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New to indoor seed starting-have some questions

Posted by chele519 5 (My Page) on
Sat, Mar 12, 11 at 23:36

I'm used to starting vegetables from seeds planted directly in the garden, or in 6 packs after it is warm enough to leave them outside. This year I am going to try starting some inside. I'm in NH, zone 5, so I can't plant until Memorial Day. I'm planning on starting tomatoes and peppers in the house, I usually buy tomatoes as plants so never did those as seeds, peppers I'm completely new at. These I'd like to start in about 3 weeks since it says 6-8 weeks before planting. I also will be doing summer squash/zucchini, these I usually start in plastic containers about 4 weeks before planting and then also plant some directly in the ground. I also will be growing cukes, green beans, and snap peas. The beans and peas I was planning on going directly into the ground and the cukes will also be started inside.

I'm confused as to whether I need a heating mat or not. My house is not very warm but I have a large south facing picture window which with drapes open lets in a lot of light and warms up the room. I'm planning to use the peat pellets with the dome cover and I know these are not supposed to be placed in direct sunlight. If the window is covered by drapes, a little thicker than sheers, will this be ok for germination? Once they sprout I can open them to let direct sunlight in.

I was considering the Hydrofarm germination station but with starting things at different times, some seeds will have sprouted when I'll just be planting others and I didn't want to transplant them into other pots right away. Can I use a regular moist heating pad instead? I'm a little nervous leaving it on all day while I'm gone but considering I had one on my back for about 12 hours one day last week, I know it does not get that hot to start a fire. Would this be as safe as using one intended for the plastic trays? I have 2 different sizes so I could use one for 1 36 pellet tray or the other one for 2 trays. I also have 2 grow lights, if I can find them, but with the south window, I don't know if I will need them or not.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: New to indoor seed starting-have some questions

I can't find how to edit my original post so I'd like to add something regarding the heat mat. I had read some posts that people had to buy a thermostat because it got too warm. Somewhere else online I just read that they raise the ambient temp by 10-20 degrees. I had thought I would have to buy the thermostat also but maybe not. Currently my house is around 60 degrees, in a month, probably 65. If I put the trays in the basement where it is cooler, can i get away with not using the thermostat?

RE: New to indoor seed starting-have some questions


I use a regular heating blanket for my seedlings. It is not the safest thing, but I have never had a problem. I just use it on the lowest setting and it raises the temps 10-20*. In your first post you mentioned direct sunlight. Any sun that comes through a window is not direct sun, but filitered so you can leave all drapes open so the maximum sunlight comes in. I would get peppers started right away, they take a while to get mature. Just know if you use peat pellets you will have to transplant them once while stil inside because they will out grow their little peat pot. ALso, make sure you remove the dome as soon as your plants germinates. If you have lots of different plants starting you can just remove the germinated ones and set the other ones back under the dome.

It looks like you have doen your homework on seed starting times and which ones to direct sow, you should do pretty good!

Come to think of it, with your dome on in direct (filtered-through a window) sunlightn it will probably heat up enough without a mat.. I would stick the dome in the sun with soe moist peat pots in it and see how warm it gets.... a little experiment...


RE: New to indoor seed starting-have some questions

From my experience, peppers are both slow in germinating and in growing.

- chele - I wouldn't wait 3 weeks to start peppers. I started mine a couple days ago and I'm in zone 5. They are on a heating grow mat with a dome lid but, not in sunlight. I think that would cause too much heat and destroy the seed.

Good Luck!

RE: New to indoor seed starting-have some questions

Thanks for the replies. After reading posts on here until almost 1am this morning, I'm rethinking things. I thought once they germinate I would have enough light with the window but now I realize I won't. So, I'm going to set them up in the basement instead with the mats and hang some shop lights. It's about 50 degrees down there today but I do have heat if I need it.

I also forgot I had a $10 credit on Amazon so I went ahead and ordered 2 of the heat mats. I will get the peppers started as soon as they arrive.

I bought 4 of the 36 count peat pellet trays instead of the bigger 72 ct trays so that I could keep some things separate based on planting dates. I do know I will have to transplant them, I just didn't want to do it right away because I'm afraid if they are too small I'll hurt them. A couple years ago I got tons of plastic containers from someone on freecycle so I just have to find the smaller ones. If I run low, I will pick up some clear plastic cups. I also found a store near me that carries the 72 cell trays, covers, and refills pretty cheap so now I'm thinking of doing some flowers too. Once all the veggies germinate, I will start my herbs in the 72 cell pack and I'll grab another and some flower seeds.

It seems like most people use one cool bulb and one warm bulb instead of the special plant bulbs. While reading thru here a little while ago, I found someone mentioning natural sunlight bulbs. What would be best?

I'm getting so excited now!!

RE: New to indoor seed starting-have some questions

-chele- Happy Birthday yesterday!

Just to let you know - I use ordinary fluorescent shop lights with one warm and one cool bulb in each. The important thing is to keep the top of the plant as close to the bulb as possible - one to three inches.

As soon as I see that a few have germinated - I remove the dome lid, turn on the lights (on a timer) and keep the flat on the heating mat until the rest have germinated. Keep tabs on the moisture of the soil so they don't dry out. When you think they have all germinated or at least most have, then remove the flat from the heated mat to another location - still keeping them as close as possible to the lights.

