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Gardening

Seedling update: grow light

by Mireille Bourgeois

Here’s a bit of an update on the seeds I planted back in early February. My seeds germinated very well to my surprise. I expected that year-old seeds would require a bit more maintenance but I had kept all of them in ziplock bags, and then in a plastic container with a lid. I stored all my seeds in a cold closet in the dark. My cilantro seeds from my garden last year did not germinate however and as expected the pepper seeds took a much longer time to sprout. The happiest seedlings I have are my tomato plants! That’s right, they are turning into the beautiful plants I wanted them to be.

Tomato seedlings one month after planting.

Tomato seedlings about one month after planting.

 

I did transplant them however. The wonderful thing about tomato plants is that the stem, when submerged with soil, will start growing roots. Burying the stem a bit every-time you transplant will promote a healthy root system. When my seedlings grew to about 3-4 inches I consulted my Niki Jabbour “Year Round Vegetable Gardening” book. Niki recommends transplanting the seedling into a deep container (yogurt, milk, juice tetra-packs are the best) so that the root system has plenty of room to grow which will make the plant more resistant to disease once planted outdoors. I transplanted them with some trepidation because they looked so tiny in the big containers, but they were very happy and kept growing.

 

 

My other seedlings however weren’t so happy. They were light-depraved, even with our large sunny picture window in the living room. So I upgraded my novice gardening level to intermediate and bought my first grow light.

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Little grow light, lots of lumens

I went to a hydroponic store (dude!), and bought this very handy grow light for about 35$. I also bought some PH level stuff to test my water to make sure I’m giving my plants pure water which I hear is essential. This testing kit is similar to a pool water-testing kit and easy to use. I prepare a large jug of water to use just for my seedling watering and it lasts me about two weeks. After about 2 days under the grow lights my squirrel-y seedlings looked stronger, the stems were thicker, and they did look more green to me. I started the grow light at about three inches away from the seeds and after about a week and a half, I had many other seedlings that needed the light so I raised the light by about one foot. There are a lot of lumens in these lights so they give off sufficient light to share.

Not all has gone smoothly. My pepper seeds needed to be soaked between pieces of paper towels for about 1.5 weeks before planting them in peat moss disks in order to germinate. This technique worked beautifully and I now have a bunch of pepper seeds starting to emerge from their peat moss home.

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PH water level testing kit

Also, I overwatered my seeds one day and as soon as the following day, mold was covering the outside of the peat moss “disks”. I quickly took off the little fabric covering without breaking the peat moss, separated the seeds into more containers to give them more room to breath, stuck a dehumidifier in the room for 24 hours and brought a fan in the room on low to give the impression of wind (ventilation is key). This worked very nicely, it doesn’t smell like mold anymore, and the peat moss dried out nicely so that I could start watering them LIGHTLY again.

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Above image: Tomatoes up front, cilantro behind it and micro wasabi greens in the back (these are amazing, ready to cut and throw in salads in about two weeks. A year-round herb that tastes like wasabi! Below is a sweet bell pepper plant and some sweet bail behind it.

 

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If you haven’t started your seeds yet, don’t worry, some people only start their tomatoes in early April (under grow lights), but I like to get a head start. I’m never sure how many of them will survive until spring and I like the idea of having plenty of seedlings to plant once June comes around.

PS: I’m going to get another grow light! I’m hooked!

 

 

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