My little homemade seed starter

happycthulhu(7)March 12, 2007

I just wanted to share a few pics of how I start all of my seeds.

I took a 10 gallon aquarium, lined the sides with aluminum foil, placed as many cardboard tubes from finished toilet paper rolls as I could end up, filled them all with seed starting mix, planted a couple of seeds in each and then place a label in each tube.

The good thing about using an aquarium is that is came with a flourecent light which I do an 18 on 6 off light scheme.

I made the labels out of cut up mini-blinds and a sharpie marker.

What do you think?

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belleville_rose_gr

great idea

    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 10:26AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I am ceaselessly amazed at the ingenuity of folks in the gardenweb!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 12:56PM
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justayoungroot

WOW!! Wonderful ideal. I am trying my hand at the seed thing for the first time. I just might have to let my goldfish go free. You can bet I will be keeping my eyes open for any old aquarium's. I'm new on the forum and just love all the info.and ideals.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 11:47PM
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ara133(central PA)

That is fantastic! Another thing you could do is add one of those heating mats to the bottom, but it looks like you're having great luck without one!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 8:14PM
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happycthulhu(7)

I thought about using my heat pad but I put the tank in the window instead and it stays hot enough.

However, if you're looking for a heating pad, try Freecycle.
Ask for a water bed heating pad. You can control the temp of one of those to a great degree, and lots of people have them laying around in the attic from when they got rid of their 80's waterbed.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 10:34AM
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frenchkitty1984

How do you water them and where does the water go or drain?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2007 at 2:52PM
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happycthulhu(7)

I pour enough water to fill the bottom up about an inch or so and that's it.
It doesn't drain at all, but the tubes are tall enough to keep the roots from just sitting in the water all the time.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2007 at 7:35PM
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irisgirl(Z5 - CO)

What a great idea! For myself, I would put about an inch of pea-gravel on the bottom (because I tend to overwater!).

    Bookmark   July 1, 2007 at 6:40PM
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happycthulhu(7)

Iris, that would defeat the purpose of using the TP tubes.
Putting pea gravel in the bottom wouldn't let the tubes be far enough down in the water to wick the water to the roots of the plants.
Since you can see the water level in the aquarium, you would be able to keep from over-watering.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2007 at 6:44PM
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bern_2007

Loved your idea, I have an old aquarium I can put to good use here now. Thanks

    Bookmark   July 4, 2007 at 10:08PM
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maidinmontana

I like your idea but can I ask what the foil is for? Maybe I missed something somewhere, or maybe you know something I don't, just curious but love the idea.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 11:42AM
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deanreedy(4)

Did you buy a special fluorescent light bulb?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 1:49PM
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happycthulhu(7)

The foil is to help reflect the light all over the plants.
No, I just used a regular fluorescent blub, but in the past I used a blub made for reptile tanks that worked better than the regular one.
BTW, here are some pics of how my garden looks now. All these plants were grown from seed.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 2:01PM
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beau_123(9)

wow, you have had a great success!

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 4:37PM
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maidinmontana

you are just full of ideas, I was wanting to sow some perennial seeds now to get them ready for winter but didn't want to put them in the ground, and didn't want to use pots cuz I was afraid they would fry in the heat but now I have a great idea from you, use my cinder blocks that are stacked up in the alley as a raised bed, I think I may even plant some in the sections of the blocks. Thanks again for another great idea.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 6:25PM
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rottweilergirl(5)

WOW !!! I am amazed at the cool neat useful ideas I get from this site!! I have a couple tanks sitting around not being used, and that would keep my cats from knocking things over on me too. (and my boyfriend from moving my plants on me so I don't know which tomatoes are which!!)
Do you put the foil all the way to the bottom? And on all four sides?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 11:26PM
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happycthulhu(7)

Yes, I put the foil on all four sides, but not all the way to the bottom.
You need to leave enough space to see how high your water level is.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 9:47AM
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leaveswave(.)

You must have a large family. It would take me forever to save up that many tubes. Do you think it would work as well if they were cut in half?

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 10:22PM
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happycthulhu(7)

It's just me and the wife, but we save every one from the whole year.
I just put them in Walmart bags and store them in the shed.
However, to fill up a 10 gallon tank only takes about 40 or 50 tubes.
You'd be suprised how fast they add up.

As for cutting them in half, it might work, but it'd be a pain in the butt and you wouldn't have as deep a rooting space per tube. I'd go with the full tube.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 9:44AM
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countrygirl_sc

I may have overlooked it, but how do you get them out of the aquatium when you are ready to transplant them?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2007 at 1:53PM
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happycthulhu(7)

Carefully.
Not all the cells had viable seeds, so I removed those first.
Then I carefully removed each tube and planted the seedling, tube and all, into my garden.
The tubes hold up surprisingly well.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2007 at 2:17PM
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sweetbabycakes

Hi :

Thank you for your wonderful idea !! I've decided to start
my own fish tank seed starter using your idea !!

I got some more questions about lights , wondering if you
can help me with :

1) My fish take comes with a fluorescent light ADN cover ,
do you take off the cover or you just leave it there ?
2) Do you have the fluorescent light all day or just certain
hours ?
3) Our house is pretty dark , can't find any window with
enough sun light , is the fluorescent light alone engough
for the seeds to grow ?

