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March 25, 2008


Thanks so much for this informative post. I'm growing under lights for the first time. I think I need two more bulbs :( I'm relieved to see that I'm mostly getting it right though!

You just rescued me from starting my tomatoes *way* too early. Our last frost date is near the end of May and I was considering starting the seeds this week.


Back in the 20s today in the Northland...and still a patchy covering of snow. Come on spring!!

What a delightful and useful post! Like you, I gave up windowsill growing for starting seedlings under shop lights long ago. What a difference! and you're right about the organic benefits. There's nothing quite like the satisfaction of knowing everything your food has come into contact with from the start.

And I learned something. I was only replacing shop lights as they burned out. So thanks for that important tidbit!

Amy, in regards to the two more bulbs, i am in the same page as you. I thought one lighting fixture was enough for what i was growing. I found out later than my trays are 12" wide and my lights about 8" BIG DIFFERENCE!.

I just could not efford to buy one more lighting fixture and two more growing lights. Its about $20 for the lights and $24 for the fixture.

So i ended up using alunminum foil to cover the plants over the lights. It help drastically because it reflects the light lost in space back to the plants. I did had to raise the lighting fixture a little bit more. I had it at 1" from the plans, now it is about 3". I have a feeling that at some point before planting outside, i am going to have to buy another light. Hope not!.

By the why Marc, when you get a chance, can you talk about feeding the seedlings. When should we start to feed them and how much. I read that it is recommended to use 1/4 or 1/2 of the recommended solution. This is confusing!. How do you translate 1 tablespoon of organic fertilizer (bone /blood meal, and fish emulsion)into 2 sqft of soil compare to diluting it in water?.

I am thinking of diluting it into the water before i added to the bottom tray, but.... how much fertilizer to a 2 liter soda bottle full of warm water?.

I am using compost, so maybe with this store bought compost is not required to feed the seedlings. Or is it?

Ahh, now I really like the idea of growing single lettuce under lights in the Winter! Suppose I could grow radish too? I get so impatient this time of year waiting for everything to grow!

Johnnatan - thanks for the tip about the aluminum foil. I was actually considering trying this so it's good to hear that it works

Oh god! Oh god!! I'm in such a panic. I KNOW I don't have enough light system for all the seeds I'm trying to start. Now I think I started everything a month too early because our last frost date is May as well. Already they're spindly. I'm considering starting over.
I have a faerie ornament in my kitchen that says, "If you're not killing plants, you're not stretching yourself as a gardener."
But I don't want to kill ALL the plants!

Don't panic Kimberley. You can still use the tomatoes that you already started if you have room for them. If not, then you can start new ones. But look on the bright side - you have already been gardening. For most of us, eating the produce is great, but the process is fun too. If you decide to re-plant, you get to garden some more. You faerie is right. Even if you kill your existing plants, don't think of it like you would for pets. I purposely start more than double the amount of plants I need and select only the best looking ones for the actual garden. The others go to the compost pile! No matter what you decide, another light fixture would be great if you have the room.

I buy the cheapest fixtures out there and ordinary 40 watt bulbs - usually about $15 total.

Johnnathan, you are probably buying better fixtures than I am - which is likely a good idea since they will last longer, but you should be able to find cheaper bulbs. As for feeding the seedlings, I usually don't. I think it is a good idea but I'm no authority on how much to feed them. I suggest an organic means (like compost tea or Great Big Plants) over a chemical fertilizer. I would rather transplant them, giving them new nutrients in the additional soil.
Good idea with the aluminum foil. With my first light set up I fashioned aluminum foil walls beside the trays for even more reflectivity. I should think about that again.

Matron, you are right that lettuce could be grown in the winter under lights. The flat of lettuce pictured has gotten larger than I wanted. Most of them are now outside, but we sacrificed some of them for salad already. The leaves were small but tasty!

Good luck to you all as well as Amy and Exuberantlady too!

you are right, i did buy the light for durability. Thanks for letting me know i can use the cheaper bulbs. If i have to buy another lighting fixture i might buy the cheaper one since they run for about $9 to $12 dollars. That is if i have to.

In regards to the ferlilizer, thanks for the input. I am not concern anymore since i transplanted with compost and that is why my plants for now are doing better.

I just don't know how long until they run out of nutrients but time will tell.

Marc, how do you control the temperature in your cold frame when it starts to get hot in April. Nights here in April are about 35-45* and days between 45-65*. At 65* my cold frame greenhouse can cook the plans and dry the pot soil. I am very inexperience with this.


You just saved me a lot of money, Marc! I'm a dabbler, and a complete novice when it comes to the finer nuances of gardening. Last year I planted out my plants as seeds right in the garden. although my pepper plants did very well, I'm just fantasizing now about how much better they can be if I get a headstart by growing them indoors. I thought I *MUST* use growlights for any indoor gardening. Hearing from you that normal bulbs work, I decided to try it.

I went out to my local home depot and picked up their cheapest 4 ft. fixture for $8.50 and two cool 40 watt 4ft T12 bulbs for $4.00. That's $12.50 when I was anticipating $60 and up. Thank you! :)


Thanks for this great post!
We are growing from seed for the first time this Spring and are at the moment designing and purchasing materials for our first seed growing rack.

Now I was wondering: what is the maximum height clearance for the average and the highest seedling, between surface of the soil and the lamp?

I've found lots of information on plants and seedlings etc. but not this particular piece of data. We need to know at which intervals to place the shelves on our rack.


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