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December 2007
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Tips: Grow some plugs indoors

QUESTIONS: I want to grow my own plugs indoors. I had a greenhouse a while back but don’t have it any longer and I’d like to grow some plugs indoors.

Ans 1:
For many years now, I started nearly all my garden plants indoors. I used a 2’x4′ metal shelf system with wooden (wood chip boards) shelves. The shelves posts are steel as are the side struts to support each shelf. I drilled 2 half inch diameter holes into the side metal supports (the 2 foot wide ones), to hold some small chains. I bought 4 foot long twin bulb shop lights, and attached chains to their tops and the chains are placed hrough the half inch holes, and held in place my
a piece of stiff wire. In this way, I cam move the lights away and closer to the plants. I use approx 11 x’19 inch plastic trays with 2 inch square pots. The trays hold about 32 pots each, and 4 trays can be on each shelf. I also use heat mats under each tray, for just to get seeds to germinate, then turn the heat mats off once I see green shoots. The trays also have clear plastic domed lids to help keep
moisture in for the first few weeks. Once the seedlings emerge and reach the clear lids, the lids get removed and the flourecent lamps are fairly close at all times. Once the plants grow the lights are moved up, by pulling on the two side chains, and reattaching the stiff wires through a link in the chains. The shelf system comes with a total of 6 shelves, but because I have 8 foot ceilings and the top most shelf would be too short to waste, I bolted all the two piece side pieces a little closer together (they are 4 foot lengths, and butted to each other originally). Because the top most shelf has no lamps, I added a wooden frame that holds just one fixture there. Its at the top, where its a bit warmer, so it doesn’t need much more. I
have all the lights on a timer, and they are on a 6am, to about 11 pm. Once the plants are growing beyond he height limits of the shelves, they get moved to another location where they grow under 500 watt mercury vapor lights. At about the time they reach the max heights on the shelves, they are watered every day. I use a high quality seed starting soil from Garden Alive, called Natural Beginings. Also use
some mild seed starting fertilizers. I grow peppers, herbs, tomatoes, brocolli, flowers, asparagus, and many other things this way. I do NOT use any peat pots as they do not work well for me. I do have a 6×8 foot greenhouse, where in mid May everything gets moved to ‘harden off’ the plants. Most get planted the end of May. My success rate from seed to outdoor plants is about 97% so far, the few lost are usually failed germinations, broken stems, or stunted seedlings. If I were to
buy one of these lighted shelf systems, it would have cost me about $900. I figure my efforts cost me only about $250. I do use plant grow lights in each fixture too. Home Depot sells the for about $3-4 each, fixtures run about $10 to $20 each.

Ans 2:
What kind of Heat do you have up there? If it is steam or a hot water radiator type then your half way home. But if not there are always grow mats. the soil temp for needs needs to hover in the upper 60s and use one of those seed starting mixes. It is really fine in texture and makes it easy on the seeds for germination and it is easy on you cause this stuff is so fine you can use a tablespoon in it. I use a big baking sheet I picked up at a thrift store and put the grow mat in that. The grow mats are water proof so I put my growing trays on the mat and the baking sheets sides are just tall enough to form a reservoir in if I get a little zealous with the watering. A south window is perfect if you don’t have one, hey that’s why they invented grow lights. Now grow light manufactures can charge an arm and a leg for a complete set up. So go to Home Depot and go to the lighting section and get one of those 48 inch shop florescent light fixtures that run for about 10 or 12 dollars. Then go buy some 48″ grow light replacement bulbs and you will have saved your self upwards oh about $40. One more thing get a timer that plugs into the wall then plug the grow light into that. Now if you have the southern exposure, then set the timer to come on when it starts to go dark and set it to run the lights for about 4 and 1/2 hours. So if it comes on at 5 pm it would shut off at about 9:30 pm. Now if you don’t have the southern exposure then set the timer for 5 am to 5pm. Position the lights so they are about 18 inches above the plants and to focus more of the light I tape a 10 inch strip of aluminum foil on the outside edge of the florescent fixture.

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