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Economical Way to Start Seeds Inside With Lights

Posted Apr 22 2013 11:41pm
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This has been one of the snowiest Aprils.  This is the view from my kitchen window. Because it is April and the sun is higher in the sky and the days are longer the snow melts much quicker than the winter snow.   March did have some dryer days so Ted and I were able to get out even though it was cool and get some things done out in the garden.  Ted is building me a painted board fence that will start from the spot you see on the left hand side and continues behind my beloved juniper trees.  As soon as things dry out we will put up the 89 painted boards…  Indoor seed starting saves money and can give you a variety of plants.  Some plants need a couple of months of growing indoors, the majority need  6 weeks, 4 weeks and then 2 weeks.  With so many planted seeds, growing  plants can become overwhelming.  There is only so much space and windows available to most of us and  who wants a bunch of plant trays clogging the decor   Years ago Ted made me a clever wooden bookcase just wide enough to hold 4-foot shop lights.  I’ll show you in a bit.  Three months ago I started my first plants: Pansies, Petunia.  I took cuttings of a red begonia and also separated a purple passion plant into 6 plants.  All for outdoors.
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Wouldn't several of these begonias look great in the garden?  That’s what I thought so a  full 3 months ago I took cuttings and started them in the same way you start an African Violet.  First make sure the mother plant is well hydrated.  With a sharp clean knife cut a leaf with a bit of stem.  Gently dip into rooting hormone.  Fill a small container with perlite or some other non-soil starting medium.  Water  the little container . Use a wooden pencil to make a hole. Poke the little leaf stem into the hole. Make sure the stem has good contact. Water and place the little container into a tray, cover the top with plastic wrap to keep in  moisture.  Keep the moisture level damp.  After a couple of weeks remove the plastic covering but still keep damp.  The little leaves will come up from the side. 
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See the little leaf on the side.  Underneath there are roots!  We have about 5 weeks until outdoors planting time.  I think I should of started these begonias in November instead of January.
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The picture doesn't show it, but these little starts are held in a clear plastic container, the kind you get from the grocers with washed lettuce.
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In January I planted 15 pelleted Tidal Wave Petunia seeds. 11 sprouted and they are big enough to be planted, but I still have a good month before I can put them out.  So today was the day to find them bigger homes.  In the background you can see the blooming begonia! And, through the windows you can see snow!  I mixed up some store bought potting soil with my seed starting mix.  This project is messy and requires a good kitchen cleanup after I am done.
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Check out this petunia! Such healthy roots! It looks like soon it will be ready to bloom!  I also transplanted 6 tomatillos and 2 Glacier Tomatoes and 2 other early tomatoes. So where to put all these plants?  My basement – Under lights.  If you have shopped for grow light systems you will have noticed they are very, very expensive.  But this system is very reasonable and doable.  Not fancy but it works!
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Ted built me this bookcase.  It is in front of a small south facing window in the basement.  Each shelf can hold a four foot fluorescent light. You can grow and keep seedlings with ordinary fluorescent lights  but I think they do better when they have a bit more range of light. I went to Lowe's and bought a combination of inexpensive lights. I look for light bulbs with the most lumens.  I think I have a bulb called sunlight and another called daylight.  In the past I have had tomatoes set fruit indoors and harvested tomatoes indoors .  The little blocks of wood are used to keep the plants about 2” below the light.  The other must-do trick is to connect the lights to a timer and set the lights to run for 14 hours. The hardest thing is to remember to keep the seedlings watered and to replant them into bigger pots if they grow too fast. 
Today I also started basil, Serrano peppers, candytuff and some fancy zinnias.  Happy Spring!  Oh, take a look at what I did with a plain jean type suede skirt.  It is inspired by a jean skirt I found and pinned on Pinterest . 
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