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Anxious to get started and lots of questions...

Posted by honnat 4b - MN (My Page) on
Wed, Feb 1, 12 at 17:08

I got grow lights for Christmas (4 ft, 4 bulb) and want to get started with SOMETHING. I've got a number of varieties of flowers that I'm going to try (just a few of each one) - coneflower, petunia, delphinium, gaillardia, lobelia, cape daisy, lupine, agastache, and gerbera daisies. I've had the coneflowers and delphinium in the fridge with damp paper towels for about 4 weeks. I'm in zone 4b. Realistically, planting outside won't happen until the first couple weeks of May. I've got my grow light set up and hung, and the seed trays filled with seed starting mix.
Here are my questions: 1) Can I get started with any of these varieties; and realistically keep the plants alive until planting time?

2) Soil temp for germination - the light table is set up in my basement and the temp down there ranges between 60 at night and 65 during the day. I turned on the lights and put them about 4 inches away from my seed trays and stuck a thermometer in there; and it was pretty warm - about 75 degrees. I used a 'tea' thermometer that typically measures water temps; but it is pretty accurate for me to measure air temps too. I put it into the soil (no water yet) and it was about the same temp too. Does that sound right? Do I need to even turn on the seed heating mat?

3) From what I read, the delphinium will do better in cooler temps and away from the light to germinate. If I just set it aside in the basement - will that work?

4) Should I have any of these other seeds in the fridge before I sow them?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Anxious to get started and lots of questions...

1) Can I get started with any of these varieties; and realistically keep the plants alive until planting time?

Delphiniums, now yes. They need 12 weeks. Others, yes but only if you are willing to transplant them into larger containers several times until they are ready to go outside. They won't be able to survive in just a seed tray.

But it would be better to wait until about March 1st. Most of them require only 8-10 weeks to be ready for planting in the garden. The perennials will tolerate starting sooner better than any annuals will.

So why not start just a few of the seeds now and plan to do a few more every couple of weeks. Make notes and you can see which do best so you'll know when to start next year.

2) Soil temp for germination

If you have the heat pad then it is far better to use it. Air temps do not equate with soil temps. Especially wet soil temps. And it is soil temp that is vital. Plus it needs to be consistent and stable and air temps fluctuate. Only the heat pad can provide that.

3) Yes

4) Can't say for sure about all of them. It should be indicated on the packet. Petunia, lobelia, gaillardia, lupine, gerbera, no.


RE: Anxious to get started and lots of questions...

honnat - welcome to seed starting under lights - its addictive

Its especially satisfying for those of us who cant plant anything outside until May.

My experience is most perennials wont bloom the first year anyway, so there is no reason to start them early under lights. It is just that much longer to baby them.

I am planning on starting Petunias this weekend. Last year they grew very well inside and even began blooming under the lights. As they get bigger, you can take cuttings and start them in pearlite. Some of the peletized petunia seeds are a bit pricey, but if you get them started early enough, you can get lots of cutting off of the originals, and end up with an abundance of plants.

If you want something to baby for a long time try Lisianthus. Last year I tried the Cinderellas from Parks. They are incredibly slow, 6-9 months to bloom. I kept them in pots and brought them inside to complete their blooming in Oct-Nov (I didnt start them till March last year) - beautiful.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lisianthus

RE: Anxious to get started and lots of questions...

I do quite a bit of annual/perennial seed starting using a large lighted seedling cart plus six double 4' shop lights. You will need more lights, room, pots and potting media. As things grow they will need to be put in bigger pots and will need more room. I always get carried away and end up buying more shop lights because I start too much. I don't bother much with perennials anymore since it is easier to buy a 4" pot and propogate it by division since seedlings will take years before they are mature.

Most seeds do not need to be put in a fridge. Correct germinating temps for different seeds can be found by searching online. Once seeds sprout you should remove them from the heat mat or they will die. You should buy a thermostat for your heat mat.

RE: Anxious to get started and lots of questions...

Thanks for the info! I do think that the trick for me is going to be to sow only a small number of my seeds and give the rest away! I'm going to try and sow just a half a flat - or a bit more; and saving the space for re-potting. If i can just get a 1-2 of each of the perenials, and some annuals - I'll be good. i purposefully got some wide spreading petunias so that I wouldn't have to start very many in my limited space. I don't NEED any more plants besides some annuals). It's more the novelty of gardening in the winter. :)

RE: Anxious to get started and lots of questions...

Well, I watered my tray, put on the dome and turned the lights & heating mat on. I don't have a thermostat for the mat and I don't think I'm going to invest in one this year (too much money into this project already!).
I keep my house at 62 degrees during the night and only have one vent open in the basement so it gets down to about 57 degrees. It was to my surpise this morning when I stuck a thermometer in my damp soil to see it raise all the way to 110 degrees!!
My lights are just T5 fluorescents; but clearly are throwing off a lot of heat. So I've turned the heating mat off and I'll measure the temp again this evening.
I'm glad I didn't put any seeds in.

RE Anxious to get started and lots of questions...

Take an empty flat, turn it upsidedown on top of the heat mat and then put your seed starting tray on top of that. It will lower the amount of heat that gets to the seed tray.

RE: Anxious to get started and lots of questions...

I don't think I need the heat mat at all. I turned it off for the day and measured the temp tonight and it was down to only 94 degrees. I put a fan on low near it and got it to 85. Now I've turned the fan to high. We'll see.
I wish I wouldn't have wasted money on a heat mat!!

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