Seed Propagation Under Lights
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Andrea Burron
Posted on: March 7, 2000

I am looking at starting seeds in my basement and am wondering what you would suggest in terms of grow lights. I would also like to know when to begin using light and for how many hours in a day. I have purchased a flourescent light fixture however am unsure of what bulbs I should use. Living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, when would you suggest I begin to plant the seeds.

If you are able to supplement the artificial light with natural light from a window, then you can probably make do with the cheapest flourescent tubes available in your area. An additional problem has been introduced with the new energy saving strip flourescent tubes. They are designed for the new 32 watt tubes that are sold instead of the older 40 watt tubes. Of course this means this combination delivers less light. You won’t be able to tell the difference, but the plants sure will. You will have to either supply more tubes to get adequate lighting for sturdy growth and high oil content, or leave the lights on more hours per day. Also, if you put one of the new 32 watt tubes into an old 40 watt fixture, it will seem to work OK, but you will find that the tubes burn out much more quickly.

Since every seed needs a different time to reach maturity, icannot be specific about when you should start what seeds tyo have them ready to plant outside when danger of frost is over and still get an adequate harvest before frost kills the plants in the fall. The outdoor growing period varies wildly with latitude and nearby topological features such as mountains or large bodies of water. You therefore have to sart slow growing plants earlier indoors than fast growing ones. The nice thing about herbs is that most of them will give you at least some harvest, even if the growing season was too short to allow them to mature. If you plan to keep the plants indoors year round, then start them whenever you wish, just keep in mind that some herbs need to be stratified before they will germinate and that can use up 3 months to almost 2 years. The seed packets will tell you if stratification is needed.

In general 12 to 14 hours of light per day will give good results. You will need to get at least a 2 bulb fixture to get enough light intensity. Get a timer to cut down on errors in timing! The plants will love the lack of dull rainy days.

Also in general, many herbs should be started 2 months before they can be planted out of doors.

Check our web-site under Q&A for more on this topic.

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