Looking for the best way to start your seeds indoors to ensure healthy, strong vegetable and flower transplants for your garden? We have you covered with today’s article!
If there is one portion of gardening that seems to intimidate gardeners the most, it’s starting their own seeds indoors. Perhaps it’s the memory of a few past attempts that didn’t turn out well. Or the thought of having windowsills covered in wiry, sprawling plants for months on end!
Many gardeners also have the misconception that starting their own seeds indoors will require a lot of expensive equipment, including fancy grow lights. Here’s the good news, it doesn’t have to. Nor does it mean having to fill your windowsills with plants. In fact, as you will see below, that is the last place in the world you ever want to try growing your plants from seed!
Starting your own vegetable, flower and herbs from seed is so rewarding! And it has so many advantages over purchasing transplants. For starters, it can save a tremendous amount on plant costs. Especially when you consider vegetable and flower transplants get pricier with each passing year.
Growing your own also allows you the opportunity to grow a wide variety of plants you simply can’t find in stores. But best of all, by following just a few simple, inexpensive, tried and true techniques, you can grow the most amazingly healthy plants that will produce beyond your wildest dreams.
And as it turns out, one of those simple techniques just happens to be the biggest secret of all to true success!
The Best Way To Start Seeds Indoors – The Big Secret To Success!
There are many factors that can affect young seedlings indoors. It is certainly very important to start your seeds in good soil. Of course, having healthy, fertile seed, and giving your plants proper moisture and warmth as they grow is equally important as well. As is starting your seeds indoors at the right time.
But when it comes to successfully starting seeds indoors, there is usually one factor above all else that makes the biggest difference for growing strong, healthy transplants – or producing weak, spindly seedlings that have a hard time surviving outdoors. And that factor is lighting!
But here is the best part. Giving the proper lighting to your plants is actually quite easy. And, even better, it doesn’t need to involve spending hundreds of dollars on fancy grow lights.
Why Windowsills Won’t Work – The Best Way To Start Seeds Indoors
It’s not hard to find a thousand+ articles on the internet about how to start vegetable & flower seeds in windowsills. Although windowsills are great for growing many houseplants, one thing is for sure, they are the last place you want to start vegetable and flower seeds.
Windowsills do offer plenty of light. But that light is very far away from the plants. In fact, it is some 91+ million miles away from your windowsill! And because of that, using it to power your seedlings is a recipe for disaster.
When a seedling begins to grow, beyond food and water, it is in search of one other major element – light. In a windowsill, because that light is far away, the seedling spends all of its time stretching to the sun.
Unfortunately, the end result is a transplant that has a long and very weak center stem. One that is completely bent to whichever direction the sun is growing. If you have ever attempted to grow seedlings in a window, you are probably all too familiar with the picture above. Windowsills produce weak, spindly plants!
Providing The Right Light – The Best Way To Start Seeds Indoors
Now that we know windowsills are not the answer, the question is, what is? There are certainly a number of fancy and costly grow lights on the market for growing plants indoors. And yes, they will work for vegetable and flower plants. But you can actually grow even better with simple, inexpensive LED or fluorescent shop lights!
Young vegetable and flower seedlings simply don’t need the fancy light spectrum that grow lights provide. Grow lights are great for tropical plants and other varieties that require special lighting. But it is overkill for vegetable and flower plants.
All flower and vegetable transplants need are bright light. And shop lights are perfect for providing plenty of that bright light for a fraction of the cost. Best of all, using shop lights to grow your plants is a breeze!
Listen In To Our Podcast On Starting Seeds Indoors!
How To Use Shop Lights To Grow Transplants – The Best Way To Start Seeds Indoors
LED and fluorescent shop lights can be purchased quite inexpensively as a plug in fixture in lengths ranging from two to four feet and beyond. The two foot and four foot lengths are actually perfect for placing one or two flats of plants underneath.
Whether you build your own simple plant stand to hang the lights from, or simply place a few bricks or wood blocks on the end of each end of your plant trays, all that you need to do to properly light your plants is keep the bulbs one to two inches above the plants as they grow. (See: Our Tabletop DIY Plant Stand Plans!)
That may sound a bit close, but with LED or fluorescent bulbs, it provides the perfect amount of light. Both types of bulbs are cool bulbs, which means they won’t burn the foliage, even when leaves come in contact with the bulb.
As they grow, continue to raise the lights so that they remain just an inch or so from the top of the foliage. This encourages the plants to grow slow and strong. As for how long lights should be left on, whether you are using LED or fluorescent bulbs, they should be left on for 12 to 14 hours each day over plants.
The result will be transplants with a thick, sturdy main stem, and tight, strong foliage. What they won’t be are spindly and weak!
LED vs. Fluorescent Bulbs – The Best Way To Start Seeds Indoors
Both LED and fluorescent bulbs work equally well for growing seedlings. We know this because we have used each and the results are nearly identical. Again, the key is all about keeping those lights down close to the plants.
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If you happen to have fluorescent lights on hand, by all means, use them. But if you are buying new, for the long term, LED lights are the better choice. They are a bit more costly up front (that gap is closing), but they are less expensive to operate and the bulbs last far longer.
In fact, LED lights can run for pennies a day, and many carry a life expectancy of 50,000 hours or more. Best of all, you never have to worry about the annoying hum that fluorescent lights can often have.
Be sure to make this the year you grow your own plants from seed – and grow amazingly strong and sturdy transplants like never before. Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.
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