I have 4 shop lights - 2 hang over the heated mat which can hold 4 flats. The other 2 hang over another shelf which also can hold 4 flats. When everything has germinated, I turn off the heated mat and keep them growing where they are.

I mainly do peppers and tomatoes and some herbs - for canning in the fall - another new found hobby!

I wish you much success! There's nothing like your own home-grown produce.


RE: New to indoor seed starting-have some questions

Well, thank you very much. My birthday is in 2 months though. :) Apparently when you set up your profile, if you don't put a year, it just puts the current date in everytime you access it.

I was going to get 1 warm and 1 cool per light. I looked at the grow lights today at HD and they were $10 each. Now if I use the cheaper ones, I can get an extra light which I think will be more beneficial.

I ordered the 2 heating mats but won't have them for a week. I think that I will start my peppers next Friday afternoon and use the moist heating pad I have for now. I won't be too worried about it since I will be home most of the weekend. If they don't show up by the end of the weekend, I'll put the tray on top of the fridge while I'm gone to work and then put it back on the heating pad when I get home.

For this year, I am going to hang the lights from the ceiling in the basement. If all goes well, I will build the pvc setup for next year or look at getting a wire tray system. Now I'm looking at building a small cold frame in the next month. I have a picture of what I want it to look like, I will just have to modify it a little to fit where I want it to go.

Hopefully everything will go well because if not, I will be really discouraged.

RE: New to indoor seed starting-have some questions

Hi there. Nobody else has asked, and I hope not to offend you, but how do you live in your home when the temperature is only 60-65 upstairs and 50 downstairs? I like it cooler than most people, but I'd have to wear a jacket and mittens in those temperatures.

Are you sure your house is warm enough for your plants once they've germinated? Yes, it is discouraging when things don't go well, but of course, if at first you don't succeed, try try again =:)

RE: New to indoor seed starting-have some questions

That's ok. I don't like the heat but it is too cold sometimes. I have electric heat though and I keep it low to try and save money. The 50 degrees is in the basement which is my workout room so that needs to keep cool to exercise in. I normally only use the heat down there to keep the pipes from freezing and to warm up the room before I start to work out. Upstairs where the living room is, the nighttime temp is set at either 55 or 56 and goes up to 58-60 when I get home from work. I sometimes have to turn it up to 62-64 on the weekend when it was really cold out, like 10-20 degrees but I just wear a couple of layers. I typically get too warm though. At work I share an office with someone and she will be wearing long sleeves and putting on a sweater and I have to wear short sleeves. Regarding the plants, I've read on here that 65 is good for after they germinate. If I open the curtains in the basement and let some sun in during the day, with the light, I think it will be warm enough. We are just starting here to have days consistently in the 40s and by this weekend supposed to be in the 50's so it changes fast. If it seems too cold, I'm thinking of putting together that pvc light setup and I would put that in the living room in front of the picture window with the sun instead of the basement. In fact, that sounds like an even better idea than the basement!

RE: New to indoor seed starting-have some questions

chele -

I'm right there with you - I keep the ambient temperature between 60-65 and let it get down to 50 at night (it helps me sleep better). I've found that a small space heater can be effective at heating up the ambient temperature near the plants to help seedlings grow (as long as you don't leave it on when you leave). Also I don't think it's bad to let the temps get down because that's what happens during their normal sprouting time anyway, right? 60-70 during the day and 45-55 at night when it cools down seems like it would more aptly replicate natural growing environment.

RE: New to indoor seed starting-have some questions

I like it cooler for sleeping too, bedroom is 53. I do have heat in my basement, it is a unit installed into the wall when I finished that basement a few years ago, if I need to use that, it warms it up very quickly. It's still pretty cool here anyway, this weekend highs willl be 30s-40s but today will be 50 and sunny for a change. I started my lettuce the other night and I'm going to start the peppers tonight. I found a great link on my state's cooperative extension website. It is detailed info on a number of veggies from Cornell, lists the temp ranges for germination, what each one needs to grow, a pretty good reference. I never knew lettuce was a cool weather crop. I planted some last year and got hardly anything and it tasted horrible. This was in July/August and we had a very hot summer here so now I know why. I may even try to grom some completely indoors in the basement where it is cool with lights when it gets too hot out. UNH also has a number you can call with gardening questions so I'll be making a list to call them on Friday.

RE: New to indoor seed starting-have some questions

I grow my seedlings in my workshop/studio area which is heated separately from my living area. I keep it at 55 when I am not out there. I find that simply draping the lighted shelves with reflective material is enough to hold the heat from the fluorescent bulbs and bring the temp up to 70-80F (top shelf warmer). I can use the top shelf for germination and the bottom one for growing seedings that like it a bit cooler. No need for heating mats. Also most vegetable seeds will germinate at 60 degrees and less - it just takes longer and the germination rate is a bit lower.

RE: New to indoor seed starting-have some questions

I planted lettuce 3 days ago and it started coming up last night so I set up my light system today. I also planted peppers last night and am eagerly awaiting those.

Here's my light setup. It is from a link in one of the posts on here. If anyone else has used this pvc setup, it says each shelf can hold 4 flats but I only have room for 2 unless I use a shelf underneath, did I put it together wrong? Anyway, I like it because for now, I can just leave it on the table and I'll have room for 4 trays and can always expand upward later as I do more or once I start transplanting to bigger containers.

Here is a link that might be useful: My new light setup

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