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Year 1 was a disaster,.. starting year 2.. need some tips..

Posted by ongodsmountain nor cal z4 (My Page) on
Wed, Mar 6, 13 at 16:49

Sorry for the long post, but I felt it necessary to give as much preliminary info as possible...

I live in the mountains of Nor Cal, at about 4200 feet elevation, and last frost is mid may or so...

I tried to start tomatoes, peppers, and onions from seed last year indoors... I made a lot of mistakes and it was august before I got to transplant a couple tomato plants, and the onions never really even got that far... The first mistake was that I started too late... So this year, I'm going to start earlier (today)...

I noticed that when I stopped watering the onions in their plastic cups at the end of the season, what few were still surviving, came to life... After transplanting the tomatoes in the garden, and then being evacuated for a week due to a forest fire (came real close), I came back to find that without being watered, the tomato plants were taking off (albeit a couple months too late)...

So, that leads me to believe that the second thing I was doing wrong was over watering...

I also saw some white mold appearing on the soil (in the cups) and some of the tomato leaves, and when I spritzed them with a solution of hydrogen peroxide in water it would clear up, and then return a week or so later...

So, I have that issue to deal with too (Is this damp rot?)

Also, I think the soil was too cold, as even though I kept the plants next to a huge southern exposure window, it was in a room that is not very well heated... The plants started germinating better when I placed a light bulb under the tray the seed cups sat in...

So that is problem 4.... warmer soil...

Finally, I had started the onions by sprinkling a few in little seed pots of vermiculite, and when they sprouted, I cut the tops short, and scooped them out as carefully as I could and transplanted them into 4-6 oz plastic beverage cups (with holes in the bottom) filled with mel's mix... (1/3 parts of vermiculite, compost and peat moss).. many of these onions got damaged in the transfer, no matter how careful I was... I put four of them in each cup... When I transplanted them into the garden (late summer) they didn't even survive a day or two...

So.. that's the 5th problem... how to safely transplant without damaging them

Here's what I have gathered up for this year.. 2 reptile heat tapes (6" wide x 24 " long each), a temp controller for them...

(http://www.reptilebasics.com/heat-tape)

(3) 25 watt CFL lamps (1500 lumens each at 5850k), a 24" fluorescent tube (850 lumens, 20w, 5000k), and am thinking of ordering a couple of these LED lamps (more later)

(http://www.amazon.com/TOMTOP-Plant-Hydroponic-Garden-Greenhouse/dp/B00ASISF0G/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_nC?ie=UTF8&colid=3I2T1KNQS8QFT&coliid=I25KAUNI53H313)

I picked up a couple cheap timers for the lights too...

I also ordered and am waiting for this tray

(http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000I1CFC2/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1)

The plan is for today, to prepare some mel's mix and or vermiculite in some plastic drink cups, and plant a few tomato seeds, and a few onion and pepper seeds...

What is the proper way to prepare the soil and water? I read an article elsewhere on this site that said I should water from the bottom up, but then later in the same article it said to place the containers on a bed of gravel in a pan, so that the containers are not sitting in the water.. This is confusing to me, seeing as I don't understand how to water from the bottom up without the containers actually sitting in the water.. What is the best way to do this?...

Also, should I sterilize the mel's mix? If so how? How about the cups? How about the water? (It's well water)

Once I get through this basic first step, I plan to add the heat mats as soon as the tray arrives (hopefully by the first of the week)..

The ultimate plan is to build a box 30"w x 30"h x 16"d... ultimately line the inside and top with mirror tiles to bounce the light around, and make a couple glass doors on the front with one way reflective film applied, so that it is a mirror on the inside but I can still see in... I'll either raise the tray up to the lights, or lower the lights to the tray...

I also, picked up a couple cheap seed starting kits that have 32 small pots with a plastic dome to put over the 32 pot group, but I'm not sure I should use it as that requires an extra transplant with very little soil around them...

I NEED SOME ADVICE AND TIPS/SUGGESTIONS BASED ON ALL OF THE INFO GIVEN ABOVE AS WELL AS THE LONG TERM GOALS DESCRIBED BELOW...

