starting seeds

tweety101January 8, 2014

I live in San Diego, CA and I'm trying to decide when to start my seeds indoors. I don't know when is too soon or too late. I'll be growing tomatoes, cucumbers, romaine, spinach, and kale. I was also wondering what kind of lights I'll need to put them under.

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Why not check out the Growing from Seed forum here? It has a great set of FAQs that cover all the basics including starting times and light set ups.

And be sure to check out your local county extension website and their office as they are the best source of local info on gardening.


Here is a link that might be useful: Growing from Seed forum

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 2:29PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Since you will not get any frost, then what you should be looking for is the night lows that things like tomatoes and peppers can tolerate. That I think will be around 45F and higher.

Lets say that as of March 1st that condition will be met and you can plant out your seedlings. Generally, you start your seeds about 6 to 8 weeks before plant out date. So in our example , you should go ahead right now and start germinating and subsequently growing under light till March 1st.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 2:49AM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

Spinach and kale can be direct sown into your garden, no need to start them indoors. In San Diego I'd guess you could plant them outside now, since they are both cold hardy plants, and generally better producing in cooler temperatures.

It is usually not recommended to start cucumbers indoors since the rule of thumb is that squash related plants do not transplant well. I tend to disagree with this since I have transplanted cucumbers, squash, melons etc... with pretty good success. I wouldn't start them indoors very many weeks before planting out though, Id go for around 3 at the max. I generally transplant squash type seedlings before they get their 1st true leaves, I think that waiting until they get much bigger then that your success will decline (this is not scientifically proven, and a lot of nurseries do sell started squash plants that are many weeks old, but I don't have any experience with them). Since you have such a long growing season (I assume) I probably wouldn't even bother. Once the soil is >60* Id just put the seeds outside.

For tomatoes, 6-8 weeks before planting out is pretty much the standard. To be honest I've never grown peppers, but I think a lot of people give them a little longer then tomatoes, maybe 8-10 weeks? I may very well be wrong on that though, so don't hold me to it.

As far as lights go, I use regular hardware store t8 fluorescent lights and have yet to have a problem. I like the GE bulbs marketed as "closet & laundry" but I think you'll here a lot of differing opinions on that.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 10:55AM
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Glad you asked this, Tweety. I was wondering too. I'm in San Marcos. I always buy plants but this time I have seeds for tomatoes and eggplant.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 8:40PM
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Lettuces, spinach, and kale should all be planted asap, the weather is perfect for them- sunny and not too hot. With this warm, dry winter we've been having I have volunteer tomato seedlings that have come up and begun to flower. It's always possible we'll get a cold spell but if you're coastal frost is not really much of a worry - or even where my farm's at in Fallbrook. Tomatoes (in coastal areas) and kale can both be grown as perennials here although tomatoes usually don't do much past thanksgiving. I still have peppers ripening on my plants at this time.

One of the major perks to being a gardener here is that there isn't as much worry about too early or too late. You can sow your tomato seeds now and then plant them out once any danger of frost has passed (if you even get frosts, much of the county doesn't in any regular fashion). The other side to the coin is that starting plants early indoors here where we have a long growing season and nearly frost free weather is arguably not worth it. I wouldn't bother personally unless you have a greenhouse or are trying to get the crop to market ahead of your competitors. You'll find more experience with starting seeds indoors among northern gardeners who might completely miss a crop if it's not sown at the right time.

What I've described mostly just applies to indeterminate tomatoes. Determinate varieties would make more sense to sow in early spring in order for the plant to reach maturity during good fruiting weather. Ditto for cucumbers. They mature quickly and do well direct sown. I'll sow cucumbers mid spring and then again in late summer because the first planting is likely to be spent by then.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 10:28PM
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As others have already said, San Diego has one of the most forgiving climates in the country. You can start most of your garden outside with no worries. Tomatoes, on the other hand, are best started inside if you have the right set-up. A very detailed description of tomato culture can be found here:

Tomatoes grown in the Biodynamic French Intensive System

Here is a link that might be useful: Alan Chadwick

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 1:49PM
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