Just wanted to share this process we go through every year
starting around March 15th.
If I can make space in our small house and be successful starting plants under lights...ANYONE CAN !
I hope this info below is helpful if you've never tried it.
My husband and I have been starting seeds under fluorescent lights for about 6 years now. There are factors to take into consideration like...number of weeks under the lights,whether to germinate in dark or light, that some need to be nicked and soaked before sowing, and there's also some that need stratification.
It's a must to read the seed packet first!
Our set-up consist of a $50. five shelf metal rack plus some other found space.
Two fluorescent fixtures above each shelf. Special over priced bulbs are not necessary, we use "40 watt t-12 fluorescent natural" bulbs. One Fixture and two bulbs cost about $20 at places like Home Depot/Lowe's. Three trays will fit on each shelf. I get two shelves and with my method (mentioned at bottom of page)this means 192 PLANTS !!
To get started there are some materials needed first.
2-Greenhouse seed starter trays
3-Transfer pots or garden seeding cells
5-One or more shelves
6-One or more Fluorescent lamps and thin chains
FIND YOUR SEEDS
GET YOUR GREENHOUSE SEED STARTER TRAY
EXPAND THE PELLETS
Leave all pellets in tray and add warm water as recommended.
MAKE HOLE IN EACH PELLET AND ADD SEEDS
With a fingernail file, add seeds then cover with soil as recommended on back of seed pkg. (With tomatoes and peppers, husband goes no more than 1/4" deep).
COVER WITH CLEAR PLASTIC TOP TO GERMINATE
Try and keep in 80 degree location away from light until the majority germinate.
Or to speed things up...put on top of a heating pad and just keep turning it on when you think of it(don't let them dry out).A household heating pad is good for seeds like cannas. Never used special pads.
Once most germinate remove plastic lid.
sorry no pic of newly sprouted plants
NOW THAT THEY SPROUTED-FILL POTS WITH HEAVILY MOISTENED POTTING SOIL AND TRANSFER TO POTS
Place pellets (with or without mesh)into pots.
Use Same Tray provided to germinate as support tray for pots.
We also use flat trays bought separately. You can't fit 72 potted plants in just one tray.
Husband uses 3 1/2 inch Pots to transfer into after germination.
PUT UNDER LIGHTS
Get cheap fluorescent lights (NOT GROW LIGHTS)and chains that you'll need to attach to the light fixture, so it can hang from the shelf above.
Adjust the height of the lights as needed.
Keep lights within 2 inches over the plants and just raise the lights as plants get taller. If lights are too high above plant, they'll get leggy. Set with a timer for 16 hours/day (8 hours off in evening) and keep moist.Don't go more than 2 days without checking the moisture and the height of the lights. Also try and keep temperature where plants are growing at 60-70 degrees. A fan helps for circulation and can keep the temperature down.
NOW WAIT 5 TO 8 WEEKS (most plants)
After the plants have served their time under lights,
put outside when temperatures will no longer drop below freezing.
Find or make a table to keep off ground.
Keep in shade the first few days then gradually introduce to the sun, a touch more each day......this period should last 1-2 weeks to get them ready. Check moisture every other day
Once they go outside they DON"T COME BACK IN THE HOUSE.(unless an unexpected frost threathens).
DIG A HOLE
Once the transaction of adjusting to the outside has been accomplished dig a hole and put them in the ground.
I never initially fertilize,because it was in the potting mix.
But do after a few weeks in the ground, and then every 2 weeks thereafter.
I skip the step of transferring germinated plants into pots like my husband does. Once the pellets are expanded with water, I take them out of the trays they came in and put directly into Plastic Seeding Cells with potting mix already in them. Add seeds. (In other words, the germination AND the 5-8 week indoor startup take place in the same unit for my stuff. Husband moves to a somewhat larger pot because his veggies have early need to accomodate fast growing roots).
The seed cells can go back into the trays you expanded the pellets in, place plastic lid on, and now germinate !! Once most of the green pops up, take lid off and just put under the lights with no transfering . Less moves !
This is what they look like empty.
Remember to save the Garden Seed Cells from flats of flowers that you buy.
This method saves time, a big mess, and most importantly I can grow more plants.
Other than the pellets(fine mix),potting mix and seeds needed every year...
EVERYTHING ELSE IS REUSABLE !!
Wow ! It took longer to do this post than I thought. Whew.