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Thread: help with starting seedling transplants

  1. #1

    Default help with starting seedling transplants

    I have two options. The first is growing them indoors and hardening them off outdoors. My other option is to grow them in a greenhouse outdoors in early spring. I would do it in early spring if starting in a greenhouse (March or April).

    However I live in northern MI, so I'm wondering if my climate is too cold for the greenhouse. My gardening zone is 4b/5a.

    I tried to do this last year, and it really didn't work out; I basically had no clue what I was doing.

    I'm confused about how above the plants the light should be placed; I was given two suggestions,
    1-1/2' above the plants and 2" above the plants.

    I'm going to assume the light placed farther above the plants is for older seedlings, and the light placed closer is for younger seedlings that have just germinated? I just ask cause I know if it's too far above, leggy seedlings; too close and will burn the seedlings.

    Also how powerful should the light be with watts per bulb, and how many for one grow light? Should I use a grow light that has two lights, or just one? I ask this because most grow lights have two 40 watt bulbs.

    The previous grow light I've used had only one bulb, and was only 24 watts; is this not bright enough?

    I realize it depends on how many seedlings you're growing; for me it would be 1-2 regular flats.

  2. #2
    Registered Users
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Midwest, Zone 4b


    Northern MI eh? I grew up in down town Traverse City, about a 10 minute walk from the open space. I'm now in northern illinois also 4b.

    Anyway there a ton of caveats on starting seeds indoors or out.

    Last year I started my pepper and tomato seeds inside of a cooler with a 14W compact florescent (CFL) in there. The white sides reflected light well and the 14W didn't over heat the seedlings.

    Squash, melons, and beans don't like transplant shock but I start them inside anyway. You can make little grow pots from rolled up newspaper and plant the whole thing at once.

    You're still about 3 months from starting seeds now. More often than not TC gets snow on mother's day.

  3. #3


    Well the stuff I'd like to plant via transplants in March would be cold hardy stuff that likes to grow in cold weather.

    The stuff I had in mind for March (and this is only if the weather is mild enough) would be cole crops (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc.).

    I'd also like to do Pak Choi and lettuce, because I've grown them in early spring before (April) and they did beautifully.

    Regarding the greenhouse and starting seedling transplants in it in March, would it be possible with the area I'm at or would it just be too cold and realistically, not an option?

    For the greenhouse, if it's possible, it would be cold weather stuff. Maybe warm weather stuff (tomatoes, eggplants, melons, squash, peppers) but I don't even know if that's an option.

    If I were to use the grow light, how many bulbs, should it have and what should the wattage be?

    Most gardening catalogs I see have grow lights that have two 40 watt bulbs; is this strong enough/bright enough?

    Also how far above the plants should the light be placed? I heard somebody say it should be a 1 to 1-1/2' above, but I'm assuming this is for more established older plants?

    Another person suggested 2"-3" above the plants; would this be for seedlings that have just germinated and are younger?
    Last edited by Hanako; 01-21-2012 at 10:33 PM.

  4. #4
    Registered Users
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Midwest, Zone 4b


    I start my seeds indoors in a "hot box" or a cooler with a 14 W compact florescent. When I outgrow that I use a table with a dual tube 4' florescent hanging over it on chains. That way I can keep it a few inches above the growing seedlings. Unless you're trying to do commercial indoor growing you don't need special lights, any florescent will do. Spacing from the bulb depends on the type of bulb. If you're using a florescent the plants can touch the bulb with no problem. If your using a hot bulb you need more distance, incandescent halogen, or any of the high pressure exotics.

    Without air movement you will have problems with the seedlings getting leggy even with ample light. Two methods combat this 1 a small oscillating fan to blow them around 2 brush your hand over them a few times a day.

    You'll have to use your best judgement on the greenhouse. Many factors play into it:
    How large is it?
    Is it heated?
    Is there thermal ballast?

  5. #5


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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Utah, USA

    Default Starting seeds

    I live in the same zone and I start my plant inside. I usually start 8 weeks ahead. I have placed the seeds in a sunny window and using a shop light. You can use a shop light with one cool bulb and one warm bulb. This will give you a fuller light spectrum.

    Once the plants are up place them six inches below the lights. Keep raising the lights as your plants grow. This has worked great. I have even put plants I have bought under the lights until I planted them in the garden. check out this page about indoor grow lights.


    Good Luck!

  7. #7


    I second the mentioning of the shop lights. I use a pair of shop lights with normal bulbs (like what you can pick up from walmart for 10 or 15 dollars. These allow me to grow tons of starts using soil blocks (which just make for easier transplanting).

    Feel free to check it out:

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