Author Topic: Seed starting  (Read 36675 times)

Offline fritz_monroe

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Seed starting
« on: January 27, 2010, 06:22:12 PM »
Over the past couple years I have tried starting my plants from seed.  But I always ended up with leggy, weak plants.  My problem was I was just putting them in the window.  To make matters worse, I never had South facing windows.

So this year, I decided to build myself a stand and use lights.  I like to work with PVC since it is really forgiving and easy to work with.  I found these plans and built it this weekend.  I haven't glued it up yet, I think I'll be making a couple modifications to the stand.

Anyway, here's a picture of what I built.  Total cost is about $65, that includes the 2 shop light fittings, the 4 fluorescent tubes and all the PVC.  The lights are hung by chains and can be easily adjusted to keep the lights close to the seedlings.



Helpful hint for anyone that doesn't use PVC for projects, get a set of ratcheting PVC cutting pliers.  Much easier to cut the PVC than with a hack saw, and no shavings to sand off or clean up.

Anyone have pics of their seed starting setup to share?

Offline BoltsFan

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2010, 06:27:32 PM »
This is interesting. This is the first year I try to start seeds on the window also... They are not looking so good. 

Offline KYdoomer

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2010, 06:32:13 PM »
Anyone have pics of their seed starting setup to share?

Yeah, it looks like yours but it hasn't been made yet.   ;D

That is really nice.  I've been wanting to buy some grow lights but that is really clever.  I have the same problems you have but you may have solved mine as well!

You don't happen to have a materials list handy do ya?

J

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2010, 06:44:17 PM »
Yep, here's the parts list.

    * 6 10'lengths of ¾" PVC pipe
    * 6 ¾" PVC caps
    * 24 ¾" PVC T's
    * 6 ¾" PVC L's
    * 6 ¾" PVC 4-ways
    * Hacksaw
    * PVC cement
    * 2 48" fluorescent light fixtures and bulbs

Here's the link to the plans

One of the changes that I'm likely going to make is adding some cross bars for the seed trays to sit on.  Right now the trays are too easy to knock over.

You don't have to use grow lights for this.  But if you use standard tubes, they have to be within about 3" of the top leaves of the plants.

Offline johngalt

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2010, 08:16:15 PM »
Good Job!  You WILL have much more success with this setup.  I had the same issue several years ago.   My setup is 4 tiers, but is the same basic setup to take advantage of 4' fluorescent lights.  I just got the cheapo ones at China Depot (standard bulbs too).  A few things that I have to recommend:

have two sets of fluor. lights at each level, and have lots of blocks of wood at various thickness so you can raise the seedlings to about 1" below the lights, and lower them as they grow.  This has produced reliable results for me for 4 years now.  The fluor. lights do give off heat, and the closer they are to the seedlings, the added heat gives the seeds a faster germination rate.  I will try to get a photo of my setup soon.

Offline KYdoomer

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2010, 08:20:46 PM »
Thanks Fritz for the link and the pics.  I needed one more project!   ;)

J

CenTexPrep

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2010, 09:13:20 PM »
Fritz,

You just saved my butt!  I was about to go to Home Depot this weekend for lumber to build your exact setup out of wood.  I never thought about PVC.  Great idea.  I've got my raised beds built and ready to be filled. 

Thanks again!

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2010, 07:45:33 AM »
have two sets of fluor. lights at each level

That's not something I'm going to be able to do at this point.  I'm going to try it as is this year and see how things work out.

I have 3 beds from last year.  Over the next couple weeks or so I'll be adding more raised beds.  I figure that I'll triple the number of beds this year, plus I'm going to try my hand at a three sisters garden in a non-raised bed section. 

Possenti2264

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2010, 08:35:53 AM »
I've heard of "window boxes" or basically a frame you build in your garden with a piece of glass or a salvaged window placed across the top.  That way the seeds get sun, but don't freeze.  Does this work? 

I live in Zone 9, so it doesn't get too cold, but does get cold enough to freeze seedlings.

