A Growing Under Lights Party!!

seedmama(7)March 12, 2009

Welcome to the party! Ill be your host for the first evening, bowing out quickly and letting others guide the agenda. IÂll be back later to talk about my own set up. There are a lot a people in the WS forum who want to talk about the challenges of growing under lights (GUL) and want to do it in a safe environment amongst friends. Since the WS forum was designed specifically to talk about the Winter Sowing Method of starting seeds outdoors in Winter, it makes a lot of sense for us to talk about GUL in the Conversations section of the forum, instead of the On Topic Discussions section. So IÂve organized the party and issued the invitations. What we do from here is up to you!

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daylilyfanatic4(Zone 6 SE NY)

I just have onequestion for now anyway how expensive is it to run the lights?

not that I'll probally ever use lights I usally just use the sun!

Jeremy (AKA DLF/daylily)

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 6:48PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

I had a set up in my basement but abandoned it many, many years ago. It was too much work and too much cost on electricity.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 8:45PM
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lois(PA Zone 6)

I will confess that I start a few seedlings under lights every spring. I also plant daffodils and hyacinths in pots in fall and refrigerate until Feb when I transfer the pots from the crisper drawer to the windowsill.

I bought myself an areogarden a couple years ago and that's what I use for seedlings inside. I don't use it the way you are supposed to, with the plant kits and the hydroponic growing and such. I just basically use the platform and the light, with some plant trainer seedling containers sitting on the platform. It takes up very little space and I just leave it on top of the bookcase in the guest room when I am not using it. It gives me that little bit of instant gratification I need this time of year. I don't know how expensive it is to run the areogarden, but I can't imagine it's very expensive. I have strawberries, sweet peas and basil growing now in it.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 9:35PM
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kiddo_1(NE OH 5)

I've been GUL'ing at this house for 6 seasons now. The lights are 40w florescent bulbs (plain old shoplights). Before I ever heard of WS, this is how I started all my plants every year. My lights run along one wall of the basement and I have a total of 6 shoplights. They are not all on all the time. First off, I only need a light or two in the beginning and then they are on a timer. Even by mid-march when all 6 are on, there is only maybe a $5-7 bump on my April electric bill, but by end of that month, things go out into the hoop house. (Even now, with my newly-built 2'x4' bottom warming tray that IS on all the time, it only draws 54w and didn't seem to impact my elec bill at all last month.)

One thing nice about GUL'ing - it is a good indoor 'garden puttering around' sort of work that takes the edge off of winter weather. And I can sit there with coffee in the morning and talk to the sprouts. LOL I don't know if I'll ever do all my gardening via WS'ing, but I don't think I have to choose between them. This season I'm enjoying both systems! I've got over 50 containers now with WS perennials and waiting for the time for WS'ing the annuals! What's not to love? Twice as much fun as I'm used to. :-D

One thing about the GUL - those sprouts come up in days! That's about the only thing that is keeping me from angst-ing over my still-frozen-solid unsprouted WS containers this 15 degree morning! ;-)


    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 8:21AM
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A former roommate was an orchid fanatic, and left behind a a complete HID set-up, shelves and multiple fluorescents. I didn't look at this stuff for years, but this winter decided to see what still worked and what I could pitch.

Well, everything still works! I haven't hooked up the fluorescents, but am using the HIDs for toms, peppers and eggplants--the short season hot weather stuff. Everything else, I'm WSing (cool weather veggies, perennials, annuals) or direct sowing (peas, root veggies).

I've had the HID's going for 16 hours a day since the beginning of Feb, and noticed about a $15 increase in my electric bill. With any luck, the GUL plants will be ready to go out in another 6 weeks, so I'll shut down the lights after that.

I may experiment next winter with growing some lettuce (and maybe toms) under the lights just to keep me in some fresh produce and, as Lois, says, keep the mind and spirit alive during the dark days.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 8:27AM
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I have a few small trays under a light by a bright window in the basement. We have one that actually gets a bunch of sun. I also have the small light for a little extra then I add a old fan on low setting on the timer also. I am hoping it helps get the little ones stronger and keeps away mold.

I also have my mums in large pots I keep in the winter there.

