at all. So if you have a flowering and a mother plant area, then it should be no problem.
I do know that under a good HID light that is cranking out 400- 1000 Watts, tomatoes, basil and peppers grow pretty well. A hydroponic store I used to frequent had some of each of them growing in the store.
I wonder if the fuzz willl get any readings with Tunch’s bulk blocking their sensors.
I’ve hear dog hair repels rabbits ;)
jesus, i leave for an hour or two and suddenly you guys are talking about gardening.
i always miss the good threads.
Dude, don’t splurge on a grow system when you’re starting seedlings.
I bought a $12 lithonia shoplight, $4 for a twin-pack of 48″ tubes from my local ACE. That’s enough to start seedlings.
The splurge is the $40 I spent on a custom-sized heat mat from a supplier on Ebay. Since the seedlings are in the garage, it’s sort of a necessity. Toss in some seed flats (free from craigslist) and you’re all set.
Looks like there’s not much more to add to all the advice already posted here.
Tomatoes are easy starting indoors. Eggplant and peppers can be a bit more tricky. They often need a little extra bottom heat to get them started. Catalogs sell these little mats that are like seed heating pads. I usually give up and end up buying plants from the nursery.
Basil’s supposed to be diffy starting indoors, but I’ve never had a problem. Oh, man. I am missing my herb garden so bad right now.
‘A Cook’s Garden’ looks like an interesting catalog. I ordered one today.
Anyone tried planting according to the Moon’s phases? (Planting seeds when the moon’s waxing as opposed to waning.) I’ve experimented with easy germinating seeds like lettuce and beans, and it does seem to make a difference.
Oh, and a deterrent we’ve always used for rabbits is a few moth balls strewn about. Does seem to keep the buggers at bay.
I start my tomatoes in late-ish March or early April, using a soil-less mix and a covered seed tray, sitting on a heating pad wrapped in a couple of towels on the kitchen table. I keep the lid a bit ajar so there’s some air circulating and not too much condensation, but I also cover the lid with a towel to keep it dark in there. As soon as they’ve sprouted (3-7 days, usually), I move them into the basement in a north facing window with the grow light on for 24/7. No extra heat source, and it’s chilly down there – I’m in WI. I have my grow light suspended on a chain from the ceiling so I can gradually raise it up as the plants get bigger – because to start, that light is practically on top of the plants — maybe only a couple of inches above. This helps with the legginess.
Once you get real leaves on the seedlings, trim out all but the strongest seedling in each cell, keep it watered and that’s about it. Maybe periodically rotate your tray so you get even light. When it’s warm enough, I move them outside on the porch, then outside as soon as I can before planting.
My process is pretty low-tech, but it’s worked for me for 15 years. I just use a shoplight fixture with grow light tubes. I never end up with the big, bushy kind of plants you’d see at a greenhouse, but as soon as they get in the ground, they go insane. I swear, they triple in size just about every day those first few weeks they’re in the ground.
I’ve had good results with Pinetree.
I have a pretty large vegetable garden and have been growing everything from Tomatoes, Eggplant, Pumpkin, Corn, cole crops and everything in between. The first couple of years starting my own transplants from seed gave me about a 50% success rate as I learned the ins and outs. I’m so glad I stuck with it as I love the variety I can grow now that isn’t dependent on what my local nurseries bring in.
With that said, I think some of the best seeds for me have been from Southern Exposure.
They would be ideal for your location as they specialize in seeds for the Mid-Atlantic region.
I agree pretty much completely with WyldPirate.
Use flats with transparent lids as WyldPirate says. Keep the light fairly close to the dirt or the tops of the sprouts, whichever is higher. Light that isn’t hitting plants is just wasted energy, from the plants’ POV.
The lid will keep some heat in so 60 degrees + mini greenhouse when the lights are on, and will keep much more moisture in.
I’ve never tried a heating pad. Vegetable and flower seeds pretty much always germinate for me if the seeds aren’t years old. (In the basement, at about 60 degrees, maybe less).
warning – you might want to start some hybrid disease resistant tomatoes along with heirloom seeds. My wife always insists on interesting heirloom varieties but the hybrids are what produce reliably through to the end of season. Or buy a few hybrid plants.