Offline KYdoomer

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2010, 08:39:47 AM »
I've heard of "window boxes" or basically a frame you build in your garden with a piece of glass or a salvaged window placed across the top.  That way the seeds get sun, but don't freeze.  Does this work? 

I live in Zone 9, so it doesn't get too cold, but does get cold enough to freeze seedlings.

You are talking about a coldframe right?  Yeah they work, I've used one a while back and they get pretty warm. 

J

Offline Stein

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2010, 08:56:07 AM »
I would also agree that anyone looking at lights use a minimum of 4 tubes per level, 6 if possible.

I did two next year and it wasn't close to enough light to get anything growing.  I would consider four tubes nearly touching the plants to be the bare minimum unless you have them in front of a window.

Offline craftsman

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2010, 10:25:26 AM »
Good job. I am doing the same this year. I salvaged some wire shelving from a nieghbor's trash last year and bought some grow lights at a garage sale for $2.00.

I just built a frame out of some leftover lumber. I just need to attach the wire shelving. I'll post pic's when it's done.

I've been inspired to grow some sprouts until it's time to plant the seedlings. Still too early up where I live.

Possenti2264

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2010, 10:39:59 AM »
You are talking about a coldframe right?  Yeah they work, I've used one a while back and they get pretty warm. 

J

Yeah.  A "coldframe".  That's what it is.  Most of the houses down here were build in the 1940s and 1950s, and have older windows which are often painted shut (not smart).  Many people get them replaced and just stack the old windows by the street for trash pickup.  I'll be scouting the neighborhoods for more windows.

Offline chrisdm8

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2010, 08:04:30 PM »


Last year my seedlings were pretty leggy, so this year I also wanted to help them out with some extra light. I found this guy online who made a LED grow light from some christmas lights and an old rubbermaid. It looked like he had great luck with it so I decided to try it. I ended up doubling up the lights after I took the picture and am trying it on the house plants now. I'm curious to see if it's enough light because it's a super cheap solution if it works.

Offline Docwatmo

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2010, 10:02:12 PM »
How far ahead of planting do you normally start your seeds?  I'm not a gardner (Yet:)) but I will be learning, but just curious.  I like the rubermaid tote idea,  I have more christmas lights than I could shake a stick  at (Bought a bunch of whites on clearance at walmart for $.50 a box).  And I have a couple of totes alaready laying around.  Are those just plain white lights or anything special?

Offline chrisdm8

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2010, 05:08:34 AM »
Currently white because that's what I could find 75% off after Christmas .... blue would be better. Wikipedia has some good info on light spectrum for plants.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorophyll

Offline slippy

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2010, 05:09:46 AM »
Nice Looking starter!!  I would be interested in seeing a follow-up pic of how your seedlings do.  I will be they will love it

Offline LICountryBoy

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #17 on: January 29, 2010, 06:32:20 AM »
I have tried seed starting a bunch of different ways.

I had a rack with 2 lights per shelf and it worked very well.
Think about putting some mylar (space blanket) on the back or a mirror to help contain the light and bounce it back to the plants.

The best setup I have used is a combination of all three.
A table/rack in front of the window with lights and reflective material behind the flats.
I had a timer that turned the lights off when the sun was at it's brightest in the window.
 
I have also done very well with a card table with 3 shop lights for about 12 hours/day
over the seedlings. Can't get any more basic than that.

 

Possenti2264

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #18 on: January 29, 2010, 07:02:10 AM »
I was dumpster diving yesterday on my way home from work and scored a shower door!  Should work very well for my coldboxes

Offline johngalt

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #19 on: January 29, 2010, 07:29:14 AM »
Quote
Yeah.  A "coldframe".  That's what it is.  Most of the houses down here were build in the 1940s and 1950s, and have older windows which are often painted shut (not smart).  Many people get them replaced and just stack the old windows by the street for trash pickup.  I'll be scouting the neighborhoods for more windows

I picked up two curb diamonds and built twin coldframes out of 70's era patio enclosure windows.  I love these for coldframes, because they have the louvered windows for opening to varying degress of openness and they have built in screens to keep the bugs out.  I will try to post some photos of these if the temps get above 0° F today.

