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How to Start Seeds Indoors

Written by Hilary on February 23rd, 2009

Using Grow Lights – It’s So Easy!

This is the time of year to get a jump on the gardening season and start seeds indoors for vegetables, flowers, and plants.

In just a few weeks you will have seedlings that can be moved outdoors to harden off and then be planted out into your garden.

Seedlings need enough light to keep them short and sturdy. The most common problem most of us have however is that we don’t have enough window space or natural light sources to give our seedlings the growing conditions they need in order to do well.

As a result they can become spindly, stretched, and eventually fall over and die.

The good news is that starting seeds indoors is quite simple, because supplemental lighting is quick to set up and easy to use.

What Grow Lights You Need

For seed starting, cool white light is often enough, but a better way is to use a mix of half cool and half warm light tubes set about 6 to 10 inches (16 to 25 cm) over the flats.

If you are starting the plants indoors with the objective to transplant outdoors in summer, then cool white lights are all you need.

Keep in mind, cool white light is fine for starting seedlings (or growing anything when you just want leaves, not flowers), but if you plan to grow your plants up until the blooming stage, you will want to add some warm white light.

Using fluorescent tubes, like Sylvania wide spectrum fluorescent tubes, are good for this because they have a mixture of both red (warm light) and blue (cool light), which the plants love, and they are inexpensive running around $15 to $16 dollars (£11 to £12 pounds).

Consider Adding Bottom Heat

Most seedlings do germinate better with some bottom heat especially if the room you have your seedlings in is cool.

Daytime temperatures need to be around 70° to 78° F (21° to 26° C).

Seedlings like cool night temperatures so they don’t get too spindly – around 60° or 65° F (16° to 18° C) is not too cold If however your night temperatures get down to 50° F (10° C) or below, then bottom heat will be needed.

There are a couple of options for this:

1. If you leave the lights fairly close to the soil and don’t turn them off you will find the soil gets quite warm. After most seeds have germinated, you can adjust the lights a little farther away from the soil and put them on a timer.

2. You can supply bottom heat by putting your seed trays on an appliance that’s warm on top, like a refrigerator.

3. You can use an old heating pad, covered with some plastic to protect it from moisture, turned to the lowest setting and plugged into the timer.

4. You can buy bottom heat pads from the nursery or gardening supply store.


Lastly, keep your seedlings moist, and feed them very sparingly. No more than one-quarter to one-half strength applied once every two weeks.

You don’t want to over feed them because that can cause stretching and do more harm than good.

A few more helpful articles:

Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors That Thrive

Get the Most Out of Mail Order Seed Catalogs

For more Gardening Tips and Gardening Advice visit our main gardening website at Weekend Gardener Monthly Web Magazine –

Have great week!


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