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What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

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What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

Post  ksbmom on 10/31/2011, 10:21 pm

We got our SFG up and running a bit late and so only planted two tomatoes (from transplants - Lowe's). I'm thinking of our next planting in February and want to start some heirlooms indoors from seed. I tried this last spring and they did OK, but I know the seedlings didn't get enough light inside the house. I had them in the sunniest window possible, but they still got pretty leggy. My question is - what type of light can I use in the house? Fluorescent? If so, just the regular bulbs, or do they have to be special grow lights? Can I do this in the garage (we're zone 9a) if I have to? And how have you rigged the lights up to be right above the plants? Thanks!

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Re: What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 10/31/2011, 11:10 pm

I'm going to pay special attention to this thread because I'm giving some thought to the possibility of me growing my own tomatoes from seeds. At first I thought I won't be able to do it because of limited space but I just might be able to work it out here at home.

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Re: What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

Post  quiltbea on 11/1/2011, 12:14 am

I had no trouble starting my seeds under daylight bulbs (from Lowe's) in 4 ft long shop lights. They were left on 16 hrs a day and grew well.


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Re: What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

Post  sceleste54 on 11/1/2011, 12:51 am

I start mine under a 4 foot shop light as well, daylight bulbs. I have taken over my breakfast bar for this purpose. The shop light has bricks supporting the ends, and I just add a brick as the plants grow taller. This way I can keep the light just above the seedlings... So far it has worked great..Smile

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Re: What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 11/1/2011, 8:58 am

I have read about fancy "grow bulbs," but everything I read also suggests they are just more expense. You can get almost the same results from everyday shop lights like pictured above.

Two tips, though: 1) Keep the bulbs just above the leaves of the plants. I'm talking within 2 inches. 2) Use a heat mat that is on the same timer as your lights. The warm-up and cool-down couples with the daylight and darkness to make the plants think they are outside. They grew much stronger when I did this in the spring.

Until I figured that out, I had some very leggy seedlings.

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Re: What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

Post  jkahn2eb on 11/2/2011, 9:40 am

How many heat mats did you use? Looked online and found some that were 9" x 20" for $18-20 (found one for $12)....

I had the leggy problem inside this summer using just the daylights

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Lights

Post  SQFTBIX on 11/2/2011, 10:43 am

You need full spectrum lights - that's it. I have had a grow light system for about 5 years. I did some research and there is a difference between shop lights and full spectrum lights. I think the last set I got was at Wal-Mart. They are designed for plants. The leggy issue arises from having the light too far away from the plants. Early on, the lights need to be about an inch away from the plants. If you keep that distance, the plants should do alright. My main problem is what do you do with different size plants. My solution is to tilt the lights so that it gives most of the plants 1" space. Until I get two grow stations, that's the best I can do.

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Re: What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

Post  quiltbea on 11/2/2011, 12:14 pm

I have 3 shop lights over a couple of banquet tables in our furnace room. They are not on chains so I prop them over the plants with both bricks and old VHS tapes. There is no heat involved so nothing can get burned. I can put more props on one side than the other if needed for shorter or taller plants. I, too, keep the light approx 2" above the plants themselves. The daylight bulbs, which are very economical, about $6 for two, should last about 6 years and with only using them a few months a year, they will probably last at least 12 years.



Above, the lights over the tomato plants I started for the community garden.



Here's another view of my lights, some lifted higher than the other ends, over different crops. In the center is my potting area and bucket of starting soil.

I got great transplants from this setup, from early broccoli to later eggplants.

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Re: What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

Post  quiltbea on 11/2/2011, 12:22 pm

I keep my heat mat for seed germination on a TV table in my living room. They don't need lights until after they have germinated (except for lettuce which needs light to germinate), at which time I will move them into 2" soil blocks until they are large enough for the bigger air-pruning pots.

Below are are some basil, broccoli, cabbage and parsley seeds in 3/4" soil blocks awaiting germination.


