Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Starting Seeds Under Grow Lights

The mortality rate of seeds that I plant directly into the garden is high. I blame it on the arid climate, because it is difficult to keep the soil moist for the time it takes to get the seeds well-sprouted.  The solution is to start seeds inside in soil blocks and plant them out when they have a couple of good leaves and some roots.

LED grow lights are fabulous for this. They are low-power and don't produce much heat so they don't cook the plants.

Don't let articles about basements full of reflectors and lights scare you off. There is a difference between growing plants all the way to flowering and fruiting and just getting seedlings started.  My setup won't get tomatoes from seed to harvest.  It will get them from seeds to seedlings and do it inexpensively.

This was the first "OMG, I need LIGHT, and I need it NOW" setup.  Two inexpensive grow lights are dangling from some steel tubing over my workbench. They have a timer set to provide about 14 hours of high intensity light every day.
Temporary Grow Light Area
You can see the mini greenhouses of salvaged transparent pastry and salad green boxes labelled with painters tape and permanent marker pens. The seedlings are in the boxes, protected from drying out.

The next version will have two more lights and more space, but will not be any fancier.  
WARNING and update: The air inside the plastic boxes CAN reach temperatures too high for successful seed germination.  I did not have problems when the workshop was a chilly 55 degrees, so I assumed that the set-up was working.  Later I started having entire boxes fail to germinate.  I was puzzled, then realized that I was not monitoring the temperature inside the boxes.  It was NINETY-TWO degrees in the box I measured.  That explains it.

I need to figure out how to keep the soil blocks moist and the temperature down.  There will be an update.

Why I don't use a sunny window

Sunny windows are for cats, not seedlings.

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