The Season Starts

I grow most of my plants from seed. The variety is much greater and far cheaper than buying flats at the nursery. But my seed starting set up is limited to 2 flats under lights until it’s warm enough to move everything to the unheated greenhouse. So here is how I shove up to 216 plants in one flat.

Pepper and tomato seedlings under the grow lights

Pepper and tomato seedlings under the grow lights

I start my tomato and pepper seed flats around Mid-March, that is about 8 weeks before my planting date in Zone 7.

I use a typical 72 cell insert (12 packs of 6 cells) and a tray with no holes. Since I’m limited to 2 flats at a time under the lights, I fill each cell with 2 or 3 seeds, sometimes 4. The idea is just to grow them to a point when they will be re-potted in larger containers.

If you don’t have a farm supply store nearby, Greenhouse Megastore is a great online source for bulk flats, inserts and trays. Their prices are cheap and sold in units of 10 or bulk of 100.

I use Pro-Mix potting mix but it’s a little chunky for seed starting so I screen it through a medium sieve to sort out the sticks and break up the chunky stuff. Put the inserts in a tray, fill with the mix and pack it down lightly into the cells. If the mix is dry give it a good sprinkle of water to moisten up a bit so it is holding moisture but not dripping. I use a chopstick to poke 2 or 3 holes in each cell (depending on the plant type) in the soil surface for the seeds. not too deep, about a quarter inch deep will do. Drop a seed in each hole and push the soil over to cover. Give it a light tamping to make good contact with the seed. I plant a 6 cell pack with one plant variety and label it. You can use wooden or plastic plant sticks or if you can write really small, use wooden coffee stirrers. They are really cheap (a box of 1000 costs $2 in a office supply store) compared to the plant label sticks that cost $2 for only 24 sticks. WB Mason sells them online if you can’t find them locally.

My light system is a 4 ft. tabletop Sunlite using T5 fluorescent bulbs. I got this because it is in my dining room and had to look nice. Similar results can be had with a regular fluorescent shop light and full spectrum tubes. The tubes need to be very close to the top of the plants, so the setup needs to adjust to the height of the seedlings.

Vegetable seeds need to be warm germinate. With a humidity dome on the flats, it will get warm enough under the lights to sprout. Depending on how fresh the seeds are, most will sprout within 3 days. The plants won’t need to be watered much when the dome on. When the seedlings reach near the top of the dome, it’s time to remove it. Keep the soil moderately moist, don’t let the soil surface dry. When the plants get their second set of leaves, it’s time to start fertilizing with a half strength mix of liquid fertilizer when you water.

The seedlings will stay under the grow lights for about 3 weeks. Then they will be transplanted to a larger container and put in the greenhouse. More on that in a later post.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by meowie on April 3, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    we need to do this. S needs to


  2. Posted by SEAN! on April 3, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    I do read it!


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