This talk makes me sad because I will not be doing any gardening this year–apart from my Aerogarden which hardly counts. But don’t pity me, I’m not gardening because of my nine week old puppy!! I’ve learned from bitter experience that puppies and gardens together end in tears.
You do not want to leave the lights on around the clock. Plants need to be dormant for part of the day. Use a timer and set it to turn off for 6-8 hours a day. I’ve been starting my own seed for decades, for the last 10 years or so using a home-made version of what John bought.
Some excellent suggestions for seed sources, but as John will be starting small, I suggest an outfit called Pinetree Garden Seeds in Maine. They have a good selection, and they offer smaller packs of seeds for less money than many other outfits, especially Johnny’s. Johnny’s seeds are quite expensive comparatively. John won’t need to buy that many seeds to start off with. Definitely get the Johnny’s catalog, however, as it is stuffed with excellent growing and spacing information.
drip irrigation is the best.
I second and third the suggestions for Seeds of Change, Territorial Seed, and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. You can find Seeds of Change seed packets at some Wegman’s and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange packages at some Whole Foods. Saves on postage anyway.
On the other hand, heirloom tomato varieties really do taste better than hybrids, although home-grown hybrids are still tastier than store-bought. I include some “can’t miss” hybrids every year (Roma, Juliet, Early Girl) but if I’m going to the trouble & expense of doing it myself, I’d rather have a dozen hybrids each with its own distinct flavor even if they’re not as consistently productive.
Since I’m too disorganized to grow my own, I pay for seedlings. Last year I found some great new flavors from Territorial Seeds, but my boutique favorite is The Tasteful Garden, which ships huge hearty plants beautifully packed. I’ve already got this year’s order in, including several of my “must haves” (Black Cherry, Cherokee Purple, Rose de Berne, Pineapple) as well as two experiments from last year that turned out amazingly well — Carmello (as productive as any hybrid, from early July through mid-October) and Opalka (also very productive, and amazingly flavorful for roasting/sauce).
Maybe consider one of those indoor/outdoor digital thermometers that can tell you humidity, as well as hi and low temps/humidity of a given period.
Another Commenter at Balloon Juice (fka Bella Q)
A really tasty and high producing hybrid is Mountain Pride, developed at, I believe, UNC. Their Mountain Spring is also quite good. I don’t fool with tomatoes from seeds, because I can get very good hybrid and a couple of heirloom varieties as starts from a local garden center with enormous greenhouses. For not much $ and far less aggravation than I can start seeds indoors. Hybrids happened for a reason, though there is clearly value to heirlooms.
Flowers I winter sow. For some information on that process, see here
Cole, considering your garden “helpers”, you might want to investigate raised-bed gardening. Elevating your tender transplants even 8 inches off the cold cold ground really does give you earlier tomatoes, and while it probably won’t discourage deer, our local bunnies apparently can’t figure out that planters hold food products. You could even try a small bed for herbs or cherry tomatoes in the fenced “dog yard”, and see whether the convenience was worth the effort of keeping Rosie out of it. (Only one of our three dogs loves tomatoes enough to steal them off the vines, so I have to calculate Zevon’s climbing abilities into planning where the pots will go.)
I highly recommend the Sustainable Seed Company, based in Petaluma CA. All their seeds have always germinated, they deliver fast, they have an amazing selection, and they include freebies. Everyone should check out the site.
Cheap light timer is available at any hardware store, and for seed flats I just accumulate and re-use the plastic cellpacks seedlings come in, you can pick up trays too at most hardware stores/nurseries/a million places on the web.
If you are going to do that kind of gardening, take a business trip to Mendocino County and talk to the world class experts on indoor gardening. I think a few are now visiting professors in agronomy and plant biology at UC Davis.
Wile E. Quixote
How long before we hear of a John Cole naked basement horticulture accident? Any takers?
@Just Some Fuckhead:
Damn, Fuckhead, I am pissed that you got to him first. Bitch.
But you made up for it with the bit about “post coital fluids…”
There’s no need to let those go to waste you know.
Oh, great. “Famous blogger, two dogs and cat killed by SWAT team”.
First, think about whether you truly need a grow system.
