STARTING SEEDS UNDER A GROW LIGHT
I have been starting seeds under a grow light since 1986. I do this to get a larger variety of vegetable plants than are available at a nursery or store. I have used a various trays, capillary mats, pots, clear domes, and shop lights.
My present setup in my Garden Shed is a 36”H x 60”L x 28”W wooden bench. On this I have vertically spaced two 18” hand trigger clamps with the hand trigger clamp reversed so it will support the 48” shop light on the flat side of the clamp. Two 22” x 11” bottom trays will fit between the lights as well as two heating mats. The bottom of the vertically placed clamp is held in place by 4 wooden blocks with mirror frame plastic L clamps screwed into the wooded blocks. I move the shop light up or down using the hand trigger. Regular fluorescent or LED light bulbs can be used and left on 24 hours a day.
I wash out the bottom trays with bleach water to disinfect them. I do the same with the green water holding capillary mats that fit inside the trays. I use 2” peat pots for Cole crops like broccoli (small seed) and 3” peat pots for tomatoes and peppers. They can be mixed in the same tray although the Cole crops will come up first.
I have used various seed potting soils. Currently I am mixing perlite with vermiculite, half and half, moistened to hold down the dust, and place it into each pot. I top off each pot with vermiculite. This makes planting seed easier and helps prevent fungus growth. I plant 3 seeds in each pot, sprinkle water on all the pots after planting, and cover them with a clear dome for the greenhouse effect. Then I place the tray on the heating mat. I put a used metallic truck sun shade behind and one in front of the grow light to both hold in the heat and reflect the light. I check the trays daily to see what has germinated and to water if needed. After plants have come up I take off the dome and water as needed with a diluted mixture of fish emulsion and liquid kelp or Bill’s Perfect Fertilizer.
After most all the seeds germinate, I take the dome off and keep raising the light fixture so that the bulbs are about 1 inch above the plants. After the plants get their fourth or so leaves, I transplant then into larger plastic pots. Sometime I can get more than one plant out of a pot, otherwise I prune to keep the healthiest plant. If the weather is still cold at night, I will put them back into the trays and leave them there under the grow light. I may transplant them into larger pots more than once. During the day I will leave them outside to harden off.
The next step is to plan the placement and prepare the organically fertilized garden rows to transplant the new plants into the garden.