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move seed operation to basement?

Posted by njitgrad 6A/6B New Jersey (My Page) on
Wed, Jan 29, 14 at 16:04

Last year I germinated and raised my first ever seedlings in the garage. With the limited space I have in my garage doing so requires me to reconfigure it so that I could suspend my grow lights from the ceiling via carabiners.

This season I am considering moving my operation into my basement. I have a mostly finished basement but my plan is to use the unfinished part which is also my non-perishable food storage area and home to my hot water heater and gas furnace. Would this area be a suitable environment for germinating and growing my seedlings? My entire basement is unheated but since it is mostly subterranian (I only have three basement windows in the finished part of the basement) there is no need for heat (except for when we get a polar vortex invasion).

Growing the seedlings in the basement should make life easier for me but it doesn't come without some drawbacks.

The pros/cons would be:

1) Pro - Having access to the floor joists overhead from which I can hang all of my grow lights in virtually any spot in that part of the basement.

2) Con- Lack of any sunlight that my garage at least gets through its small glass panels in the garage doors.

3) Con - Watering....I usually fill a flat with water, then let the cell packs soak for a bit, then I dump the water outside the garage on my lawn. Well, its going to be a little more challenging to do this in the basement with no sinks or drains so I'm just going to have to be creative.

4) Con - Bugs.....Last year I had an outbreak of these tiny gnats from some seedlings that invaded my kitchen. I don't know how or why this happened, but I don't know how messy this could get if I get an outbreak in my basement.

5) Con - The hardening process. The one benefit of having the operation in my garage was that I could easily move my plants outside and back in during the hardening process. After moving them back in the garage they would go back under the lights (to account for 12-16 hours of light between the outdoors and grow lights).

Suggestions are welcome. Thanks!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: move seed operation to basement?

Hi njitgrad,

I remember that last year you were rotating your flats under a couple of lights in the garage, in order to get enough light for each of them. I can well understand why you’re considering moving things into the basement area this year :-)

Your basement sounds a bit like mine, being mostly subterranean, as well as mostly finished. I do all my seed germination and growing (to transplant size for moving outside later) in the unfinished area that’s fairly close to the hot water heater and furnace.

Regarding your ‘Cons’….

#2) Lack of sunlight is no problem, you make up for that with a good lighting system. I doubt that the little bit of sunlight you got through those garage door windows last year was much help anyway.

#3) No good access to water could be a problem. You could always store enough water in containers for the plants, but I find myself needing to wash my hands often when working with the soil mix etc. It can be a dirty job :-) Perhaps you could get some kind of portable sink, like campers often use?

#4) Actually, I think you’ll have less of a bug problem working from the basement than you did from the garage. You may see a few fungus gnats now and then, but they’re easy to get rid of using the yellow sticky traps sold for that purpose. If fungus gnats become a problem, you’re keeping your growing medium too wet.

#5) A point you might be missing is that there is as much, or more, light in a bright shaded area outside than what’s under your fluorescent lights. I have a light meter (three actually), so I know. Even on an overcast day there can be 1000 foot-candles or more! During the hardening off process, instead of moving your plants in and out, (as you did last year) find a place out of the full sun and leave them there until you’re ready to put them in the sun again. Fortunately, I have a back porch (under a roof) so I can move the plants on and off of that porch very easily.

Of course, all of the above are only my suggestions (which you asked for) but hopefully something here will be helpful to you.

Best wishes with your plants this coming season!

Art

This post was edited by art33 on Wed, Jan 29, 14 at 18:54


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RE: move seed operation to basement?

It seems Art answered most of your pro's and cons but I'll chime in with some extras.

Do you have water anywhere in your basement where you could attach a hose like one of those coil up hoses you see advertised. That and a couple of wash basins should work. Be careful watering indoors. You don't have the sun or wind to dry things out. A fan is a good add on.

Fungus gnats are very easy to get rid of. They only emerge from the soil to mate, lay eggs and die. They spend their life as eggs and then larvae under the soil. The larvae feed on debris in the soil and plant roots. The eggs are often in the potting soil we buy if it's not sterilized.

Mix up a little insecticidal soap with water and water the plants with it. The soap kills the eggs and larvae and problem solved.


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RE: move seed operation to basement?

Thanks for the advice so far. I have a few followup questions.

1) I can certainly fill gallon bottles of tap water for watering. The only problem I see is draining the flats after watering. I typically fill a flat with water a couple of inches then drop in those cell packs that look like they need watering. When I see the soil is moist on top (~30 min or so) I remove them, and all I would need is an easy way to dump the dirty water from the flat. Perhaps a 5 gallon bucket will do the job?

2) Regarding the fungus gnats, why do you say they will be less of a problem in the basement? What prevention methods are there if any other than overwatering? Should I just hang those yellow sticky traps from my ceiling joists in the vicinity to contain them in case I do get an outbreak?

3) Can you buy sterlized growing soil? I thought last year I purposely bought a good (expensive) starting mix (can't recall the name).

4) Regarding the insecticidal soap with water...is there a specific home-made solution that is effective and organic at the same time?

5) I need to look into portable sinks/drain tubs. Something not expensive but also something compact and lightweight that I can put away in my attic when not in use. Suggestions?

6) Regarding the fan, what size and how would you use it to create the right amount of circulation to assist in.


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RE: move seed operation to basement?

Hi again njitgrad,

Regarding your questions:

1) The bucket: Sounds to me like the 5 gallon bucket idea would work. Also, if you thought you’d be able to use that water again, within a reasonable time, you probably would not have to dump it.

2) Bugs/Fungus gnats: Having less of a bug problem in the basement was actually an assumption on my part. I’ve never grown plants in my garage. But, I would think the garage, being more open to the outside, would be more prone to bug problems.

About the fungus gnats… the best prevention is probably making sure the growing medium does not stay overly wet. The larvae (usually in the top inch or so of the growing medium) develop pretty quickly. The emerging adult females only live for a short while (a week or so I think) but during that time they can lay a lot of eggs :-) So, hopefully the yellow sticky traps will get them before they have a chance to lay their eggs. Some folks have reported having success treating the growing medium with a Hydrogen Peroxide solution. I’ve never had enough of a fungus gnat problem to try that however.

Anyway, if you use the yellow traps, they need to be very close to the plants (and under the lights), the closer the better. Hanging them from your ceiling joists will probably not work.

3) Sterilized growing soil: Soilless growing mediums are considered sterile. Just make sure the bag appears to be well sealed when you buy it :-) I germinate my seeds in Miracle Gro Seed Starting Mix and then pot-up the seedlings later into MG regular Potting Mix (which feeds the seedling for up to 3 months).

4) Insecticidal soap: I’ve used ‘Safer’ brand Insect Killing Soap for years with great success. I get the concentrated stuff, much cheaper in the long run. It’s OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) listed and compliant for use in organic gardening. However, I’m sure you could fine some recipes on the web if you prefer to make your own.

5) Portable sinks: I’m sure there are plenty available but they may not be cheap. I know Coleman makes a small one (available at Walmart or Amazon) that sells for about 45 bucks. Also, you might want to look around on eBay.

6) The fan: You don’t want a large powerful fan of course. Any small cheap oscillating fan should work fine. I have mine on a timer that runs the fan (for about an hour) several times a day.

Hope this helps,

Art


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