The long term plan is to build a couple greenhouses as well as a larger indoor grower for starting seeds and growing tomatoes, onions, cilantro, peppers, etc. even in winter... I want it to use as little power as possible... So this will take some time and expense to get right... I mention this, so you know what I am trying to accomplish.. I will be looking into hydroponics or aquaponics later on down the road..

I want to eventually provide all of my fruit and veggie needs right here on my property... including melons, cucumber, potato, etc.

Thanks for your patience in reading and considering all this...
Mark


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Year 1 was a disaster,.. starting year 2.. need some tips..

I referenced all our FAQs here in your other post. You can access them by clicking on the blue FAQ button just below the forum title page and I direct linked them below.

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: How to grow from seed FAQs


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RE: Year 1 was a disaster,.. starting year 2.. need some tips..

Hi Dave.. Already read through all of them...

Not really answering my question about watering from the bottom without contacting water (how does that work)...

And I'd really like to know people's input regarding lighting, especially where LEDs are concerned.. I know they're expensive, but thus far. most of the glowing reports I see out there on the web are from those who also appear to be selling them....

Also, are mirrored sides worth the trouble?... Will they help with light efficiency/output, or does it matter?

Reading through some of the forum posts, it seems like sterilizing the potting mix is largely a waste of time... not sure if I have to worry about well water or not though...

All my life, I never realized there was so much to learn about growing stuff...


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RE: Year 1 was a disaster,.. starting year 2.. need some tips..

A lot of people on here use to be in the same boat. The link provide above is useful so use it.

good luck


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RE: Year 1 was a disaster,.. starting year 2.. need some tips..

It is 2 different situations. Bottom watering by sitting the containers in an inch or so of water for a short period of time is what is recommended. Then remove them from the water.

The gravel discussion is only for those few plants that either a) require excess humidity or b) will be left unattended for a period of time, say 2-5 days of vacation. The use of gravel plays a minimal, if any role, in average garden seed starting.

Lighting as discussed in the How to get started FAQ and the Lighting FAQ is 99% of the time only fluorescent ie: 4' 2 tube shop lights. There are many discussions here about this that the forum search at the bottom of the page will pull them up along with pics that many of us have posted of our light set-ups. That is all that is needed for seed starting.

LEDs and special grow lights or special colors only come into play when one is growing full grown plants inside under lights and need to encourage blooming etc.

Mirrored sides??? Never heard of anyone using them yet millions start their seeds without them. Simple aluminum foil, the $2 mylar camping blankets, even white paint can all help with light reflection but the benefits are nominal and none of them are required for any reason.

Well water is no problem. It is hard and chlorine free. It is artificially softened or some city water that can cause problems.

Most packaged seed starting mix, what the majority use, and potting mixes are already sterile when you buy them. They are sold that way. If you mix your own out of non-sterile ingredients or use old mix then some recommend first treating it with boiling water.

Seed starting can be as simple or as complex as you or the folks selling equipment for it want to make it. As with many things in life, simple is best. :)

Dave


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RE: Year 1 was a disaster,.. starting year 2.. need some tips..

Dave, thanks for that..now the water thing makes sense.. If I put the cups in the water to bottom water them, and then remove them, is it still possible to over water?

This explains why I was having problems last year.. I was leaving them in the water full time.. In fact, I was top watering, letting it drain through into the pan, and making sure there was always a half inch or so of water that the cups were sitting in...

Now all I gotta do is figure out how often to put them in the water...

I am 'planning' on eventually growing plants full time under lights... year round veggies... so I want to learn what is needed for that.. But it sounds like I have what is needed to get the seeds going...

I dumped out all the potting mix from last year, and washed and sanitized all the cups... I added a bit more vermiculite to the potting mix and broke and mixed it all up real good.. I guess I'll put some in a few cups tomorrow, and then dump some boiling water through them...

I can plant a few seeds and them start working on the bottom of the box and the heat pads/temp controller.. That should give me a few days to work on the lighting...

I need to post a few pictures of what I'm doing and ask a couple questions from there..

I'll look for the lighting threads...


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RE: Year 1 was a disaster,.. starting year 2.. need some tips..

I am now convinced that 95% of my problems last year were due to over watering.. In fact, it's probably a miracle that I got anything to grow at all...


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RE: Year 1 was a disaster,.. starting year 2.. need some tips..

Awesome!

there's a whole forum dedicated to 'growing under lights'


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