Sonya
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Starting seeds with little/no electricity

I'm getting ready to start my first seeds, and being a newbie, I'm only going to try tomatoes this time around. I have a wonderful potting shed with large south-facing windows and a skylight, but no electricity. Is there any way I can rig that space up? I've been trying to find some kind of portable power device (https://tinyurl.com/nswbn8f) which could power a heat mat or a string of incandescent Christmas lights (for warmth, not light). Will that be sufficient, or do I also need an electric light? And since the shed is cold and a little drafty, will a heating mat provide enough warmth?

Another option is to set them up in front of a south-facing window in our uninsulated attic. I have power up there, so I could plug in a heat mat or Christmas lights for warmth...and they'd get a little warmth rising from the house. The same question applies -- can a south-facing window provide adequate light?

I'm trying to minimize my equipment costs and power usage. Any advice you can offer is appreciated!

Oh -- and I don't think I can do any of this inside the house because we have two plant-loving cats. :twisted:

Thanks!

valley
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Re: Starting seeds with little/no electricity

Greetings, You can ether eat the cats or keep one south facing room as a kitty restricted area.

Richard

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applestar
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Re: Starting seeds with little/no electricity

For tomatoes, I would opt for the attic with electrical source for heat mat (or other bottom heat) and supplemental light.

You could also get them to germinate in the heated part of the house because that's when they really need to be 75-85°F, then after they have sprouted, move them to the attic light set up. Young tomato seedlings grow well in 50-60°F temp and can handle dips down to 40's.

You do need to check on them twice a day especially at first -- once they are growing well once a day can suffice, but don't skip. :wink:
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Bobberman
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Re: Starting seeds with little/no electricity

Ya Applestar is right start the seeds even in the basement at at least 70 degrees then as soon as they emerge put them in the south window buy not to let them freeze! if they are in a temp below 40 too long they may damp off so don't make them too wet. The window should be enough light. Set them on a table with insulation under them so the sun will warm the box some and help hold the heat longer!
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Sonya
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Re: Starting seeds with little/no electricity

Thank you! Germinating in the house is a brilliant idea. Glad to hear the window light should be sufficient...I'm not ready to gear up with lights on chains etc.

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applestar
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Re: Starting seeds with little/no electricity

I still think using supplemental lights (turned on for 16 hrs) is better than no lights, but if only using sunny window, you need to maximize the available light. Make a foil lined screen with cut up cardboard box -- three panels and an angled top flap braced/plopped up so it doesn't flop down and block the light. It would be set up on the interior side of the plants, facing the window -- surrounding the plants to reflect the window light back to them.

I would re-use/re-purpose the shiny or pearly white inside of Mylar chip bags (potato chips, tortilla chips). Line the surface the seedlings are on with the reflective material too. Using disposable aluminum lasagna pan, etc. for drip tray would also help.

The shield/screen will also insulate the plants from the rest of the open attic and reflect sun's heat back to them as well. You will need to lift away the screen to tend to them so plan/design accordingly.
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PaulF
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Re: Starting seeds with little/no electricity

I disagree that window light will be enough for tomato seedlings. The plants will grow OK, but will tend to get very leggy and probably not develop very well. They need at least 10 hours of light per day to be ready in 8-10 weeks from seeding. In a window you will have to turn the plants at least a couple of times per day to keep them from bending toward the sun. ( called phototropism)

I grow mine out in a basement and use cheap-o florescent shop lights and heat mats. If you can rig up a shop light with a timer to switch on for 16 hours per day and off for eight with bottom heat from the mat, you will be much happier from the results. Put the light within an inch of the plants. The cost of a two bulb shop light from a box store is under $20, one bright white and one cool white bulb is a couple bucks each and a simple timer is around $5. A heat mat mat may go for $25-$30. A pretty inexpensive one time set up. The cost of the increased power because of the lights and heat for a couple of months will not even be noticed.
Paul F

Sonya
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Re: Starting seeds with little/no electricity

Interesting; thanks! Where do you find heat mats for $25 - $30? I haven't seen them that inexpensive anywhere.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Starting seeds with little/no electricity

greenhouse megastore is my favorite place for getting all kinds of seed starting supplies:

https://www.greenhousemegastore.com/prod ... s-chambers

Their prices are very reasonable, service is very fast.
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Susan W
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Re: Starting seeds with little/no electricity

I hate to be the spoiler...but....Correct me if I am wrong, but looks to be your first veggie garden, and perhaps messing with the seed starting. This season work on the bed, and a few varieties of veggies you like. Just buy a few tomato starts later in the spring. You can get a couple of several varieties even at the box stores. This is far cheaper than power, lights, heat mats etc.

Then once it warms up, whenever that is.....play with some seed starting, even simple things like zinnias, marigolds and basil. Then mid summer play with a few fall producers (spinach, broccoli).

This will be easier on your mind and wallet.
Have fun!
Susan

RickRS
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Re: Starting seeds with little/no electricity

To each his own...

I find tomato seed are the easiest plant to start. But then I'm in NW Florida, and while temperatures outside are too cold for tomatoes in the winter, it's easy to keep the house at 70F. Never used heat mats, don't cover the seed trays with plastic or whatever, just plant, water, and tomatoes are up in 5 to 10 day every time.

valley
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Re: Starting seeds with little/no electricity

You're all right! This calls for a large brandy.

PaulF
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Re: Starting seeds with little/no electricity

Yes, buying the plants would be easier and cheaper and maybe a good idea for the first couple of years just to get used to gardening unless.......it sounds like fun to jump in with both feet at the very beginning. Starting with a few tomatoes is a very good idea. I agree they are the easiest of plants to start early indoors.

Just bought a couple more 10"X20" heat mats on e-bay for $18 each with free shipping. The megastore has them at $21 also but not sure of shipping cost. Amazon is at the $20-$25 range. Check the local big box stores if there are any in your area.
Paul F

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