How to Start your Garden Seeds Indoors

Step 1: Lights

A lot of guides to starting your garden seeds indoors jump right in with the obvious.  You’ll need seeds and containers and soil.  But I’m guessing you already figured out that those things were important.  What you might have thought was that putting them in a window would work well.  In my experience, attempting to grow from seed using only windows to light your little seedlings is a recipe for failure.  You need to start with light fixtures.

Maybe you’ve looked in the back of the seed catalogs and seen the $150, $300, $900 + light setups and realized you couldn’t afford lights.  Well, they’re way overpriced.  Way.  What you need is much more affordable.

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Simple, cheap 4-foot long fluorescent fixtures with normal inexpensive shop light bulbs.

As this link will show you, Amazon.com has prices in the $15-$20 range per unit for these chain-hung fixtures.  If you drive out to the hardware store instead, you can find them, brand new, for as low as $9 each.  I have 9 of them and between the fixtures, the bulbs, a few extension cords and a timer I only spent around $140.

I use the first 2 or 3 fixtures when my seedlings are still small, growing in their tiny containers that I planted them in. I just hang them from the basement ceiling with the provided chains, and a little extra for more length when necessary.

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After transplanting each plant into a larger pot, everything takes up a lot more room, so I turn on the lights over every table.

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Every day or two, when you’re watering things, just raise the lights up a little bit so that they are constantly 2 inches above the leaves of your seedlings.

So step 1 is lights.  Figure out where you can set up some tables and hang some lights.  If you don’t have room to spread out, go vertical.

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A rack similar to this little deal can be made to hold your hanging shop light fixtures, or you could make something out of PVC for not much cost.

The point is…without light fixtures, your seedlings will lean towards the window and grow too fast (get leggy) and then fall over and die, either while they are still indoors or on the day you move them outdoors and they experience the wind.  Go to the hardware stores in your area or just shop on Amazon.

Why I Quit Buying Seeds for My Garden 3 Years Ago

sotm-signupI save seeds for heirloom tomatoes, several herbs, beans and corn. It’s a very easy and convenient way to free yourself from having to spend a lot of money every spring when it’s time to plant the garden.

Over three years ago, I signed myself up for a membership for the Seeds of The Month Club. It was the only thing I bought on Black Friday that year. The idea was so fun, old-fashioned and low-tech! You get actual seed packets, mailed to your house, every month! Who doesn’t love getting things in the mail? I still get so excited when that rattling envelope arrives with 4 more packets of seeds, and it has happened 40 times!

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Seed Envelopes from the Seeds of the Month Club by Mike the Gardener

So this year, between trading the packets I didn’t want, planting the ones that I did want, planting my own saved seeds, and still having a few to just give away…I didn’t need to buy any seeds.  I did buy two seed packets, but those are just a couple new hybrids I’m going to try for fun. I don’t grow many hybrid plants because I like having the option to save seeds from my favorites, and you can’t regrow the exact same plant from seeds saved from hybrids.

sotm-newsletterThat’s another area where the Seeds of the Month Club shines.  All of Mike’s seed packets are:

  • Non-GMO
  • Open Pollinated
  • Heirloom varieties

Any of the plants that you grow from your monthly Seeds of the Month Club mailings will produce seeds that you can save and regrow the next year, making you more and more independent of buying things in the future.

I fully endorse Mike the Gardener Enterprises and the Seeds of the Month Club.  I have been a member for over 3 years and have never had a packet of seeds fail to germinate. I have also only twice in that time received the same packet twice, and it was an annual favorite anyway.

If you love checking the mailbox as much as I do, do yourself a favor and sign up for a membership. You’ll thank me 12 times, and the friends you trade seeds with will thank you. :)

What happened to the “big” tomato megabloom?

Thank you Susan for asking that question!

All summer I have been posting pictures of my tomatoes onto a set of pages on this site for future reference.  My Tomato Photo Reviews page is a project in it’s 2nd year.

You are referring to this blossom:

2014-06-06 16.35.28

Steakhouse
2014-06-06 16.35.28

That tomato ended up growing into an ugly fruit:

2014-07-24 20.24.51 World's Ugliest Steakhouse Picked partially ripe

2014-07-24 20.24.51
World’s Ugliest Steakhouse
Picked partially ripe

2014-07-24 20.25.03 World's Ugliest Steakhouse Picked partially ripe

2014-07-24 20.25.03
World’s Ugliest Steakhouse
Picked partially ripe

2014-07-24 20.25.37 World's Ugliest Steakhouse Picked partially ripe

2014-07-24 20.25.37
World’s Ugliest Steakhouse
Picked partially ripe

2014-07-24 20.25.44 World's Ugliest Steakhouse Picked partially ripe

2014-07-24 20.25.44
World’s Ugliest Steakhouse
Picked partially ripe

It was about 30 or 31 ounces.  Not bad, but I can grow bigger without using hybrid seeds.

July Photo Review

I skipped posting in what is usually one of my biggest blogging months.  Here is a photo review of some of the activities I was so busy with.

Stay tuned soon for an offer to buy some seed for Chamisal Wild Garlic.  I’ll have seed-garlic for sale in the next few days, and it will ship out before the end of August.

Cucumber vines growing so fast you can see them move

My cucumber plants are loving life this year.  I have never had such a vigorous crop!  Each of these groups of vines is growing out from 2′ x 2′ raised boxes.

Cucumber vines July 1st, 2014

Cucumber vines July 1st, 2014

I have already picked a dozen pickle-sized cucumbers.  Here's a baby fruit.

I have already picked a dozen pickle-sized cucumbers. Here’s a baby fruit.

Overnight these two vines grew together and started holding hands.

Overnight these two vines grew together and started holding hands.

My wife commented last night that as she sat on the porch swing, she could see these two vines growing towards each other.  The next morning, they had succeeded in a hug.

I made a half gallon of refrigerator pickles already from 12 or 13 of these cukes.  If I don’t miss the big flush during vacation I could have lots more to can.

Garlic conjoined via umbilical cord

Last year, on a hike, I found a new variety of garlic growing wild.  I’ll be growing this variety out for at least 4 years to see how large it can become, and if it turns out to be tasty.  I only had three cloves to plant.  One of them was smaller than my smallest fingernail and the others were the size of a grain of rice.  The big one and one of the smaller ones grew for me, but check out what came out of the ground when I pulled up the larger plant:

Garlic bulb with conjoined extra clove

Garlic bulb with conjoined extra clove

Did a root turn into a clove or is this the original clove I planted?

Did a root turn into a clove or is this the original clove I planted?

Hand for scale.  This is a small garlic bulb.

Hand for scale. This is a small garlic bulb.

This is new to me.  I don’t know if this happens with other garlic varieties.  I also don’t know if this is an odd root that decided to become a clove or mini-bulb, or if this is somehow the original clove that I planted last fall.  They were definitely joined together, as both came out of the ground as a unit when I pulled the plant.

If you know anything about growing garlic, please let me know your experience with this type of occurrence.  If you don’t know anything about growing garlic, please leave your theories!