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Seed Starting - Lights

I blame Carol at May Dreams Gardens for making me seed crazy so early in the season. She posted a bunch of seed starting questions that were a lot of fun for me to answer. But now I've been spending way too much time thinking about seeds. My January is usually spent leisurely browsing seed catalogs with a nice cup of hot chocolate and thinking about all the possibilities. This year all my catalogs are already worn out and I've got post-it notes stuck to most of the pages and an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of what I'm ordering and from who. What happened to the hot chocolate?

Since then, Carol has moved on to ask other questions, like what makes you a gardener but I'm still stuck on the seeds. Oh well, I may as well just go with it. Expect more seed related posts this week.

I recently mentioned how I'm a big fan of Gardeners Self-Watering Seed Trays. Now it's time to talk lighting for seed starting.

I'm envious of everyone with nice bright sunny window sills. My house has gigantic eaves that keep all of my southern facing windows in the shade. Sure it's great for keeping the AC bills low, but terrible for starting seeds. When I start my seeds, I am forced to go down to the basement.

To grow things in a basement you need some artificial light. Luckily for me and my budget, starting seeds need a lot less light than growing plants completely inside. All of my seedlings go outside and grow in the real sun once the weather warms up. So there's no reason for me to invest in Metal Halide or HPS Lighting solutions. Regular 4 foot shop lights are just fine for my needs.

You could do a lot of research on what kinds of bulbs to buy for your shop lights. There's natural light, cool light, white light, grow lights, aquarium lights and they all have different amounts of green wavelengths and red wavelengths and etc, etc, etc. Here's what I did and I get great results. I bought at least one full spectrum light for each shop light. Done. Full spectrum lights only cost about $5 so they won't break the bank either.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some more seed shopping to do.


  1. Marc said...
    I am also getting my shop lights ready in the basement. I have tried many different bulbs over the years and found that the cheap ones do just as good of a job as the $15-$20 grow light bulbs. I think the key is twofold.

    1. - buy new bulbs even if you have existing bulbs that are still working. Florescent light bulbs give off less and less light as they age.

    2.- Keep the lights as close to the plants as possible without touching. There is no such thing as too much light.

    Anyway, that is my 2 cents worth. Good luck with the seed starting. I can't wait until we're talking about planting those young seedlings outside!
    Carol said...
    Blame me? Sure why not. I've purchased my vegetable seeds but still need to buy flower seeds. I do about the same thing with lights as you do. Basic shop features, $5 bulb. And they last for years. "Keep on sowing..."
    Tina said...
    And here I was looking into 'overdriving' my lights. Maybe I'll rethink it. Well, I guess that depends on how many 'more poer' hormones are running around in the hubs' veins. lol
    Jade said...
    I do the same. And I just bought fresh lights again too. I buy new every other year, and it seems to be sufficient. I could probably squeeze more time out of the bulbs, but I don't dare to, because, hey, its my future food I'd be experimenting with.

    Ditto the dark winter windows (none south facing and lots of tall evergreens to the south of my home). I have an unheated green-house, but it is elevated from ground level, so the temp fluctuates with air temperatures. The unheated basement of our home is a very stable 55 degrees, which works well enough for most seeds. Although I do have a heat mat for my peppers and eggplants.

    OK, sorry, I've rambled on.
    GirlGoneGardening said...
    I have no windows suitable for plants (and no window sills), no basement either. i have a two room house so in order to make space, I made my ghetto grow light stand for cheap. I use the grow light fixtures, which I bought for $9.

    And yes, it's carols fault. She is such a trouble maker! ;)
    Anthony said...
    Marc, thanks for the 2 cents. Only a few months until we can get back outside. They're cold, long, dark months but spring will come. It always does.

    Carol, between you and me, I get this way every year. But when my wife sees my seeds orders coming in, I'm definitely blaming you.

    Tina, sounds like a fun winter project. Maybe I'll look into overdriving next year.

    Jade, I'm jealous of the greenhouse, even if it is unheated. Although my basement is a toasty 70 degrees because the furnace is down here so I guess it evens out.

    GGG, I bought my lights for $8 each. You were ripped off. :)
    Colleen said...
    I use the basic flourescent shop lights, too. Up until this year, I had a tall, potting-bench style table that I hung two of the fixtures over. I was able to fit about 5 full-sized flats on it. But, that wasn't enough anymore, so this year I'm expanding. I still owe you a photo of my set-up, too :-) Give me a couple weeks, and I'll do a post about the new set-up and the old one.
    Anthony said...
    Colleen, don't worry about the set up photo. I know you're good for it. :)

    I planned on doing a lighting rack post this weekend too but it involves cleaning out my garage to get to all my stuff. It'll have to wait until I'm actually starting seeds and I'm forced to do my spring cleaning.
    Naturegirl said...
    Anthony I never plant from seed always plants early in the season..
    I have seen a few of your ~past~ photos on *garden voices* and meant to comment but never get over here..so thank you for commenting on my site so here I am...please stop by again for my give-a-way!:)NG

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