re: starting Seeds

Am here in Zone 9, sunny (well usually) Ca. If I read the information correctly our last frost date is in February so I should have already started my tomato and other seeds that say to start them 6-7 weeks before last frost date. Is it too late to sow the seeds indoors? Do i need to use heated pads or grow lights, or can I just grow them in my sun roon that gets sun from about 11:am to 4 p.m. It does get cold at night, so should I heat it somehow at night?
Helen
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Heated pads do help in starting some vegetables, particularly things like peppers. They will help tomatoes, but don't use them on lettuce. As long as your sun room doesn't get below about 35F, you don't have to worry about it. The tomatoes and other things will do fine. If you keep the roots warm and let the leaves cool off you will enhance root development and the plant will resist getting leggy.
In zone 9, it is probably almost never too late to start tomatoes. I would expect you could start a new crop at almost any time of year except maybe late summer. In fact it's a good idea to start a couple of crops at different times of year. This will give you younger more vigorous plants late in the summer, although you don't have to do this with all types of vegetables.
Grow lights will help some, but none of the fluorescent types I've come across are really bright enough. I've had some luck with placing the plants about 1-2" away from the lights, but they really do better in real daylight. If you're using the lights to supplement daylight, that's probably OK, but don't use just the grow lights in the basement or something like that. Plants don't need light 24 hours a day. You can use them to just extend the daylight to a total of maybe 14-16 hours.
If you're placing the plants in a sun room, I would suggest placing the lights on the house side of the plants and just turn them on from late afternoon to maybe midnight. This will allow daylight to get to the plants and then supplement the daylight with gro-lights on the other side for a while so the plants won't lean as much toward the daylight.
Sun window __ |/ | \ lights O- | \ |\ | O / | OOO \ | O | | | | | | / | ___ | | | | | plant
Speaking of lettuce (a couple of paragraphs back), don't plant it all at once. Many people try to keep the lettuce going by just pulling leaves off and leaving the plant in place. This is not a good way to do it. The plant will get old and will turn bitter. Better to pull up the plant and use the whole head at once. If you can't eat it in one sitting, it will keep in the fridge for a while. I've kept lettuce 4 weeks in a good moise environment. It helps if you pull the plant and keep the roots on. The plant is then still alive and doesn't brown up as fast. (you can wash the soil off the roots and place the whole thing in a plastic bag. don't dry it off: leave the plant damp and that water in the bag will help keep the plant alive).
Once you pull up the plant, plant another in the same place. You can get 3-4 crops a year from that spot. Plant lettuce every 2 weeks and you will have a continuous supply through the summer. You might want to change varieties for the hot weather. Lettuce will take temperatures down to 25F. The red edge lettuce seems to do better (maybe the tip browning just doesn't show as much) than the pure green lettuce. I'm still eating lettuce here in New England although it is starting to get a bit tough (we pulled a couple dozen heads just before Christmas).
HPBudlong wrote:

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