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I am a seedling failure

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I am a seedling failure

Post  NHGardener on 5/3/2011, 8:59 pm

With a brown thumb.

Mel doesn't talk a lot about growing your indoor seedlings. Does anyone have a good source/link on creating the best indoor grow conditions? It's too late for this year, but I want a good set-up for next year and try again.

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 5/3/2011, 10:21 pm

It's not too late for this year. Just because you can now plant directly outside does NOT mean you give up on something you are trying to learn.

Practice with cheap seeds....like lettuce and carrots. And, if you want to, just give the starts away to neighbors and family. Or, have your kids (if you have any) sell them like a lemonade stand. Whatever it takes to get rid of them.

However, you still have a great learning opportunity. Don't lose the entire year. Get this thing down now. So you have confidence going INTO next spring. That way you can attack Mother Nature early and have an even better SFG next season than you will have this season. Know-whatta-mean?

My conditions were like this:

Standard flourescent lights...only one 4' tube...on 14 hrs per day on a timer.
Seed heating mat on the same timer.
Seeds in vermiculite cups and pulled/uppotted after a couple days from sprouting.
Uppots in MiracleGro Potting soil 4" plastic pots/cups or even 2L soda bottle bottoms.
Lights were almost up against the plant leaves. Literally so close they almost touched.
As the plants grew, my lights got raised...barely. As the lights got higher, the seed starting cups went up onto VHS tapes or something to raise them up to the lights, too.
I also had aluminum foil "tents" hanging over the light fixture to reflect back as much light as possible.

Hope you can picture that description. It worked really well for me once I put the seed heating mat on the timer, too. I never saw another "leggy" seedling. And, my tomato transplants looked as good as any $3 plant I could have bought.

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  NHGardener on 5/3/2011, 10:31 pm

That's really good info - thanks! All your seedlings fit under one florescent light? I think one of my main problems is instead of a florescent light, I have 2 light bulb grow lights. And they get so hot, I can't imagine them almost touching the plant leaves, I imagine florescents must be cooler?

And the idea about practicing on cheap seeds was great! I'm going to keep doing that for as long as it takes until I get the hang of it.

I also had my heating mat on 24 hrs./day. I guess you're not supposed to do that.

I think those tweaks are going to help a lot.

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 5/3/2011, 10:40 pm

Read this. It will explain why we shouldn't leave the mat on 24/7.

http://www.hillgardens.com/seeds-whats-wrong.htm

I had that link given to me earlier. I think by Staf74....so, I can't take any credit for the info.

And, yes, flourescent light are cool to the touch at any time. I can't speak for grow lights. I've never used them.

Keep us posted on your progress. I bet you get it now. That article made all the difference for me.

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  NHGardener on 5/3/2011, 10:57 pm

Ooh! Great article! It addresses my problem of last month or so - the spindly, tall seedlings that didn't look healthy. And I see it's not just any fluorescent, but it has to be a full spectrum fluorescent... huh.

And now I'm going to become an expert:

The New Seed Starters Handbook

Watch out, world. You're about to be taken over by seedlings.

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  nancy on 5/4/2011, 10:01 am

You're not a seed failure! You just don't have a lot of practice yet. Sometimes it works for me and sometimes it doesn't. I don't do anything as elaborate as backyardbirdgardener. I use old plastic baby food containers filled with wet vermiculite. Once the seedlings have their first leaves and are slightly tall enough, I up-plant them into containers of MM. My tomatoes I have had to up-plant twice. Everything sits in the kitchen windowsills. Occassionally they go outside for an hour or so if there is any sun. All four varieties of tomatoes will be ready to go in a week or so. I also do this with some of my summer plants. It really is hit-or-miss. Practice and patience is what it takes. I'm going to start some watermelons tonite!

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 5/4/2011, 10:05 am

I use regular flourescents. I thought I would have to go full spectrum, but never really had to. I'm sure it would help a bit more, but if it ain't broke....

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  NHGardener on 5/4/2011, 11:37 am

Do you need to separate your cold weather seedlings from your hot weather seedlings? My broccoli seedlings are the deadest, the peppers and tomatoes have fared a bit better. I'm wondering if it was too hot for the broccolis under the lamps.

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  milaneyjane on 5/4/2011, 7:32 pm

I have started close to 700 seeds now this spring. No expert (just tried it for the first time last year) Here is my set up and what I have found.

1-I have two identical flourescent fixtures---one with two regular bulbs one with the grow bulbs. I noticed that the grow bulbs had better results.

--I have started them in the little peat pellets and in cells.

