Seed starting - whats your tried and true method? (Share your results!)


I’ve done that too, but I like it better in the summer when the soil is already warm. Also, laying down mulch and only leaving a strip of bare soil can help.


I have a question regarding the height of fluorescent T8 shop lights above seedlings.

For flowers and vegetables (not including peppers and tomatoes), is it still best to keep them at a 2”- 4” height above the plants the whole time you grow them inside? Wondering if as they get bigger, I can pull the height up some so as to make room for more containers, or more room for when I transplant them into larger containers. Or will growth slow down substantially as the distance between plant and light increases? Thanks!


I am full of questions today…

What do you do when tomato roots start growing out of the containers?


The ideal height depends on the light and the plant. I had been keeping mine at about 4-5" above, but I noticed the tomatoes directly underneath were getting slightly scorched, so I backed off a few inches. I have T5’s with a pretty directed reflector. Mess around and see how your plants respond. One thing to remember is that the light drops off exponentially with increasing distance. This is simply because the light can cover a wider area. As a crude approximation, if you double the distance from a light to a flat surface, you quadruple the area it covers with the same number of photons, thereby reducing the light at any given point to 1/4 of the brightness at the lower height.

As for your tomato root, I would just prune that sucker off! Or, you could carefully peel away the pot and put the whole thing in a larger pot. Others my have different opinions (and good reasons for them), but that’s what I would do.


Slowly bringing my grafted tomatoes out of their sheltered world and into the real world of bright lights and less than 100%humidity. These were grafted 9 days ago and should be in “normal” conditions in a day or 2.


Got a few more tomato sprouts, three more popped up today, which makes for 20 out of 36 cells with at least one sprout. Still no Better Boy, Mortgage Lifter or Russian Queen, but the latter two were kinda old seeds, about 4 years old. All these seeds were planted two weeks ago.

Got a couple more peppers coming up, that makes for three so far.


Thanks for the tips J. I want to squeeze another flat in, but I would have to raise the lights up a ways to do that, and I think that might not be enough light for the plants, particularly on the ends of the flats. I am thinking they won’t flourish at only 1/4 of the brightness, but I will probably try it and see how it goes. I should up-pot some flowers and peppers, but won’t have room for them if I do I am afraid! I didn’t calculate the space I would need once I transplant up. oops!
So I am going to keep my maters in the styrofoam cups they are in. This is the way the nursery where I buy extra plants from every year does it! It seems to work really well for them so this is the first year trying it here at home. thanks!!


well i tried growing my peppers in those small cell flats . well its near impossible to maintain moisture so i lost all my peppers. replanted in bigger pots so now i have 7 pepper and 3 tomato varieties all cased with 1/4in. of worm castings on the heat mat. its do or die at this point.


there never seems to be enough room under the lights.


I will have to get my peppers transplanted soon too. So now I have a better idea how much space I need after transplanting, I guess I know what I need to do for next year… have my husband build me more shelves to hold more plants!!! :joy: And buy even more lights! Can’t wait to tell him! :face_with_hand_over_mouth:


I just put my first cucumber seedling ‘out’ in the real world. I didn’t harden it off . . . or any other coddling. I just stuck it out there in a raised pot I created last year. I have a few more - and probably won’t have room for them all in our small garden . . . so I’m willing to sacrifice one pot just to see how they do.
When I peeled off the bottom of the 4"peat pot . . . the roots were thick and circling! I cannot believe how quickly these seeds germinated and grew. Must be the magic of the light! I’ve never seen anything like it!

I have a little improvised cold frame topper (from an arugula plastic container!), in case it’s too chilly. It’s supposed to be in the mid-40s, possibly, during the next night or two.

My tomatoes are in those tiny, expandable peat pots - and they are growing much more slowly. I’ll be going back to the 4" Jiffy Pots next year.


Let them grow, let them grow, likely when the plants dry out a bit the roots will die back, wont hurt the plant tho…


My tomatoes have finally got going, out of 36 pods, 28 have at least one sprout, some are getting big enough (3in high) that they need to be repotted in cups. Still too cold to plant out, plus the ground hasn’t been turned yet.

Peppers are still slow, only have 2 out of 24 pods sprouting.


I put the plants that no longer fit under the lights into clear large tubs, which I set outside when possible, and bring in at night. If the sun is shining, it will be about 15 degrees hotter inside the tub. Things won’t grow as fast as under the lights, and on cold, rainy days it can get a little trying while waiting for the sun again. On warm days, only cover partially. On days 70 or higher, don’t put the covers on at all. But it works, if not perfectly.


well, I already trimmed the roots off! But either way I suppose it will be fine. I thought it was kind of odd that there was only one out of 90 tomatoes doing this. I haven’t seen the roots growing out of any other containers yet. This is an aggressive little yellow pear, I guess.

@northwoodswis4, I will have to try putting some plants in plastic tubs and getting them outside. I thought they were a bit young and small to be starting the hardening off process, but if I need the space, that is a good solution. Our temps are finally getting into the upper 60s and into 70s but it has been so sporadic. Lots of cloudy days and not a lot of sunshine so far this spring. I just can’t forget them outside in their tubs! Our lows are still in the 30s and 40s for awhile.


The clear cover of the tub makes it act like a hothouse. I keep a thermometer in one of the tubs so I can be sure they aren’t overheating.


I don’t have clear lids for my tubs, they are opaque. But I bet I could put a layer of plastic sheeting over the top, taping the edges down. The thermometer is a great idea.


Following up with a 2 wk update to the post above. Just moved the tomatoes out to start hardening them off and free up some space under the grow lights. Peppers and cucubrits are already flowering and will go out in two weeks unless they get too big. Will remove 50% of the foliage on the cucubrits at transplanting.


I don’t know what I’m doing . . . but it works, apparently. I leave space for the air and heat to be ‘exchanged’, when I create a little greenhouse cover. I never cover the plants completely. They have not overheated or gotten too cold. So far - so good.

I’m waiting for my tomatoes to have enough leaves and branches to ‘bury’. They are coming along - but not quite ready yet. Maybe another week? Next year I will start them a week or two earlier.

My vegetable garden space has a low stone wall surrounding it. I think this protects young plants a bit, when I first put them out. Maybe even creates a microclimate. Certainly it protects from wind. I put in an Early Girl and a Sweet Million, in hopes to have something a little sooner - and they look great. But, they have some growth on them - and Home Depot did the hardening off for me!

If it’s warm enough - I do what @northwoodswis4 does . . . take them outside for a daily ‘visit’ to the sunshine - and back indoors at night.

I collect rainwater all the time - (buckets and garbage cans everywhere - catching rain off of awnings and roofs!). I only water the seedlings with the rainwater. Maybe that has helped them. I have raw well water for irrigation, but there is nothing like rainwater!

@dimitri_7a what is the purpose of removing the leaves on the cucurbits? I have never heard of that.


In past years I’ve had plants struggle with traspiration, start wilting. I’m more concerned about having a strong root system going into the ground - knowing how slowly cucubrit roots grow in cold soil. Then the plant can grow back the correct amount of leaves that it can handle.

At least thats my theory. Well see how it works this year.