Start plants from seeds in Spring/growth light etc, info please.

I have tried to start plants from seeds in the past, but always failed. I would like to have a setup in my basement for starting plants. I really don't know how to go about it. What kind of lights do I need and where can I buy them? What about a fluorescent shop light that hangs over a shelf where the starter containers sit? Is there such a thing as growth florescent light tubes for starting plants? I would also like to know when to start plants from seed such as tomatoes, cabbage and broccoli etc... I can't find any books on this for a beginner to use. Also, what about using basement window wells for cold frames? Thank you all very much for your opinions.
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When last we left our heros, on Sun, 26 Oct 2003 23:28:00 GMT,

First, the seeds need to be warm. How warm is your basement? And yes, they do need light, I use fluorescent shop lights with some aluminum foil hanging from the edges to reflect more light back on the seedlings. A little tip: gently shake your seedlings once or twice a day, or else put a fan on them. It makes the seedling release a plant hormone, and I can't remember which one right now, but the hormone makes the plant grow thicker and sturdier.
When to start depends on your location. Most books recommend that you start seeds 6 weeks before your last frost date.

We don't have basements here in SC, the water table is too high. You'll have to ask someone else about that.
Pam
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Joe, I think the most common way to fail is to provide too little light. Shop lights are fine. Use at least 2 of them. I use some old 4 tube fixtures to give me 8 tubes total for a grow area of about 4 feet x 2 feet. You can use ordinary cool white fluorescent tubes and there is no reason to use anything fancier than that on plants that will be going out into the sun in a matter of weeks. One thing that many people don't realize at first is that the plants must be very close to the tubes to get the best light. An inch or 2 is not too close. You will need a system to raise the lights as your plants grow or start with the seedlings raised up on something and lower them as they grow. You will need a warm place to get the seeds going. Temperatures in the 80s to low 90s will get many seed growing in 3 days. Watch them carefully and move them to the lights as soon as they sprout. Figure out your normal last frost date and work back from there. Most plants need about 6 weeks from seed. Tomatoes and peppers can go 8. Cabbage and broccoli can take a little frost and can be planted out before the heat lovers. By the time the plants start getting too big for the lights, it is warm enough to move them outside during the day. Go from mostly shade to full sun over a period of at least a week to get them used to full sun. Leave them out on the warmer nights. I think basement window wells might work great for cold frames. I don't have that kind of basement windows so I can't try it. Don't seal them up too tight if there is full sun. I imagine it could get too hot. You could maybe open the window to let the basement air keep away the temperature extremes.
Steve in the Adirondacks
Joe wrote:

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wrote:

I want to add that - as soon as the seeds have sprouted - they no longer need the temperatures to be that warm. In fact, it would be better to use normal room temperatures (or even somewhat cooler) after the seeds have sprouted.
Some people use heating mats under the seeds for warmth (prior to sprouting) some use 'mini-electric greenhouses' (I have two of these), some people put the seeds on top of their water heaters or on top of their fridge. Pat
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Absolutely, Pat. That is very important.
Steve
snipped-for-privacy@meadows.pair.com wrote:

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wrote:

I have used shop lights with ordinary (cheap) fluorescent bulbs with great success for many years. You want to use bulbs that say they are '40 watt'.
There are special 'plant lights' - the bulbs are extremely costly so I've never tried them.
Our present setup is like this: we have two sets of shelves. Three shelves in each set. From the top two shelves, shoplights are hanging on chains. This way I can adjust the height - you need to keep the bulbs very close to the growing plants.
There's a very good, helpful book about starting seeds. Here's the info on it (from Amazon). You could probably either get it at your public library or request them to get it for you on Inter-library loan (or buy a used copy cheaply).
---------------------- The New Seed Starter's Handbook by Nancy Bubel
Paperback: 385 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.14 x 9.11 x 6.47 Publisher: Rodale Press; (April 1988) ISBN: 0878577521 ----------------------------
Lots of more general gardening books have sections on starting seeds too.
Pat
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In our last fun filled episode, Mon, 27 Oct 2003 07:45:31 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@meadows.pair.com proclaimed:

I did. I put plant lights bulbs in one set of my shop lights. I didn't notice any difference in the seedlings, so I didn't bother to get anymore.
Pam
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wrote:

That's good to know. Thanks, Pam.
Pat
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Hi Joe: My name is Jim, I live in southern Mn. I start about 250 tomato plants from seed each spring. I like to use Jiffy7 peat pots in their plastic tray and a clear plastic lid. Start them in a warm dark place. After the plants come up move them to a place with lots of light. After the plants get their "true" leaves, transplant them to a larger container "peat pot and all". I use plastic cups about 10oz size, and use Miracle Gro garden soil. Next put the plants in full sun and let them have a breeze. The breese causes the stems to thicken and become strong. About the middle of May the plants will be big enough to set out into garden, I wait until the end of May because of the cool nights in this climate.
Jim

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<< About the middle of May the plants will be big enough to set out into garden, I wait until the end of May because of the cool nights in this climate.
Jim >>
hi, jim
just curious. when i was living in chicago i often ordered seeds from veseys, which specializes in short-season gardening (they're in canada). do you have good luck with "ordinary" seeds or do you also use short-season seeds?
pat
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