Re: [tomato] Newbie at starting seeds (
Thu, 14 Jan 1999 12:13:24 EST

> I thought you just needed a sunny window to start seeds.

I used a sunny window for years, and it worked fine, just rotate the plants
every couple of days so they don't lean in one direction.  Of course, the
window is 6' wide x 8 ' tall, and faces SSE, so there's lots of light.
>  Is a 4 foot fluorescent light fixture containing 4 tubes, 400 watts each
>  sufficient?  Too much?

I hope you mean 40 watts each!  I've got this under the shelves of my sunroom,
and the seedlings come out good.   There's never enough shelf space in the
>  Is there any harm in leaving that fixture on 24 hrs/day, since it's  wired
into a >switch?

14-18 hours a day is better, as plants need the night period also.  If the
lights are supplementing the window light, only 14 is needed.  Mine are on 16
>  OK, three questions.  Where is a good, INEXPENSIVE source for obtaining
>  what is necessary for heat underneath the seedlings?

In the sunroom, I use a 2' x 3.5' wooden flat, filled with sand and a heating
cable with it's own thermostat set around 70 degrees F.   It cost about $20, I
got it from a local Brew & Grow, supplying Beermaking supplies and hydroponic
supplies.  They're also available in most seed catalogs.  The wires are about
4" apart.

Use a sterile mix so you don't get damp-off.  I use a commercial germination
mix for starting seeds, and a growing mix for transplanting.  These are 4
cubic foot bags from the local greenhouse supply, but there should be smaller
sizes available at Kmarts, Franks, Meijers, garden centers, etc.  You  can
alos mix your own, but the commercial mix ix convenient.  Some growing mixes
contain additives, fertilizers, etc. which may delay or inhibit seed
germination.  Germination mixes are "cleaner", and so don't work well as a
transplant mix for growing the seedlings on without fertilizing more.

You'll find a lot of growers using  different methods, and as long as you end
up with fruit, none are wrong. 

I start 10 seeds in a 3" plastic pot, ~March 1, larger quantities of seed in
larger pots or flats.  I transplant when the second true leaves appear (OK,
sometimes later if I get busy with other stuff).  Plants usually go into cell
packs.  I like the 4-cell packs best as they provide more root room, and fit
nicely into plastic trays.  I recently got some second hand Burpee Deep-Root 6
packs, which have even larger areas.  If you reuse platic cells packs, soak
tham in a light bleach solution for an hour and rinse, this will get rid of
diseases.   I give them a 1 tsp/gallon balanced fertilizer about 3 days after
transplanting, and every couple of weeks or so, nothing set in stone here.

I also use peat pots, and don't find much difference in plant quality over
plastic.  I put the plants on a picnic table in heavy shade near the house
around May 1, depending on weather, for hardening off.  Every couple of days
they go into brighter light, until they're in full sun for two to three weeks,
and the become a dark green color.  Plants outside may need watering more
often when in the sun.  Plants go into the ground around May 10-30, depending
on weather.  I sometimes use cedar roofing slats on the south side of the
plant for a few days if they still seem a little light green.

Alex, SE Michigan, Zone 6-ish, 24" of white stuff on the roof.