Sunday, February 17, 2013

How to Start Seeds Indoors for an Apartment Garden

Whether you live in an apartment or have acres of fertile soil at your disposal, setting up an indoor greenhouse to start your seeds early can will enable you to get the most of the growing season.  Certain summertime favorites - like vine-ripe mouth-watering tomatoes - require a long warm period into to fruit and yield a strong crop.  And even though last year I thought the prolonged heat-wave would never stop, typically summers in many parts of the country aren't long enough to allow the plants to complete their growing cycle in toto.

Enter the indoor greenhouse.

Not only is it incredibly fun to nurture your plants from the very beginning and to watch them grow into full fledged fruit-bearing adults, it's also giving these plants the time to germinate and grow well before the last frost.  And did I mention it's way more cost effective to purchase a packet of seeds than it is to buy seedlings later on, and, apart from locating a certified organic nursery (again with the $$), the only way to be assured what they haven't been exposed to?  

Seedlings need four things:  soil, water, warmth and light.

Three of those things - soil, water and warmth - are either easily available indoors (warmth) or obvious to even the greenest gardener, so it is the last upon which the successful growth of your seedlings indoors hinges.

Daylight bulbs mimic the color spectrum of light produced by the sun, and thus can be used to germinate and grow your young plants indoors until the weather warms enough for them to be hardened off and moved outside in containers.  Though most daylight bulbs are clearly labeled as such (we found ours at hardware stores and even some grocery stores), you can also double-check the kelvin value located somewhere in small print on the box: 5,600K or 6,400K is ideal.  These lights are "cool" in color, and easily found in energy saving forms.  In fact our new daylight bulbs are probably going to reduce our weekly energy consumption just because they're more energy efficient than our regular ones.

Grow lamps can be used to provide heat, as many seeds need temperatures in the 60s - 70s to germinate, but if you're like me, your home is already in that range, so it shouldn't be an issue provided you keep your plants away from drafty areas and cold windows.

As you can see, our set-up isn't the most photogenic, but it works.  Using an assortment of thrift-store lamp finds and compact fluorescent bulbs we've been growing tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and a variety of other heirlooms in our small apartment bathroom since January. 

You want to ensure that your lights are positioned 2-3" above the spouts like you see here.  Plants will grow long and leggy trying to reach a strong light source, investing their energy into stems which will either topple over or die, rather than into new leaves.  This is probably the most common problem growing plants indoors, but can be prevented by strategic placement of your lights.

So, what does your set-up look like?  Let me know in the comments below..

1 comment:

  1. Wow! That's impressive! I have a black thumb so if I tried the same set-up it would be a terrible massacre, but love yours!