High Cost of Seed Starting

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I kind of figured it would affect my electric bill, but a recent increase from ComEd in the Chicago area has made it more evident that raising plants from seeds can be very costly. For about one month, I had two double flourecent shop lights and about six small heating pads going to germinate my seeds. My electric bill almost doubled. Guess there is no way around it, but makes one think twice about growing veggies
and flowers from seed.
Sherwin D.
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wrote:

I usually only grow plants from seed which are not otherwise available locally to purchase in 4 inch pots.
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The $63 tomato raises its ugly head again.
Personally I've come to the conclusion I don't raise plants from seed to save money. I do it because I enjoy it, and that makes the process of killing several painfully raised plants less traumatic.
What you are talking about though is the high cost of raising plants from seeds under lights. Most of the equipment like heating pads is a one time expenditure.
You might try winter sowing. People here are starting seeds in mini milk carton greenhouses in January and putting them outside. The theory is that although it can take some time for the plant to sprout, the root development is taking place and the plant quickly overtakes others once growing in friendlier conditions. There was one woman in my local hort group who started about 40 last year. Mind you, she had milk cartons piled against her fence for a couple of months. Dora Zone 3
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wrote:

Here's a site about it and they even offer free seeds! http://www.wintersown.org/wseo1/index.html
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bungadora wrote:

I'm not familira with milk carton greenhouses.
I'm about to Google, but do you havny ready references to web sites discussing milk carton green houses?
TIA.
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wrote:

The only reference I kept was this http://faq.gardenweb.com/faq/wtrsow /
Just to clarify in case of misunderstanding, I'm not talking about building greenhouse out of milk cartons. The milk carton acts as a 'greenhouse' - but a very small one.
However, one person on my local group mentioned she has a friend who fills bottles with water, puts them in a square and puts a plastic sheet over top and she says it works quite well. I'm collecting vinegar bottles (they are rectangular in shape) to use in this way to heat my little tomato house in the fall instead of using electrical heating. It's worth a try anyway.
There was quite a bit of discussion last winter about winter sowing amd use of milk cartons on canadiangardening.ca in the Plant Talk forum. The posts are still there so if you put in winter sowing as a search term you can find info on how to prepare the bottles, what they've had the most luck with, etc. You don't have to sign in to read the forum. Dora
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|I kind of figured it would affect my electric bill, but a recent increase from |ComEd |in the Chicago area has made it more evident that raising plants from seeds can |be |very costly. For about one month, I had two double flourecent shop lights and |about |six small heating pads going to germinate my seeds. My electric bill almost |doubled. |Guess there is no way around it, but makes one think twice about growing veggies | |and flowers from seed. | | Sherwin D.
Have you tried doing without the heat pads? I start my seeds indoors under double fluorescents - regular ones, not "grow lights" and don't have any noticeable problems with either the seeds or the elect. bill. My furnace kicks in around 50 deg. but the cool utility room where I have the seedlings doesn't get much benefit from that. Probably gets down around 40.
Doubtless yours will germinate & grow faster-earlier but I suspect you can do without the heat pads if you're willing to accept a slower start to your season. |
Alexander
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P.S. Fluorescent lights have to be close to the soil or growing seedlings - about 2 inches is good. This also supplies a small amount of heat.
Alexander
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It's the heating pad that killed your power bill. The shop lights alone only cost a couple of bucks a month to run.
80 watts per two 40w bulbs in one light fixture. Operate 12 hours a day for 960 watts total consumption. Operate 30 days in a month for 28.8KW consumption If you pay fifteen cents per KW, then your total cost is 28.8 x .15 = $4.32

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Why? Chicago (42N) is not nearly as far north as me (55N), so I must have lower daylight-levels than you, and yet I never use artificial light or heat to start tender seedlings. I do mine outdoors in what we call a cold-frame, which is about 3 ft by 2ft by 18" high.The walls are wood, the roof is an old window. No heat. Otherwise, I would just start them inside the house on windowsills.
Hardier annual veg and flowers, like peas and nastutriums, can just be sown outside in spring in the place where they are to grow, with no protection at all.
Janet (Scotland).
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My problem is that I have no Sun lit window. Right now, I have my already started seeds in my only available picture window, facing North. They are basically in a holding pattern, until the outside temps warm up a bit. They were originally raised in my crawl space, where I don't mind the mess involved with this kind of project.
I do have a small cold frame which I use to acclimate the plants slowly to the outside conditions. I really need to start my seeds no later than April to get a jump on the season, and it is still too cold to try and germinate seeds outside with a cold frame. I may try germinating my tomato plants without heating pads, as they are more inclined to start the soonest. Flowers and certain veggies are another matter, and I'm skeptical that they would start without some form of heat. I could be more diligent about turning down the heating pads once the seeds start showing growth above the soil line. These are all measures I never thought about when energy was cheaper. I'm not giving up on growing from seeds, but I'm going to be more careful about how I use energy to do so.
Sherwin D.
Janet Baraclough wrote:

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I never use a heating pad and I get good germination on all of my seeds. Even zinnias, which are reputed to need to be higher than 70 degrees to germinate.
--
Ann, gardening in Zone 6a
South of Boston, Massachusetts
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Many species don't *need* a warm temp to germinate, but they germinate most quickly at that temp (and large numbers prefer a night temp about 10oC below the day temp). Lower than optimal temps just increase the germination period for many species. Conversely, too warm a soil temp can actually inhibit germination, often throwing the seeds into an extended dormancy that's quite hard to break.
Kay
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Sorry about the blank posts (if they show up). It was not intentional. Slip of the mouse. ihategoogleihategoogleihategoogle
Anyway, I was going to say, that even with things like tomatoes, which need a warmer temperature, they don't need to be heated up all the time. I start my seeds in plastic containers with the lid on, so if something needs warmth to start, I just put it over the heating vent. The stove top is good too. Then as soon as they've germinated I put them under the lights. Some good info on this site. http://grow.ars-informatica.ca/index.php Dora
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almost
Sherwin, please forgive me for butting in, with a non- gardening idea....... but if you have an electric hot water heater, check to see whether you've lost one of the heating elements ( most hot water heaters have 2 elements for quick recovery capacity). You wouldn't necessarily notice this right off in your hot water supply, but you sure would notice it in your electric bill if one element was doing all the work of 2.
When I did condo/rental unit bill reconciliation, a huge spike in a bill like that was usually a tip-off that it wasn't "use by resident", or "weather related", it was an element failure in the hot water heater.
If I'm baked on the suggestion, call it just a suggestion, and never mind.
Sue in Maine
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Guesstimation: Lights: 20 W x 4 bulbs x 12 hr/d x 30 d = 28.8 KW-hr (new 4 ft tubes actually use 32W)
Heating pads: 50W x 6 x 24 hr/d x 30 d = 216 KW-hr
245 KW-hr x $0.0996/KW-hr = $24.40
(the 9.96 cents per KW/hr is from the residential average rate in Illinois in Feb 2007, per <http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_a.html> )
If that $25 doubled your power bill, I'd love to have your bill.
Or you could start your seedlings inside and then put them in a cold frame. You don't need lights till your seedlings are up; you don't need much heat once they're up for most species.
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Have you considered a small hothouse, size to suit your needs? Shoebox to ? in size. Sun does the primary warming. Airtight. Dave
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