I would like to start vegetables from seeds in my home. In the past I have tried this, but invariably the plants will grow too fast and become spindly. I have normally started the seed in potting soil next to a window. I now have plant lights and wondered if they might help. I’m particularly interested in tomatoes.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Ken: It is that time of year when we start dreaming about spring and what we can do indoors to get a jump start on the gardening season. This certainly includes starting our vegetable seeds indoors so that when our frost-free date arrives, usually May 10, our seedlings have rooted and are ready to be transplanted in the garden. Providing the right environment is hard to do indoors when the light levels are so low during this time of the year. It is best to place your seeds in a south-facing window or under lights if you do not have a good window. The lights should not be used before the seeds actually germinate, but once they do you can keep them under the lights for 14-16 hours each day. I would suspect this is the reason for your plants becoming spindly. Keep the lights 2-4 inches away from the seedlings and move them up as they continue to grow. Temperature and humidity are also important factors in terms of healthy seedlings. Indoor temperatures should be 65-75 degrees F. Heat mats are very useful if the space where you are keeping the seeds is drafty. A humidifier can also be beneficial. Use a good potting soil that is peat-based. The soil should be consistently moist. Be careful not to over-water since the seeds can rot if over-saturated. Half-strength fertilizer can be used every third week but be careful not to over-fertilize. It is always a good idea to acclimate them before planting them in the garden. Taking them outside and keeping them in a shady spot, then gradually moving them into the full sun, will help reduce transplant shock and potential burns. Always purchase your seed from a reliable source and make sure to follow packet instructions since each vegetable has different germination requirements.