Stacking Functions Garden

Seed starting – light issues


I have the Jump Start seed starting system. It works great for the most part, but the product photo is a *little* bit misleading:

See all those super happy plants? It’s safe to assume they did not actually grow under that light.  The light fixture on the Jump Start is simply not wide enough for a full flat of plants. This was the mistake I made earlier this year:

The seedlings at the outer edges of the flat really had to reach to get their fair share.  I rotated them as much as possible to make sure every plant got their fair share, but they still ended up quite elongated and weak.  Fortunately I was able to plant them out before they reached the point of no return, and they seem happy in the new hoop house. (And who wouldn’t be, when it’s 70 in March?)

I won’t make this mistake again.  For my next batch of seeds, I’m doing a single row, like so:

These should be just fine with the amount of light they’re getting.  And next year I want to look into replacing the fixture on here with one that is wide enough to accommodate 2 bulbs, which should provide enough light for an entire flat of seedlings.  Because who can start a measly 1/2 flat?  (It was hard, let me tell you.)

New to seed starting? This U of M Extension guide is very thorough.

7 thoughts on “Seed starting – light issues

  1. I’m curious to know what kind of electricity you are using to power this seed starting system. If you are using electricity from a coal-fired plant then you are responsible for emitting around 2.6lb of carbon dioxide per day with this device, not to mention the mercury and other pollutants coming from the power station. To be fair, I tried to find out from your blog what sort of power you use, but the “sustainability” category link on your blog seems to be broken and I couldn’t think where else you might have provided that information.

    Please tell me that you aren’t causing this degree of pollution per day (over how many days) to produce this small number of seedlings.

    • Well, I could quibble with you about the fact that Minnesota gets its electricity from a variety of sources, but I’m sure coal and nuclear are near the top of the list. I never said I was perfect, did I? I hope I didn’t give that impression.

      These seedlings that I’m starting are leeks. I want to eat leeks, so with my short growing season I have three options: 1) buy leeks shipped to my house from California or, best case scenario, driven to my local farmer’s market in a truck from a farm somewhere in Minnesota; 2) buy starter leeks from a nursery, which were started under artificial light and then driven to my local nursery, and then driven to my house; 3) start my own inside and move them outside as soon as humanly possible — probably in just a week or two.

      You’re kinda screwed no matter what you do, yes? I would LOVE to live off the grid, but that requires a lot of up-front investment for which I lack the capital. If you’d like to write me a check for $20K to install solar panels on my house you are more than welcome to do so! I really wish our government would subsidize solar energy to the level that they subsidize fossil fuels. A girl can dream, right?

  2. Wow. i’m a bit stunned by Gordon’s remark. How about we focus on the fact that by not buying leeks from a supermarket you are not using gas to get there nor supporting a food system that ships it’s food from hundreds, if not thousands of miles away! A few watts of electricity, regardless of it’s source, is by far the better end of the deal.

    I was happily reading this blog for the first time and that comment made me angry. I myself am taking major steps toward self-sufficiency and that is was they are, steps. So give a girl a break and applaude the fact that one more person in the world is making a change for the better. How about getting angry at those who AREN’T, not wasting energy (pun not intended) on those who are. Humph. Rant over 🙂

    So you go girl.

    • Thanks Charity! Usually my commenters are very supportive, like you, so I didn’t let the remark bother me too much. 🙂

  3. Have you tried aluminum foil extenders / wings on your light source? It helps to reflect the light and widens the area to which the light reaches. I clothes-pinned foil “curtains” to my lights in hopes of reducing the legginess of my seedlings & it seemed to help. I was also able to squeeze in two more rows of plants that would’ve otherwise been outside my light radius. Just a thought.

  4. i would suggest using regular florescent lights from the hardware store that can accommodate 2 bulbs (and no need to buy the special plant/aquarium bulbs, i use the regular ones- cheaper!). i have 2 lights w/ 2 bulbs each and it provides enough light for 3 flats (the flats are oriented the other way from how you have them in your photos, if that makes sense). here’s my post from last year on my setup:

  5. Thanks, Julia and Nicki! I’m going to work on improving my setup. NEXT YEAR.

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