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Starting Seedlings

I have been gardening for the last few years, and last year I tried to start my own seedlings to cut down on cost. I tired some a few of the mini greenhouse kits, and did not have much sucess with them. THey either cooked, or were very stunted. I have an old fish tank that I was thinking about using to start my own seeds, but I have a few questions;

1) How long do I need to put the seeds in the mini greenhouse before I am able to transplant into the garden? I am In Zone 8

2) I have a lot of left over seeds from last year, how long do they stay good for? I have had them in a Zip lock baggie.

3) Does anyone have a good site that will give me plans to convert my old fishtank to a mini greenhouse

Any help on this would be appreciated, Thank you!! :?:

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Green Thumb
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Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2009 11:29 pm
Location: Nagoya: Japan

The trouble with using a fish tank is you won't get any air flow and will end up with a bunch of weak seedlings (unless of course you put a fan on them) and what are you going to do for drainage? I guess the obvious thing to do (which you're probably meaning to do) is set seedling pots placed on dishes inside the tank rather than using the tank itself per say.

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Super Green Thumb
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Location: TN/GA 7b

Your seeds from last year should be fine. I have used seeds as much as 5 years old. By then the germination rate is a lot reduced, but the seedlings that do start do just as well.

Agree with SP8, your problems will be air circulation and drainage. The whole mini greenhouse idea, though advertised a lot, is kind of wrong headed. The extra humidity is only good for sprouting the seeds (and if you keep your soil mix damp, it's not necessary even then). Once you have little seedling plants, the main killer of them is too much humidity and not enough air circulation (leads to a fungal condition called damping off which kills them).

Forget the fishtank and just start your seeds in trays! :)

Super Green Thumb
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Location: ohio

Starting plants from seed not only is cheaper, but also gives you more variety to choose from; this is especially true if you buy online.

I wish I could say, after all that I have read and asked on the subject, that I am an expert on starting seeds. However, I've only begun growing from seed last season. That, too, was not as good a start as I would have hoped for. Although I did get a lot of tomato plants out of the deal, many more died and the peppers did poorly.

Since then, I have learned much on the subject. I'm still reluctant to give advice because I've yet to try it myself and see the results. So, I will give you some resources instead (much of what I know, I learned from these materials).

1. [url=https://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/2005-12-01/Seed-Starting-Basics.aspx]General Seed Starting[/url]

2. [url=https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=G6570]More General Information[/url]

3. [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=20844]Starting Tomatoes from Seed[/url] (The title of the thread is a little misleading, but read on.)

4. [url=https://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/allium/msg0310064812977.html]Exellent Journal of Someone Growing Onions from Seed[/url]

I hope this helps you out. As far as when to start them is concerned, try calling a local green house or garden center, or maybe someone in your area will post in this thread.

One thing I can tell you is if you don't want to use a fan on your seedlings, you can brush the tops of them lightly with your hand every day or two.

Don't give up, keep trying and learning and you'll get the hang of it. Welcome to the world of seed starting, and to the Helpful Gardener Gardening Forum:)!

Cool Member
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Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2009 11:59 am
Location: Murfreesboro, TN - USDA Zone 6b

Seed Starting on the Cheap

On the cheap...or as I prefer...just being very resourceful. This is the method I use and it works great.

I buy the cheap pack of 8 oz. plastic cups from your local Wally World. Don't buy the sturdy ones but the ones that are pretty flimsy. I use a single hole punch on the bottom edge to knock 3-4 drain holes in them.

I then fill them up with regular old Miracle Gro Potting Mix. Nothing special here. You don't need the seed starting formula.

Next I have some old cookie sheets that I think were acquired at the dollar store or a yard sale years ago. Cover them with aluminum foil. Get you a large enough box that will cover the cookie sheets, cut a hole in the top for your light and line the inside of it with foil as well.

I set my cup starters on the cookie sheets, put a heating blanket or warming pad under the cookie sheets, cover with box and set a 4 foot shop light with regular old flourescent bulbs over it. The foil reflects all the light around and the heating pad keeps the cookie sheets warm.

I water the seedlings by pouring water into the cookie sheets and use a cheap spray bottle to give them a few squirts of water on top each day. Now as far as air flow...take the light and box off every day or every other day to air them out. Regular circulation of air in your house from your central heat/ac unit is enough.

Be sure to spend 2-3 weeks hardening off your plants before sending them out into the garden for good.

I use this method, its cheap, easy and I have great success. I've already started my tomatoes for this season and I have a 100% germination. All tomato plants are sprouted.

Oh, and I didn't plant 2-3 seeds in each cup and 'thin'. I plant one seed per cup. 1 Seed = 1 Plant. 'Thinning' is wasteful. If you're not confident that you will get 100% germination, then plant a few extra cups. If you get too many you can always give some to a friend or put them in the compost pile.

Hope this helps...Venom in Tennessee

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Ozark Lady
Greener Thumb
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Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 5:28 pm
Location: NW Arkansas, USA zone 7A elevation 1561 feet

I would echo the 1 seed per cup in the previous post.
I accidentally did an experiment last year.
A friend mailed me some plants. About half were single plants, and the others were doubles and triples.
I planted the singles immediately. But, I had to separate the doubles, and per plant they were smaller, and the triples were even smaller.
I thought they would catch up... they never did.
The single plants hit 8' tall, and did great, they all looked healthy, but the doubles and triples topped out at about 4' tall. The singles bloomed about 2 weeks sooner, and had more side blooms.
If you accidentally get more than one, either remove it immediately, or use scissors to snip off all but one.
The competition for lights and nutrition that happens when tiny, is something they never totally recover from...
Oh they still grow, but there is no comparison to the single seed per cup!

I did not have enough airflow for my seedlings, I had issues, that were only corrected by adding a fan, and in my case it was a cool air humidifier, that saved my seedlings, and had enough airflow to keep them healthy. I do not have central heat and air, so I had to go a different route.

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Joined: Mon Dec 21, 2009 3:49 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Thanks for your tips Venomous_1. I gather you are starting your seeds inside and possibly in a cold climate? I'm in Sydney, Australia and it's summer here. So temperatures of between 25 - 30 degrees celsius (77 - 86 farhrenfeit - can get higher on bad days to high 30s, very occasionally early 40s ). I am thinking of partially copying your suggestion (cups, potting mix and cookie sheet) and starting on semi-sheltered verandah that gets some afternoon sun. I'm thinking I probably won't need the box, foil and light source. Any comments? (I'm also pleased to see you are not fan of thinning. I don't like the idea particularly as I am concerned to damage the seedlings.)

Garden5 quite a bit of reading in your links. I look forward to having a good read.

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Super Green Thumb
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Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Purplerose -- Some afternoon sun doesn't sound like a good exposure for starting seeds. Not enough hours of light and then they get blasted for awhile with hot summer afternoon sun.

And that's a huge temperature range you mentioned in there. 77 degrees F is spring like and a nice temp for seedlings. 40 degrees C = 104 degrees F at which point they are COOKING.

If you really want to start from seeds in those conditions, you would likely be better off starting indoors with lights as well.

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