Why can't I grow from seed?!

Maxine(5MA)April 10, 2010

Dear Garden folk

Every spring I look forward to growing from seed. Every year I pour through the catalogs for my precious 'from seed only' variety and every year I fail.

I'm just working with Zinnia this year as they seem to be pretty easy going. (arenÂt they?) when it comes to inside sowing.

Anyways...I started them three weeks ago .I use Parks Bio Dome system. I have no trouble germinating. I thin back the seedlings. I put the grow light 2 inches above the seedlings. The babies grow. They don't all grow up. Some/many grow sideways. They average 5"

My BIG question is...why are they sooo leggy? Why do they fall over? Should I stake them...how? ShouldnÂt they be strengthening up by now?

back to the beginningÂ

Why can't I grow from seed? arrggg



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What kind of light do you have--a flourescent shop light or just a grow bulb. A bulb does not give enough light.

If they are getting leggy or growing sideways they aren't getting enough light, and are searching for the light. Obviously you don't have the right sort of light setup. Do a search here and see the sort of light set up others are using.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 2:28PM
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I found mine at HD for about 10-15 bucks, so don't fret over expense for "grow lights". Not really necessary. Mine is four feet long, hangs from chains, and has two bulbs.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 2:47PM
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I agree with the others that your light may not be bright enough. That said, some seedlings naturally 'lean'...cilantro, lettuce, for example. Just let them settle themselves where they want. For others that usually grow straight up like tomatoes(not sure about zinnias), set a small fan near your seedlings so they get a constant GENTLE breeze...this will strengthen their stems.
Also check out the Winter Sowing forum. Many people that have had trouble growing from seed have had success winter sowing. HTH

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 3:19PM
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Well the fluorescents I have are definitely the culprits. Without even thinking about it, IÂve been using a light table for 4 years without changing the bulb (knock on head!)

OK...IÂm going to replace the fluorescents but I want it to get the best bang for the buck.
The bulbs it came with are Verilux F20T12/VLX, 20 watt Natural Spectrum® Fluorescent Medium Bipin. To replace them would run me $51 for 4 fluorescents. The 30 watt brings the cost up to $144 for a 6 pack.

I mean, the table did come with the 20 wattÂwill they do the trick?

What do yaÂall think?



    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 8:34PM
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sleepy33(5b KS)

Uh...I don't know what a light table is, but these are the bulbs I get (link below) at my Home Depot for $5.97, and they work a treat. They are 40 watts and 4 ft long, don't know if they would fit in your setup. Here is a picture of the first bloom on an impatien grown under said cheapo Home Depot bulbs.

Zinnias are easy as pie, but they do need a lot of light or they will wither up and die off pretty quick, so if you haven't got enough light to start with, that may surely be the culprit. Good luck, let us know how it goes!

Here is a link that might be useful: Fluorescent Bulbs

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 12:20AM
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keriann_lakegeneva(5B WI/IL border)

I agree with Sleepy.

I have had great results with regular fluorescents (T12/40W): a mix of warm and cool bulbs. I use a lot of them, so I buy a box of 12 each and then mix them in my 4' fixtures.

My T12/40W (12= the bulb dia so T8s are a smaller dia) fixtures were 10 bucks and change and a case of 12 bulbs were 11 bucks. You can buy just 2 bulbs for around 3-4 bucks.

If you prefer using new grow bulbs, they won't hurt anything but your pocket book :).

I would replace bulbs every year, they tend to fizzle out after the heavy use of one season, but you can use them in other 'non-growing' fixtures like in a garage.


    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 9:49AM
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Yep, 20 watts aren't enough. I buy 40 watt bulbs by the case so I can change them at least annually. I, too, have a Light Table (more like light shelves) with LOTS of lights. I used 4 bulbs (2 fixtures) per shelf in the past, but this year I added another fixture to each shelf so I now have 6 40 watt bulbs per shelf and am having great luck with the more powerful set up.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 2:02AM
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taz6122(N.W. AR.6b)

You need at least 2 T12s. 4 would be better. T8s are better yet and T5s are best as far as tube or strip fluorescents. No need for plant bulbs. Any cool white bulbs 4100k-6500k will do.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 11:10PM
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Hi all

hopin' you're still on this thread
OK...I got 4 (2) and (2) T12's each 20 watt. I had to get the 20's as the 2 ft come only in that wattage. Anyway, IÂve got the lights in but the seedlings that had already bent away from the light table are still flopping over. Do I stake them? I was thinking about using the small wooden markers for plants and the green twisty stuff.

Also, I have another question if ya'all don't mind..I'm going to be away for a week. I have someone coming in every 2-3 days. What should I do about the lights? Leave them on 24/7. Let them go dark for 2 or 3 days?

Any thoughts?


    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 4:09PM
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sleepy33(5b KS)

Timers; if timers aren't an option, 24/7 I guess but your waterer will really have to stay on top of it. I wouldn't let zinnias go dark that long. Mine even pouted being in the shade when I hardened them off, so I just kicked em out in the sun. I don't think you need to stake, they'll come toward the light quick enough.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 4:25PM
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taz6122(N.W. AR.6b)

Yes a timer can be bought for less than $10 @ Walmart. They have all kinds from basic mechanical hourly ($6) to more advanced mechanical 15 min ($10) to electronic digital($19)
I would set it from 12-16 hours.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 9:40PM
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