2016-02-11 / From The Garden

Give Seedlings a Jump Start

By Cynthia Gibson

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. If you are thinking of using a grow light for starting your seeds indoors, the bulbs that will give you the brightest light are the High Intensity Discharge, or HID lights. There are two types to chose from: metal halide (MH) and high pressure sodium (HPS). MH lights tend to be blue in color and cooler in heat, while HPS lights are more pink to red and warmer. These colors affect the growing of your seeds.

The lights will keep your seedlings compact and strong. If you decide to use grow lights for starting seeds indoors, they will enable you to set up your seed growing in your basement or in a room with little light.

Grow lights can also add extra light to a Southern exposure window or to simulate daytime hours. You can put them on a timer to imitate spring and summer. Once your seeds have germinated, they quickly turn into seedlings. Since heat is the answer to germination and not light, I would choose the HPS bulb. The light will give your small plants the full eight hours of sun they need a day for three weeks. Then increase the exposure by one hour a week until you reach 12 hours of light per day, to simulate summer. The lights should be six inches above the plants to begin with and should be raised as the plants grow. Long-term seedlings such as tomatoes thrive under grow lights and can even produce tomatoes before it is time to plant them outdoors.

Regular fluorescent light bulbs are fine to use, but will not give off the same amount of heat as an HPS bulb. While they will not work as well, they are far less expensive. You will need 40-50 watts per square foot of your indoor gardening space.

Personal-size Greenhouses

What gardener would pass on a chance to have his or her very own greenhouse? Consider a pop-up greenhouse: not only does it assemble and disassemble in minutes, but you can finally have that heated space for spring that you have always wanted. Pop-up greenhouses come in all sizes and many are amusing. Some look like gazebos, while others are the more practical rectangular shape. They are wonderful. Some have access for a hose and heating elements as well. They start at a very low price of $30 for a tiny one, to a large one of 60 inches tall by 60 inches wide for just over $200. The large one is big enough to accommodate growing shelves, along with a potting table. The roof and sides are clear plastic and come with plastic tubing that supports the entire structure. The entry door is more like a flap that opens with a zipper. They are great little structures for starting young plants.

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