2-There is a huge difference in seed starting mixes. I ended up trying three different ones. One was horrible (seedlings died or had poor germination), one was so-so (Miracle grow), and the third (I think it was Jiffy???) worked the best.

+++ The biggest thing I did this year and swear by it, is a two step process. As soon as you plant the seed sprinkle the soil lightly once with cinnamon and then spray watered down chamomille tea. It helps prevent damping off and fungus. This made a HUGE difference this year. When I transplanted the seedlings into bigger cups I forgot to spray and sprinkle. Of the seedlings I lost, they came from those I didn't do.

Definately don't leave the heating mat on once they germinate. I ended up with some really spindly seedlings when I did.

This will dry your plants out faster, but having an oscilating fan blowing on your seedlings will strengthen them as well as help with fungus.

Plant more than you need, that way if you lose a bunch it's still ok. And if they all survive, you have plants to share!

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  NHGardener on 5/4/2011, 7:55 pm

That's great information. My soil did develop a fungus, and I've been spraying it (only a few times) with peroxide/H2O. Next year I'll do the cinnamon/chamomile.

And seed start mix... hmm. Johnny's sells theirs, but I didn't want to pay $10 shipping charge. Maybe it's worth it. I tried accumulating their recipe ingredients, but scaling it down got too complicated, so I just used a pretty generic bag of starter mix, and added some peat and some compost to it.

Well, I'm just going to experiment between now & next spring.

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  camprn on 5/4/2011, 7:57 pm

@NHGardener wrote:That's great information. My soil did develop a fungus, and I've been spraying it (only a few times) with peroxide/H2O. Next year I'll do the cinnamon/chamomile.

And seed start mix... hmm. Johnny's sells theirs, but I didn't want to pay $10 shipping charge. Maybe it's worth it. I tried accumulating their recipe ingredients, but scaling it down got too complicated, so I just used a pretty generic bag of starter mix, and added some peat and some compost to it.

Well, I'm just going to experiment between now & next spring.
You can get the Jiffy mix at Agway, I find the BM8 is better seed starting mix but they both work well. Very Happy

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  NHGardener on 5/4/2011, 9:27 pm

Good to know about Agway - thanks! More and more I'm finding what I'm looking for at Agway...

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  WolfHeart on 5/4/2011, 9:51 pm

Taking Notes!

My DW knows that I want to try starting seeds but I think I may just try it earlier that she expected....

BBG is the grow mat important or is it something that I could live without for awhile?

Milaneyjane - What is the purpose of the cinnamon :scratch: and camomile tea? are these natural fungicides?

Thanks for the info all

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  Glendale-gardener on 5/4/2011, 10:34 pm

I've been starting seeds for years with no heat mat and the windowsill and one small grow bulb.

This year I upgraded:
I got a workshop light that holds 2 4 ft grow lights.-that was a huge improvement over the sunny window method.

After the first round of seeds, but before the last round, I got a heat mat-very impressed with the difference. Much faster germination. I had 3 little peat pots that I had planted "snake" gourds in for my son and I had all but given up on them, they hadn't germinated after a month, so I put 2 in the greenhouse on the heat mat and one of them sprouted after 2 days, same result with a few Sensitive plants that had been planted for a few weeks and still hadn't germinated.

As soon as they sprout, I pull them off the heat mat and under the lights. I think next year will be much less frustrating!

btw- I also turn everything off (lights and mat) at night. I've always used a fan and I water in the morning and I have never had a problem with damping off. I do sometimes get a little fungus I guess but it has never posed a problem.

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  WolfHeart on 5/5/2011, 12:00 am

Thanks GG for the comparison of with and with out the mat. Where can I find these mats at? and would a heating pad work or does that get too hot?

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  NHGardener on 5/5/2011, 12:42 am

Here's a link from johnny's seeds:

Heating Mat

But I think I ordered mine from amazon, come to think of it. A lot of places sell them.

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  boog1 on 5/5/2011, 10:37 am

well of all the things i started from seed about 90% of the veggies did great. BUT out of 250+ flower seeds i tryed to start,they didnt do worth squat, only 3 gremanated most were under a 4 ft. fixture with grow bulbs. i have plenty left over. they will get direct seeded in a couple of weeks once the ground warms up. but in way shape or form will it deter me from starting them again next year. jus have too reajust me start times on some things.{ note to self dont start green beans 6 weeks before you plan on putting in garden} alotta stuff is garden ready now but its to soon i have another 2 weeks of possible frost.so i'll keep nursing them along atleast for another week. told other half "next year we're gonna find or build a hoop house or small greenhouse she gave the (LOOK) Rolling Eyes Rolling Eyes


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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  Glendale-gardener on 5/5/2011, 2:13 pm

I got my heat mat at lowe's for $30 and it came with the black plastic flat and a greenhouse lid. The cheapest I've seen them is $20 at menard's for just the heat mat alone if you already have enough flats and lids.

