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Starting seeds indoors can not only save money, but can be a lot of fun at the same time. Just
plant those little buggers and watch them sprout in a few days. There have been many
suggestions offered on the Internet that generally lead to spending a lot of money to get started.
We want to give you some cost cutting suggestions.
We have been experimenting with different fluorescent tubes after searching the Internet far and
wide and we have had great success with sprouting seeds in our laundry room. We have seen
many expensive fixtures on the Internet, but the fact is you don’t need to be a pro to participate.
Most seeds will germinate from 70–75 degrees, and we have seen a few higher than that. We
haven’t spent any money on heating mats. We have found that the temperature in our laundry
room (which stays around 70) is plenty to get those little rascals up. Some seeds require bottom
heat though. We simply haven't come across them.
Soil: We prefer starting the seeds in seed starter pellets, but you can do just as well with the
right seed starting soil in pots. We recommend Miracle Grow Seed Starting Soil®. After our seeds
have the second set of real leaves, we then transplant the pellets into pots to continue growing
and hardening off before planting.
Lighting: Why spend a fortune on lighting? Grow lights (those purple things), are actually
intended for blooms and flowering, not for seed starting. Then there is something called T5 and
T8 tubes. T5 put out more light, but the fixtures are expensive, and the tubes are both expensive
and hard to find. So we just use T8 tubes that are readily available at discount stores and home
improvement centers. The fixtures don’t have to be fancy, and there are even some 2-tube shop
fixtures out there for less than $15.00. If you think that there may be some side glare that would
bother you in an adjoining area, then you might want to consider a fixture with a lens on the
bottom to cut the glare down. Then there is the “Color Temperature” of the tube (that is listed on
the wrapper). We have found that 6500K color temperature works great on germinating seeds.
So, if you use an inexpensive fixture with 6500K T8 tubes, you have something that will work just
fine. With this kind of system, you will probably want to hang the fixture so the tubes are just a
couple of inches above the soil so it helps warm up the seeds for germination. As they start
sprouting, then you can start moving the tubes up higher to stay above the plants a few inches so
a little air circulates between the tubes and the plants.
Timing: After going through two mechanical timers that cost about $6 each and only last a few
months, we bought a $12 electronic timer. We’ll see how long that lasts. We have it come on for
14 hours a day and give the plants a rest at night.
We hope this helps. The Tippolly Vegetable Garden Planting Guide will help you know when to
start your seeds inside, then when to start “Hardening Off” (that is when you give them a little
exposure to the outside temperatures), and then when to set them out. Have fun ya’ll, and don’t
forget to take pictures!
One small PS from Kate. Jim is an electrical engineer and sometimes he is hard to understand
when it comes to lighting. If you have any questions please drop us a note and I will have him
tone it down. He has to for me all the time!