I plan to abandon it all if my WS containers work this year. I make a huge mess in the basement.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 9:48AM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

I've always started a few tomatoes, some cukes, and squash indoors. Last year, I used the windowsill. I ended up buying a few plants and direct sowing seeds in succession later in the spring. My attempts were pretty sad.

Last spring, I spent a lot of money on flower seeds. I didn't know the difference between a perennial and annual, and I had never heard of biennials. I bought rudbeckia, shasta daisy, echinacea, and tons of annual seeds. I sowed them all outdoors in late March. I got three plants. Yep, three echinacea.

So starting in mid summer, I began reading and that brought be to GardenWeb. I haven't stopped reading yet. In the fall, I tried the wintersowing method for some rudbeckia and shastas that I traded some cosmo and petunia seeds for. The container kept the seeds moist even in our warm October weather. Those plants were transplanted into the garden or kept in the hoophouse over the winter. I was hooked. 180+ containers later, here we are.

But I also read about starting seeds indoors under lights. I already had the shoplights and the metal rack. The rest was finding the seeds, getting everything set up and starting. Before the first frost in late November, I took cuttings of some of the plants I purchased last year. They rooted, but it took a long time. So I built a cloner. All the while, trading for more seeds.

Starting in January, I built an improvised bottom heat contraption using rope lighting and sand. I started sowing seeds, taking cuttings of a fig tree down the street, and kept my rooted cuttings alive through the coldest winter I can remember in a long time. The basement rarely gets above 60 even on a warm day. Growth was slow, but steady.

I still think I'll use both methods. Some things I just don't want to fool with indoors. But I'll still start tomatoes and cukes and squash on the light rack. I'll sow most of my flower seeds. But Yvonne's salvia, I'm doing it just the way she did. Mine are 8" tall now after 5 weeks. They were slow to germinate, but they have really taken off especially after putting them outside last week with 80 degree temperatures.

My setup:

And some thumbnail links of things I've grown this year under lights.


Double Yellow Datura

Datura Inoxia

Brug cuttings and pineapple sage

Cherry Tomatoes

Petunias, Yvonne's Salvia, and other stuff.

I keep everything in open trays and stick the whole thing in a Sterlite container to water. Always watering from the bottom.

Can't forget the cloner. Brugs, pineapple sage, pennyroyal, and a few shrub cuttings are rooting now.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 6:00PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

Jeremy, I can't really say that I've noticed a difference in the power bill from this year to last year. I changed a lot of habits and added 6 4' shop lights and two strands of rope lighting. I did notice a difference in the bill when I shut off my computer at night and turned the heat down to 64 at bedtime. You wouldn't believe how much power a computer can pull.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 6:04PM
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I'm a lot like kiddo above. I've been growing under lights forever. I do a lot less now than I used to. Not really because I've become totally addicted to ws'ing, but because I've had a greenhouse now for a couple of years. Usually by mid March (hey it's mid March now!) I fire up the heater in the greenhouse and start sprouting things out there instead of in the house under the lights. But I don't think I'll ever give up my light setup in the house. I wouldn't make it through our long winters without somewhere to play in the dirt and grow something green :)

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 11:58PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

Dirtbert, if not for all that green in the basement, I think this winter would have been the end for me. If I were in your zone, I'd be heavily medicated against depression.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2009 at 7:35AM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

Each year my basement laundry room is filled with plants growing under lights that I overwinter. Each year I say I am going to bring in fewer and seems that it turns into more. That Diamond Frost euphorbia divided into 5 plants when it was dug up from the garden. Took cuttings of several coleus and they are potted up now as well as the sweet potato vine. Then there are the tender plants, ferns, bay tree, datura (experimenting with them), Christmas cactus, etc.

I will sow some seeds inside and put them upstairs to germinate. Usually by then it will be warm enough to move the other plants to my unheated garage so I can use the lights for newly germinated plants.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2009 at 2:21PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

Sowed more today. Basil, sage, and Spearmint.