Boog- I've started to illicit "the look" from the other half as well when I start talking about "next year" and "eventually"! rock on

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  ErinAdkins on 5/5/2011, 6:24 pm

I don't do anything fancy at all. I use a starting mix, whatever I can find. I have some flats from a few years ago. I plant my seeds in the flats and set them on my dining room table in front of the window (South facing) Once the seedlings emerge and are an inch or two tall I transplant them into plastic cups with more starting mix. On sunny days my seedlings go out in the sun and stay there until late afternoon. Then once they start getting their true leaves and if the weather is warm enough I plant them in the garden. I place a plastic cup over them in the garden and they grow fine. No hoop house needed.

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  NHGardener on 5/5/2011, 6:32 pm

Wow. You make it sound so easy. Maybe I'm overthinking this. Smile

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  Barkie on 5/6/2011, 11:10 am

I do what ErinAdkins does more or less. Rosemary I cannot get to germinate that way though the only time it did was in an indoor bottom heated propagator with a transparent lid.

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  quiltbea on 5/6/2011, 11:25 am

I have west facing windows and nothing would grow there from seed no matter how hard I tried. I needed a heat mat and got one and its among the best of investments, along with the 4' shop lights and daylight bulbs to keep the germinated seeds growing.

Now I start not only enough for me, but for my daughter, members of our community garden and even have enuf left over for the library plant sale, so for me the heat mat was a win-win situation.

I start 2 or more trays like this of eggplant, peppers and tomatoes for us all. These are just the warm-weather crops. The cool-weather crops are already in the garden.

Different strokes for different folks!

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  NHGardener on 5/6/2011, 11:50 am

Quiltbea, how many hours do you keep the lights on them per day? And did you turn your heat mat off at night?

When you up-plant them to bigger containers, do you still keep them under the lights? Do they fit?

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  quiltbea on 5/6/2011, 8:55 pm

NHGardener,
I keep my heat mat on all the time when I am germinating them and they are in their 3/4" soil blocks.
Once they germinate, I put them right under the lights.

I don't use heat mats when they are under the lights. My furnace room stays pretty consistent at about 66* from the hot water heater and furnace being in there so no heat mat used.

My double lights (I have 2 daylight bulbs in 4-ft shop lights) stay on approx 16 hrs a day. I put them on around 7-8 a.m. when I let out my dogs, and then turn them off when I let the dogs out for their last nature call at eleven at nite. I don't have a timer.

My seedlings stay under lights even when they are up-potted to larger soil blocks or containers and until they go outside to start the hardening off process. I only take about a week for that, starting with 1-2 hrs outside in a shady spot and out of the wind, then increasing daily and on the 3rd day to include a little sun during their term outside.
The last 2 nites they stay outside unless its going to get unusually cold.

The lights are raised higher as the plant pots are bigger and the plants taller. I don't have mine hooked to the ceiling so I brace them on whatever is available, from bricks to old VHS video tapes. And no, the video tapes do not overheat from the lights. There is no heat to worry about from the lights themselves.

Here's a view of one of my lights on bricks when some were in 2" soil blocks.

Note of interest: One 4-ft shop light with 2 daylight bulbs cost me $26.21 a year ago at Home Depot. The bulbs last 7 years. I have 3 sets in my furnace room. I got the lights that are sort of enclosed at the ends so I could rest them on bricks, tapes, etc without harm to the bulbs.

By the time my cool-weather crops are going outdoors, either for hardening off or for good, I am just starting my warm-weather seeds on the heat mat.

Since I use the 3/4" soil blocks on the heat mat (in a tray on the mat) I can get over 120 little blocks on the heat mat which is about 10" by 20" in size.
Not all of them germinate but that's normal. Sometimes I forget to re-spritz the little guys and they dry out but I start a lot more than I need anyway since I only need to put one seed in each soil block.

That's about it I think. If you have any others questions, feel free to ask or PM me.

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Re: I am a seedling failure

Post  NHGardener on 5/6/2011, 9:14 pm

I like the fact that the fluorescents are cool. My grow lights are hot, and I think that causes a problem - if the lights are too close to the plants, it must be very hot for them. That can't be good. But if the lights are far away, then there isn't enough light. I plan to use a fluorescent setup next time, but I don't know how people successfully grow seedlings with just the gro-light bulbs.

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Re: I am a seedling failure

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