Thank you in advance !

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 5:17PM
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happycthulhu(7)

Answers:
1. Yes, I just left it on.
2. 12 on 12 off give or take.
3. Yes, the fluorescent was enough to get them started, but you need to get the seedlings out as soon as the weather allows to keep them from getting too leggy.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 5:47PM
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sweetbabycakes

Thank you for the quick response, I got all my answers now .

Thank you again.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 6:41PM
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mastiff

I tried these one year and they all turned black and moldy.
Was not a good first impresion.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 8:11PM
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missti

Keeping the cover on prevents any air circulation, which will promote mold and moss growth.

I would remove that lid, and have a fan aimed to lightly move that air around a few hours a day (at least).

That would probably help ?

    Bookmark   May 21, 2008 at 11:58AM
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tink62

AWESOME !!!!!! Thanx for sharin !!! Got go yard sale hittin now to get a fish tank ~ ;D
Love & Light ~ Tink62

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 11:08AM
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medontdo(8)

when ya cut them in half it makes it a pain in the but to fill with the dirt. also you can use paper towel thingi's and my favorite, the christmas wrappings thingi, cut them down, carefully as not to squish them. i did that this past year for winter sowing, its VERY important to get the longer length! that's for sure,, i cut some in half and they did ok, but the one's that i left long, well the roots on them babies are very awesome!! lets just say i'm very happy!! LOL scoop out with a spoon of sorts. its much easier :')) Medo

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 12:00AM
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aliska12000(Z5)

I do have lights but no aquarium or heat mats, ingenious idea.

The only thing I don't like about it is that you have to harden the plants off starting them like that. I start most of mine outside when the last frost is over except set a lot out in February when I read the winter sowing technique.

Unless you are growing very large, deep-rooted plants, I don't see why you can't cut the tube in half other than your aquarium light might not be adjustable. Plus if you are planting in the tube, you have to dig a pretty deep hole. I do use my bulb planter for some that end up in plastic cups.

I explained how I start most of my seeds on the lavender thread. I had figured most of it out before I found the winter sowing forum, but have learned a lot from that, too.

I've been reluctant to only put 2 seeds in a slot, some are so tiny you can't and the failures take up a lot of room. I do prick some out and put them in 6 packs, but that is only for plants I want to control the spacing. With your tubes, you can do that.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 10:09PM
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happycthulhu(7)

I don't cut the tubes for two reasons....first, I'm lazy and don't want to take the time to cut them all in half.
Secondly, it does give more room for the roots to grow.

Digging a hole deep enough in my garden isn't hard at all.
They only have to be about 4 inches deep and my beds are nice and loose from all the compost I've worked in.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 10:20AM
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aliska12000(Z5)

Thanks, about why you don't cut in half and digging (I read almost every response but missed one on that very subject), that makes sense. I dug enough big holes already, most of my soil is good when damp, especially the amended beds. At 4", I could use my bulb planter, but sometimes it is just easier and better to dig a hole.

I agree it does give the roots a better start. Even smaller plants want to put down pretty deep roots once they get to a size where I feel it is safe to plant them in the garden. Your method clearly would have almost no root disturbance plus give the soil a chance to work itself around the tubes if you have an air pocket.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 2:09PM
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sane_psycho

Thats a really cool idea, and I'm very tempted to try it. But, I'm also concerned about the potential of mold. Have you ever had any problems with mold? Do you do anything to prevent it?

On that thought, shouldn't a 50/50 peroxide water solution help stave off any mold?

Anyway grats on all your success

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 11:41PM
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happycthulhu(7)

I never got any mold.
You just have to make sure that you have good air circulation.
You could get a small fan with a clip and attach it to the side of the tank to help with this.
That will also help strengthen the plants as well.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 9:51AM
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gnomey(7b SC zip296)

What an awesome idea! Time to start saving the tp rolls. My dad breeds tropical fish so I think I can snag an aquarium from him. :)

    Bookmark   July 6, 2008 at 12:49PM
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niftynabber(z5 NY)

Nice idea. I'm thinking of starting vegies from seed too.

I have a friend that is throwing out a very large tank. What modifications might you suggest if I were to keep the tank outside? Obviously temperature is a concern. I'm in NY.

I have a large garden, and I till the soil, how well do the tubes break down? What might be left next spring?

Have you ever taken a plant out of the garden to see how well the roots pass through the tube, or do they just grow out the bottom?

I understand the 'wicking' idea, wouldn't peat cups do the same?

Overall, this is a great idea, thanks!!

Jim

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 9:02AM
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happycthulhu(7)

The cardboard tubes break down very fast.
The roots just break right through them.
Take a TP tube and get it wet and you'll see just how easy they tear apart.
There will be nothing left of the tube within about a month of planting it in the ground.

Yes, peat cups would do the same thing, but that defeats the idea of this being cheap and frugal.

As for putting the tank outside, that wouldn't work for my idea either.
This is to start seeds during the winter before I can even think of putting plants outside.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 10:00AM
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persephonita

I live in an apartment and don't have a yard or any outdoor space. I've been wanting to start an herb garden. Would it be possible to grow the plants in the aquarium first and then put them in individual pots and keep them inside?

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 12:15PM
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happycthulhu(7)

Yes, if you have a sunny window.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 12:21PM
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