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Re: What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

Post  camprn on 11/2/2011, 2:36 pm

Just an FYI...There are numerous previous threads from last year that are about this subject, some good info to be found there. You may find them using the search feature; there are some titled grow stations, grow lights, etc. Very Happy

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Re: What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 11/3/2011, 11:09 am

My mat is 12x24ish. I only use the one. It was originally used because my basement runs a bit cool in the winters and tomatoes, peppers, etc won't germinate at all. I was getting leggy seedlings as the mat was left on 24/7. I read an article about letting the mat turn off at night to mimic day/night. I tried it and the leggyness went away....amazing. Things starting growing so well inside, I kept the mat going along with the light timers so they synced up. I won't change anything next spring.

I also noticed that using the mat really gave my cool season plants a boost in germination times. I started studying Mel's tables in the book and noticed spinach germinates in 30ish days when temps are 40F. However, when 70F, it germinates in like 7 days. Well, who wouldn't want to get the veggies going sooner? So, I used the mat to get them sprouted, then took them immediately outside and dropped them in the soil. They grew just like if they sprouted there. So, I cheated the calendar essentially. I cut out the waiting time and didn't have to babysit cool season seedlings indoors.

I thought, "What can I sprout this way?" Carrots, radishes, spinach, celery, peas, just about anything notorious for taking a long time to sprout or being difficult to transplant. It all worked! If you take the sprout within the first couple days, it doesn't hurt anything most times because there is hardly a taproot to damage when you pull them out of vermiculite. Talk about loose and friable.

I will probably talk more about this stuff later in the winter when activity slows around here more.

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Re: What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

Post  quiltbea on 11/24/2011, 10:53 am

Regarding tomato pollination.......They are self-pollinated so they can be pollinated very easily just by tapping the branches every day. They don't need insects or wind. I do this all the time when I isolate my new blossoms in netting to preserve my heirloom and open-pollinated varieties so they can't cross-breed in order to save seeds for next year's crops. No insects touch the blossoms yet they pollinate easily by tapping them.



See the tomatoes inside the netting in photo above.

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Re: What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

Post  WolfHeart on 3/19/2012, 2:40 pm

@quiltbea wrote:

Quiltbea...do you up pot these or just trans plant straight from the solo cup that they are in? I am beginning my seeds this week and did the 2L bottle green house method I have seen other places on the forums. I just wondered if up potting was necessary or if the starting pot was big enough there would be no need.

Thanks
John

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Re: What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

Post  quiltbea on 3/19/2012, 3:34 pm

wolf.....It depends on how much growth they attain before I can put them outdoors. If I have them in cups, I usually can put them right in the garden outdoors, such as my early greens. If they get too big, they have to be up-potted to something larger.

Normally I start with 3/4" soil blocks then those are dropped into 2" soil blocks and then either directly outdoors into the garden or transplanted to air-pruning pots which can be soda bottles or 16-oz drink cups. Larger plants like tomatoes I always have to transplant from the 2" soil blocks right into my 5-6" tall air-pruning 2-litre soda bottles I use. Most other things go from 2" blocks to 16-oz air-pruning cups.

They become air-pruning pots when you cut a slit from their drainage hole up the side of the cup for about 2-3" (I make 4 slits) which stops the roots from girdling and makes transplanting not only easier, but better for the plant.



Above: Basil, broccoli and cauliflowers hardening off outside in their 10-oz cups.



Above: Tomato seedlings just transplantaed from 2" soil blocks to their soda bottles. At far right you can see some seedlings in their 2" soil blocks.

General rule: If you think they'll get root-bound in their present container before you can transplant them, then up-pot them.

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Re: What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

Post  WolfHeart on 3/19/2012, 3:42 pm

Thanks a ton for that info Quiltbea! Very Happy

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Re: What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

Post  quiltbea on 3/19/2012, 4:07 pm

Sorry, typing error. It should have read broccoli, etc in their 16-oz cups. I never use ten oz cups.

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Re: What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

Post  obrdrln on 3/19/2012, 4:50 pm

Don't know if they'll do anything, but I tossed a couple of tomato seeds into each egg space in an egg carton filled with vermiculite and set the carton in a SE facing window and they've come up. Only about 1-1 1/2" high right now but up, nonetheless!!! I'll up pot them when I think they need a bigger home.

Judy

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Re: What kind of grow lights for starting tomatoes indoors?

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