Possenti2264

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #20 on: January 29, 2010, 07:38:12 AM »
Right. ColdFRAME.  I swear I'll get it right one of these days.

Offline KYdoomer

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #21 on: January 29, 2010, 07:44:06 AM »
Right. ColdFRAME.  I swear I'll get it right one of these days.

You call em what you want, long as they work for you!   ;)

You guys are very creative.  Everytime I come here, I get new ideas.

J

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #22 on: January 29, 2010, 11:09:18 AM »
I was dumpster diving yesterday on my way home from work and scored a shower door!  Should work very well for my coldboxes
Never thought of shower doors.  That's a great idea.  I'll have to keep an eye on Craigslist.

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #23 on: January 29, 2010, 03:24:46 PM »
While looking for information on when to start seeds, I came across a good resource that I thought I'd share.

Vegetable Seed planting info

Possenti2264

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #24 on: January 29, 2010, 03:56:50 PM »
Never thought of shower doors.  That's a great idea.  I'll have to keep an eye on Craigslist.

Forget Craigslist (at least in my town), just drive around the neighborhood the day before or morning of trash pickup.  I found this one 8 houses down from mine.

Offline Docwatmo

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #25 on: January 29, 2010, 05:46:28 PM »
Fritz great link.  That is exactly what I've been looking for.  I just copied the details into a spreadsheet for the crops i'm planning on doing.  With a couple data calculations.  I just punch in the estimated transplant date and the spreadsheet tells me when to start the seeds and when to transplant and an estimate to when they should be ready.

Still working on the calculations but its pretty slick for a newbie gardener like me.

CenTexPrep

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #26 on: January 29, 2010, 09:34:35 PM »
Fritz great link.  That is exactly what I've been looking for.  I just copied the details into a spreadsheet for the crops i'm planning on doing.  With a couple data calculations.  I just punch in the estimated transplant date and the spreadsheet tells me when to start the seeds and when to transplant and an estimate to when they should be ready.

Still working on the calculations but its pretty slick for a newbie gardener like me.



Since you'rea newb (and there's nothing wrong with that) try to do some transplants that you buy from your local garden center.  They'll always have out what will be ok to plant at that time.  It's easier and will also help you see some instant success and build your confidence level.  Plus, if your seeds that you are starting the first year don't do well you'll still have good plants in the ground. 

Good Luck~!

Offline Docwatmo

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #27 on: January 29, 2010, 09:55:56 PM »
Good Idea on the live plants.  I'm just getting so excited and want to do this that i'm trying to get ahead of myself.  I think the seeds for my little garden are cheap enough (and i'm doing this as a learning project) I may work at starting the seeds and then if they are not ready or fail, then i'll go pick up the live plants.  Kind of a best of both worlds.  If it works great, if not, i'm only out a couple of seed packets.

Thanks so much for the help.

Doc

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #28 on: January 30, 2010, 08:17:26 AM »
Nothing wrong with starting some seeds and using transplants.  I'm sure I'll be doing some transplants as well, I do every year.  I just can't pass up those good looking plants when I pass them in the store.  But I'm hoping to have the majority of my plants started from seed.

Offline redneck

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Re: Seed starting
« Reply #29 on: January 30, 2010, 08:56:01 AM »
I saw some of you had leggy starts or long stems. I also had this problem for years. What worked for me was a small fan on the starts to thicken up the stems.  I also have just simply brushed my hands through the starts with some success. 
Another good trick I know to pass a long is that if you start more than one seed.  If you have more than one start in one spot rather than pulling out the start just snip it with a scissors. If you pull out the start you risk damaging the other plants. 

By the way, I liked the PVC starter.  If I didn't already have my starte set up from a reclamed (from the gas station) moonpie display rack I would build one too.