Saturday, February 21, 2009

Springtime Under Lights

Spring is here!  Well, at least under the lights in my basement it is! The first seedlings of the season are up and thriving! Here's what's growing:

4 types of Leeks (Giant Musselburg, Lancelot, Blue Solaize, and Prizetaker)
Romanesco Cauliflower, Veronica 
Heirloom Italian Sprouting Broccoli DiCiccio
Gonzalas, Early Spring Cabbage 
Tuscan Black Kale
Red Russian Kale

I'm hoping these guys will be ready to go in the ground around Saint Patrick's Day--that's the best time to plant peas too!  It's hard to believe it'll be planting time soon.  As I write this it's snowing sideways! Starting plants under lights lets you get a spring fix even in the winter!

It's really easy to start plants from seeds, and you don't need to spend a fortune on a fancy set-up.  Mine is just a set of wire shelves from Ikea with each shelf about 14" apart, and shop-lights that hang from the shelf above on chains.  You want to be able to keep the light source about 2-3" above your plants.  As the seedlings grow you shorten the chains to raise the lights up.  I find that, as far as the bulbs go, the real grow lights give the best results, although I've used regular fluorescent shop light bulbs in the past.  The grow lights cost a bit more, but the seedlings really do seem to do better with them, so I think they're worth the extra buck or two.  I have the lights on a timer so I don't have to remember to turn them on and off.  I give my seedlings about 14 hours of light each day.  On gray, wintery days like today I find lots of excuses to go and check on the seedlings so I can get a bit of that springtime light therapy too!  


sarah said...

Hi Jeannine,
I was thinking of trying some grow lights this year. But I'm curious: where do you buy the grow lights themselves (and potentially a heating mat)?

Thanks for your tips!

Jeannine from Pittsburgh said...

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for the comment! I purchased both the light fixtures and the grow light bulbs at my local hardware store. They're just shop lights, and most of the hardware stores will sell the grow light (sometimes also sold as aquarium bulbs) along with the regular fluorescent bulbs. As far as heating pads go, I find I really don't need one, but I have my shelves in the same part of my basement as the boiler, so it's pretty warm (probably around 70 deg F). If where you plan to put your lights is considerably cooler than that you might need a heat mat. Johnny's sells these, as do most places that sell seeds. Here's a link:

Glad you like the tips!

Craftiness said...

Hi Jeannine,

I am planning on using grow lights next year. In Texas we have a relatively short interval between last frost and 100F! We need to grow at least tomatoes 2 months before last frost date, I'm not sure what else. I am really a novice. I am just catching up on Geek-Farm-Life since my Itunes was not downloading them for some reason. I caught your Farm Fone comment and am enjoying your blog because of it. Thanks for Sharing!!

Jeannine from Pittsburgh said...

Hi Craftiness--

I'm so glad you're enjoying my blog. It's great to hear from a fellow Geek Farm Life fan--Misty and Andrew are amazing folks and I look forward to their podcast every Monday. Good luck with your tomatoes!