Seventh Street Cottage - Still Raining.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 9:46AM
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The pics look great token! Thanks for posting!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 1:40PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

BTW: I know this isn't exactly related, but instead of purchasing trays, go by your local Lowes, Home Depot, Wal-Mart or other store. Ask the cashier in the garden area if you can have any empty trays. Most stores throw them in the trash. I picked up 4 out front of our Lowes on Friday. Just don't empty them, unless there is room to put the plants in other trays.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 1:46PM
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Token, I think it's very related, and a great suggestion. I also pick up used cafeteria trays at the local restaurant supply for a buck a piece. They not only hold indoor plants, they are great for drip free transport of jugs through the house.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 3:06PM
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kiddo_1(NE OH 5)

Seedmama - I, too, stumbled upon a source of used cafeteria trays for $.25/each ! I bought all they had (maybe 12) and they have become invaluable for transporting pots, holding trays of cells, even using them as little work spaces for potting up plants, filling WS jugs, etc. It keeps all the mess in one place. They also had some really long, narrow fiberglass trays (maybe bakery trays?) and those are great to use on my new bottom warmer. Using those long ones (and some trays from under flower boxes) I don't have to worry about any moisture leaking from my starter cells or rooting pots onto the warming tray.


    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 7:48AM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

The tomatoes were transplanted into 2-liter containers today. I used the bandsaw again for drainage slits and to chop the tops off the containers. Each tomato was buried up to the top leaves. Most have at least 6" under "ground" now. Tomorrow, they move to the hoophouse.

46 containers is the final tally for 6 varieties of tomatoes. The cherries are being slow about getting started. Hopefully I can move them outside this week with the warmer weather.

Yvonne's salvia was also transplanted into larger cups. They'll go out tomorrow too. I think I'm going to need a larger hoophouse.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 6:34PM
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It all looks great! Thanks for showing us pics!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 9:48PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

I have to say, I am getting really tired of all the watering, moving, rearranging, etc. I think next year, I will just start a lot later and sow more lasagna pans outside and in the hoophouse. This indoor thing is for the birds. It takes a lot more effort than I expected. And now, I'm sitting here with plants that are trying to bloom. Yes, I have had zinnias that I started indoors bloom already. Tiny flowers, but they were fully completed blooms on 4" tall plants. The tomatoes I will still do indoors because I like eating them in June. The annuals and such, outside. No reason to waste space on them again.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 11:24PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

All done. Time to go plant out some wintersown babies. I've been so busy inside I haven't checked for new sprouts in weeks. I hope I haven't lost any to neglect.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 2:52PM
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Token: What's over the hoop house?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 3:52PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

There's a white bedsheet that got splashed with drainage pipe muck in the basement one night when a pipe burst. That's my shade cloth for the plants that just go moved out there. The plastic is simply 6mil builder's plastic from Lowes. I bought a 100' roll a couple years ago to use as drop cloths, wrapping models for delivery, etc. It's 10' wide so the pvc pipes were cut down to 9' long. I cut that piece about 12' long for an 8' long hoophouse.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 4:15PM
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I know you folks probably think I'm nuts anyway, but you're not going to believe what I just did.

I'm really disgusted with the progress of my toms, peppers, and (fried) eggplants under this supersonic HID system that's 800 watts. It's heavy, bulky, hot, and a real pain to adjust. Plus, it just annoys the heck out of me that the "distance under lights" advice is so non-specific: "Hold your hand under the light at the point where it feels warm and place the tops of the plants there." WHAT???

So... I unplugged the HID, and found two 48" shop-lights and cool bulbs. Already had a shelving system, so pretty easy to set up. Moved the surviving babies under the tubes, and re-sowed another batch of toms and eggplants. Placed the lights about 2 inches over the tops.

I know this HID system can grow man-eating orchids, but it's "too many things" for a few seedlings. Maybe I'll sell it and buy...


    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 1:57PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

For seed starting, shop lights are just fine. I moved some wintersown petunias in under the lights when I transplanted them into my containers for the window boxes. I just don't have room in the hoophouse so they'll stay there until the threat of frost is gone. They do fine. I've overwintered pineapple sage, blue spires salvia, and brugmansias. I even had a gardenia growing under there until I suicided it with too much water.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 7:06PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

The lights were turned off yesterday. I had moved everything outside a few days ago and was lazy on unplugging everything. The only green left inside is in the cloner. One shop light runs 24/7 over that. I should probably put it on a 12/12 cycle now that there aren't any seedlings indoors. They're all either in the hoophouse or on the plant rack outside the garage door.

The tomatoes in the hoophouse.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2009 at 7:57AM
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