Monday, February 25, 2013

Gardening Challenge: Make the Seeds Grow

 
This may seem like an easy task, 
but hear me out . . .

My goal is to plant vegetables and flowers from seed, to fill my garden and occasionally give as gifts to my neighbors and friends. Last

year's effort produced a set of spindly shoots that mostly died in the ground. These were seeds planted in peat pots, placed in plastic trays with lids and located in a sunny window facing southwest.

It is important to know that I live in wheat-growing country, in the Palouse on the Washington/Idaho border. Tomatoes seldom can go in the ground before June here. And . . . I generally keep my house at 71 degrees during the day, which is not ideal greenhouse temperature.


I asked a garden expert, a friend at church who has been growing plots of vegetables in the country for years. "Start your seeds early indoors at the end of February," she advised. She also pointed out she has been doing this for twenty years . . . and uses three fluorescent grow lights.

Aha! The secret, I thought to myself. And here's the key, she added. "Don't place them in a window at first. The seedlings will get too leggy."
Well . . . of course :)

So I did some grow light research online and learned about red and blue light spectrum . . . and frankly, more than I cared to learn. But in a nutshell, here's what I now know: red light is needed to produce fruit and flowers and blue light is needed for germination. HID and LED grow lights are full spectrum lights (red and blue) and manufacturers make some extraordinary claims for being the better way to go.

However, here is what I didn't like about HID and LED lighting. HID and its variants (there are several) put out a lot of heat and require a fan (conclusion: not energy efficient). For someone with an indoor green house, the heat may actually be a good thing. LED lights are still being tested by NASA for growing plants in outer space, which is pretty cool, but they appear to be in the experimental stage and also are very expensive.

The winner was my friend's suggestion: fluorescent grow lights. I was pleased to discover both full spectrum and energy efficient fluorescent lights are available. Just buy T-5 fluorescent bulbs (or larger) and you will have bright, full-spectrum lighting at a savings in electricity. I purchased two grow light kits at a local store, $45 each on sale. Not bad, considering the same kit was $69 online. 

The next challenge was where to place the grow light assembly. We had a portable clothes hanger on rollers we no longer used that my husband converted to a plant stand. He added shelving, and a timer we already had (set to 12 hours of light). I love it!
 
Total cost: $110 plus seeds, soil and tax. Stay tuned for more gardening challenges. I'll let you know how the seeds turn out . . .

Copyright 2013 © Sharon Himsl

15 comments:

  1. Sweet setup! One thing I remember from doing something similar many years ago, was that you'll probably need to mist the seedlings for a while, once they start showing significant growth, and you get rid of the plastic over the top. But that's easily and lovingly done. What a fun project ...

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    Replies
    1. Oh...a spray bottle would work for this. Great idea. Thanks, Cathy for the tip!

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  2. Wonderful that you did the research. I've never been to your part of the country so can only imagine the growing conditions. I live in the hot and humid part of Virginia where white tail deer thrive. They love anything we plant--tomatoes, flowers, so that's a real problem. Good luck. I hope you don't have deer!

    Thanks for the follow!

    Monti
    Mary Montague Sikes

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    1. No, white tail deer aren't a problem here, except in the country (I live in town). We do get rabbits and wild pheasant (which I love), but my cat once brought a baby rabbit into the garage to play with--not good. Nice to meet you, Monti.

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  3. I've always wanted to plant a garden. This sounds like a fun adventure I am interested to see how it goes.

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    1. There is still time :) Thanks for stopping by, Jai.

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  4. Good luck with your garden, Sharon! Your set-up looks terrific.

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  5. I learned something about growing plants and vegetables, Sharon. My mother plants flowers when she visits me, and I take care of them, but they never seem to look as good as when she has her hands all over them. And nice to meet you. Look forward to coming back before and during the A to Z challenge. :)

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    1. Thanks, Silvia. Some people seem to have a 'green' thumb. I've had my moments, but the seed challenge really got to me this year. Hope to see you back:)

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  6. Thanks Sharon for the great gardening tips. I always seem to kill mine off. Hoping to get one going this spring, but it sounds like I should already be starting. Off to get my grow lights. God bless, Maria

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  7. Good for you, Maria! Let's hope for a bountiful crop this year. Happy gardening:)

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  8. We start our seedlings off in a germinator, heat but no additional light, and they seem to do very well that way. We're in the UK so I'm not sure if you get less daylight than us at this time of year.

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  9. I'm not sure either. Interesting. I've never heard of a germinator before. It's possible the heat from my lights (some) is a factor, too. Thanks for stopping by, Rosalind!

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