It is relatively easy to start vegetable and flower seeds inside if you have the right conditions and if you are willing to give them the daily attention required.

You will either need supplemental artificial light or a large south facing window with direct sunlight. With artificial light you can grow plants even in a basement.

If you only want to grow a few plants, a simple grow light kit in the $50 range may be adequate. A 4 tube fluorescent fixture with T-5 commercial grade bulbs will run about twice as much. Both of these can be plugged into ordinary household circuits.

High intensity discharge light systems can supply much brighter light with bulbs as high as 400 watts. Either metal halide or high pressure sodium light systems may require commercial installation.

A heated growing mat will also be very useful in providing the bottom heat to get seeds sprouted.

You will also need some plastic trays, cell packs or pots and some indoor planting mix. Peat cubes or pots make later transplanting very easy. Place the pots or cell packs in the trays and fill them loosely with potting soil to the top. If the soil mix is dry, it should be moistened ahead of time. Soil will settle after watering. Place seeds on top of the soil and push them in with your finger. Small seeds only need to be ΒΌ inch deep.

Place trays on top of the heated growing mat and set the temperature at 70 degrees. Most growing mats are preset at that temperature.

Soil must remain constantly moist until seeds germinate. Covering with clear plastic reduces evaporation. High light conditions are not needed until seeds germinate.

Timing is critical. Do not plant too early. Fast growing plants like melons, cucumbers, squash and sunflowers only need 4 to 6 weeks to produce a transplantable seedling. Tomatoes and marigolds require 6 to 8 weeks and peppers and onions 8 to 10 weeks.

If you plan to grow larger size plants you will need high intensity lighting.


Allen Wilson

Allen has been writing about gardening for over 30 years. He is a retired professor of Horticulture.

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