Starting seeds indoors-help!

Last year I decided to start my own seeds indoors. I wasn't always finding the varieties of seedlings I wanted at the local nurseries and I thought I might save a few $$
I purchased 6 of the self contained little greenhouse operations, the ones that have a black water tray, a seed tray and a clear plastic dome. Three used the compressed peat pellets and three used square peat pots containing a starting mixture. I planted a variety of tomatoes, cukes, zuchini, peppers, eggplants and brussel sprouts. Each tray held 72 peat pellets or 50 peat pots. This was too many but I wanted to allow for loss from possible damping off.
The trays were placed on glass shelving in South-Southwest windows(almost full sun) on Feb 14. Room temperature 65-75 degrees. Everything germinated well in 10-14 days. I placed a fan in the room to keep the air circulating.
However, within days I had 5-6 inch, spindly, white seedlings with two small leaves at the top of each plant. They would lean towards the sunlight and when I would gently turn the trays, they would break or become entangled with the other spindly plants. I did end up losing almost half of them by planting time in May. It wasn't from the anticipated damping off. It was through breakage.
Any advice from the experienced seed starters? A friend suggested that I shouldn't start them in full sun, but this didn't sound logical to me and he couldn't remember why you shouldn't do it.
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Sounds like not enough light to me...
Might want to try an overhead grow light or three.
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Any advice from the experienced seed starters? A friend suggested that I

That seemed like the obvious to me, however, they were in S/SW windows that got direct, bright light probably an average of 6 hours a day. I grow cactus, succulents and other older houseplants in these windows from Sept to May. I've never had any problems with established plants.
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The fact that the seedlings were white and "leaning" into the light does not sound good.
Adult plants are a bit more tolerant, and have larger light gathering surface area.
Just mho. :-)
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On Sat, 24 Feb 2007 14:00:55 GMT, "Grave Yard Guy"

Yahbut, it's really neither bright, direct, or long enough. The glass filters some of the sunlight out, and this time of year the angle of the sun means the amount of light is actually less than in summer. Plus, six hours is a paltry minimum for growing most summer vegetables.
How much air from the fan is hitting the seedlings? Is it enough to move the leaves? There is a plant hormone - one of the auxins, I think- that causes thickening of the stems. My botany professor, lo those many years ago, used to give a lecture about shaking your tomato plants. He said we should shake our tomato seedlings at least once a day to produce stronger, shorter plants, that it simulated the effects of wind on plants. So, if your fan blows on your seedlings, it could help to counter the low light levels. Not on high, though, you just want to lightly ruffle the leaves, not send a gale to flatten them.
You'd still need to increase the light, though. You don't need anything fancy, just get a cheap shop light and some regular florescent tubes. No need to get the more expensive plant lights.
About the damping off, if you're using sterile seed starting soil and the peat pots, you really shouldn't see any. Are you over watering? I use the compressed peat pots for some of my seed starting, and they're a little tougher to manage the moisture content. You might want to avoid those until you get a little more experience at starting seeds. I'm thinking that if you had fewer starts, you wouldn't need but one or two shop lights.
Oh, and you do water from the bottom, right?
If you're still having problems with damping off, I would suggest buying a mild fungicide and lightly spraying the surface of the soil once the seedlings break though. I've also heard, although I can't verify it, that sprinkling a bit of baby powder or cinnamon on the surface of the soil will prevent damping off. Some people swear by making a tea of chamomile blossoms and spraying the soil with it to prevent damping off, too.
You might also want to put a thermomoter down with the seedlings to see how warm they really are. Being too cool will encourage damping off, too.
hth
Penelope
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On Sat, 24 Feb 2007 17:09:37 GMT, Penelope Periwinkle

For two years I have sprinkled cinnamon on my seedling flats when planting and have had no problems with damping off. Cinnamon is cheap and goes a long way.
I also try to do everything else right, so who knows?
At any rate, it smells kinda nice!
--
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Thanks, but I had no damping off. The seedlings just got very long and spindly while I had them in full sun. I was trying to find out if anyone knows of a reason they shouldn't be started in full sun?
Thanks again...
<Charlie> wrote in message wrote:

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On Sun, 25 Feb 2007 15:19:08 GMT, "Grave Yard Guy"

Yours germinated in full sun. Weeds germinate just fine in full sun or most any other condition. The main thing is to get as much light as possible to the plants as soon as they appear without burning them.
Is your friend a successful gardener?
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On Sun, 25 Feb 2007 15:19:08 GMT, "Grave Yard Guy"

Yes, but you planted so many of each variety because you were worried about damping off. If you didn't have to plant so many, it would be easier to get them all under proper lighting so the seedlings wouldn't be too long and spindly.
You do get that, right? Your plants are long and spindly because they're not getting enough light.
Penelope
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I don't learn fast, but I learn well!! Duh, it was logical to me that white, spindly plants were due to insufficient light. I just thought that the large S/SW windows were adequate and I allowed the ole friend to confuse me with his statement about not starting the seed in bright light.
I've now cut back on this year's planned seed startings. All the windows and glass shelving have been scrubbed and polished to crystal clarity, so as not to lose a drop of natural light. After tapping my retirement account and a trip to Lowe's, my windows now look like an airport runway.
Thanks to all for the advice, suggestions and patience.
Do I dare ask what the current thinking is on red plastic and tomatoes?
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On Tue, 27 Feb 2007 12:03:07 GMT, "Grave Yard Guy"

Good!
A little tin foil behind the plants can reflect a lot of light back, too.

Ask me in a few months. I'm going to give it a try this year. I googled on the subject and found these articles : <http://plasticulture.cas.psu.edu/RedMulch.htm <http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3741/is_n10_v45/ai_20095593 <http://www.public.iastate.edu/~taber/Extension/Progress%20Rpt%2000/redmulch.pdf <http://lubbock.tamu.edu/horticulture/documents/EffectsofPlasticMulchTypeonTomatoGrowthandYield_2004_.pdf <http://www.sciencenews.org/pages/pdfs/data/1997/152-24/15224-13.pdf
As you can see, the signals are mixed, so I'm just going to try it for myself. While red mulch is what I hear about the most, I was also interested to see that other colors are being tested, and some show better results than the red.
Penelope
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On Sun, 25 Feb 2007 15:19:08 GMT, "Grave Yard Guy"

I always start mine under full spectrum florescent lighting.
The lights are kept about two inches above the seedlings and I leave them on for 14 - 16 hrs per day.
Part of your problem could be the amount of *time* your seedlings are receiving light, as well as the other things noted by the other responders.
Temperature is also important.
G'luck Charlie
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On Sun, 25 Feb 2007 00:46:13 -0600, Charlie wrote:

Ha! Do you get the urge for a cinnamon biscuit while you're gardening?
Penelope
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On Sun, 25 Feb 2007 20:19:53 GMT, Penelope Periwinkle

Now that you mention it...........
Could also explain the urge for another cup of joe while I am tending them!
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On Sat, 24 Feb 2007 11:09:35 GMT, "Grave Yard Guy"

the sun so the plants need more light.
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Susan N.

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