Second, if yes, find a south facing window on the main floor and put it there. Make sure the entire world knows you are growing tomatoes.
Third, damned near anything you can get off the rack at your local Lowe’s (or whatever, support local small business or mail order if you can) will grow where you live. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to outsmart your seed selection.
Fourth, the reason herbs are herbs is because they are mostly easy to grow. As long as the seed is relatively fresh don’t spend a lot time fretting over these.
Fifth, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are another story. Get a heating mat if you’re determined to start them in the basement.
Sixth, and perhaps most important, plant more than you’re going to need and make peace with the fact that your wild friends will outwit your best defenses and take a cut. Also take steps against digging cats (chicken wire on the ground, for instance) but make peace with the fact that they’re going to do some damage anyway.
I started mine on Jan 27th. 72 assorted peppers,chard, spinach, tomatoes, basil.
Again on Feb 4th, 17 assorted.
So far, one beefsteak tomato has sprouted.
I’m in central Indiana and it has been really really shitty weather. Though I do have a full southern exposure and as much sun as you could hope for.
I got seeds and seedlings from Landreth Seeds (http://landrethseeds.com/) the last couple of years and I’ve been happy with them. Been in business since 1784, sold seeds to George Washington.
Didn’t do the mail order, since they’re close to home, so I can’t say how well they do with that.
“and I am not going to have to worry about deer and wabbits eating all my bell peppers,”
Bwa, ha, ha! Unless that fence is ten foot tall and set with mesh three feet deep and guarded by underfed Dobies those waskally wabbits and Bambi’s mother will be nibbling those tender shoots come what may. Deer can fly over a six foot fence, and some flat footed from a standing start. And wild rabbits live in the well named burrows. Good luck!
And don’t forget last years best gardening tip: don’t (you or your pets) crap in yer own compost pile!
Not seeds but some nice plants.
Join a garden club, members will have starter seed. If you use dried chile d’arbol in your cooking, those seeds will grow (at least, mine did from my first attempts), it seems they are not hybrids- or maybe I just lucked out in my purchase. I tried with seeds from dried poblano, new mex etc, and had no luck.
I prefer Inorganic Gardening. My stuff is all silicon based.
Nobody has seemed to emphasize the need to have good seed starting medium. the general commercial potting soil and even seed starting mix or “professional” growers mix have in my experience been terrible. Mostly it looks like the seeds don’t even sprout but if you look closely enough, they do sprout and immediately “damp off” which is fungal and means the mixes aren’t sterile enough.
It makes a huge difference if you switch to the real professional soil substitute mixes, which around here I find by asking my nursery propagators what they use. I buy it at some of the nurseries and the local feed store (farm supply). In north Florida I use a brand called metro mix.
Some seed sources have a terrible germination rate. Most of the ones named are pretty good but the best would be Parks and Burpee. those are big companies but I think they found it worth the investment to go in for the best vacume packing, testing and what not. A British company whose selection is attractive to me Thompson and Morgan is NOT that good on germination (shame about that).
Local advice on times to plant, varieties to chose is best. Everyone else will be slightly to hugely wrong without meaning to be. This is very noticable here in Florida which climate wise is the edge of the country. Advice from an expert who gardens in say New York is frustratingly wrong. In this state the place to start in the extension agency free publications. Not all states have a good agriculture extension service that covers home gardeners, but if WV does, they’ll be the most on target. If not check out the nearest other states experts. find out if there is something your state grows really well, that you didn’t expect. Florida grows blueberries. the state agriculture agency IFAS has been breeding new cultivars for about 30 years. If I drive out the the country to several propagators who mainly produce starter bushes for actual farmers and big box chains, I can buy about 30 different kinds for my region at about $3 each little bush. I did that a couple of years ago and they are growing up. I got a little last summer, hope for more this year. they will also make nice hedges and attract birds. I’ll bet WV has something like that.
Paul in KY
I’m sure 50 or more BJ commenters have alreay mined this to death, but when you buy a ‘grow light’ system, you probably show up in FBI ‘suspected pothead’ databases. etc.
Hope you get the chronic!
JL Hudson is my preferred seedsman. They run a We are a public access seed bank – not a commercial seed company.
It is 100 years old this year.
And they have a Statement of Purpose