Tag Archives: artificial light

gardening 2011 – part 1

I am happy to report that the seedlings in my light box are doing very well! So far everything except one pepper varieties has sprouted and most seedlings are just getting their first set of true leaves. I am watering them with chamomile tea to prevent damping off.

We also got a new addition to our balcony: 2 small greenhouses. I initially wanted to build a cold frame (read: wanted my boyfriend to build me a cold frame), but these greenhouses were cheap and use our space very efficiently on 3 adjustable levels. While they’re not exactly pretty they were cheaper and more flexible than anything we could have built ourselves.

The only plants that haven’t worked out in the light box so far have been the zucchini seedlings. It became clear after a few days that they just didn’t get enough light. So, being short on time, I did what every book tells you to never ever do with seedlings: I put them outdoors in the greenhouse without hardening them off or letting them get used to the temperatures (mind you, we still have nights below freezing). I was pretty sure they’d die but I had no other space to put them. Surprisingly, they are still alive and very healthy after a couple of days outside and are finally getting the light they were craving.

They greenhouses are housing a great variety of plants right now. I popped in a few tomato and pepper and herb seeds to experiment but they are also great for these chives that survived the winter and the sweet woodruff that I bought the other day on a whim.

Each shelf of the greenhouses can also take 4 of these small flower boxes and I am experimenting with direct sowing salad seeds here. This is mizuna and arugula, and I also sowed butterhead and loose leaf and iceberg lettuce and spinach and there will be m√Ęche later in the season:


In May, the greenhouses will be used for hardening off the indoor seedlings and come summer, I am planning to take out the top shelves and use them as a rain cover for the tomatoes. In winter they will be very useful for extending the season with salad greens and other cold weather crops.
I have it all in my head.

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catproof seed starting light box

I’ve been talking about this forever but now things are finally up and running and I have photos of it.

One of my big plans for this year is growing as much food as we possibly can on our balcony. The first seeds are already in the ground but as the last frosts around here will be in late May I’ll need to start the bulk of my plants indoors.
There were two main obstacles to this:
1. We pretty much have only one really sunny window and setting things up there would be inconvenient for us, so I decided on starting my lovely heirloom seeds under artificial light. I wanted to get tubes but they get pretty warm and are expensive (both to buy and because they use lots of electricity) so we settled on getting LED stripes in cool white. I have no idea if the amount of light will be enough for seedlings to grow, so this spring will be a big experiment. If it doesn’t work, that still leaves the sunny window.
2. Our cats love to try anything that looks remotely edible plus they would have loved to play with the soil. Luckily I had an old aquarium up in the attic that I could use.
Ok, here’s more pictures: The wooden lid with holes so the air can circulate and a handle for easy lifting. Plus it also takes a full sized cat with no trouble.

The seedlings need to be directly under the light, so as you can see in the first photo we’ve been stacking up styrofoam boxes so they are high enough. As the seedlings grow, we’ll take the styrofoam away one at a time.
Here I lifted the lid so you can see the LED lights in action. They are much much brighter than the photo suggests though!

And here’s the lid when the lights are out. A colleague of my boyfriend’s soldered in the lights for us. The stripes are also self-adhesive.

I decided on starting my seeds in newspaper pots, which can go into the ground with them in summer and are also free of course. Making them is a little work though.

Here’s all the little pots ready to receive their seeds. The lettuce seedlings are already a week old but everything else is sprouting this very minute.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress of course. I feel a little silly posting this in detail because I am still not sure if it will work. But I figured come summer nobody’s going to be interested in seed starting anymore anyway, so now you can just sit back and watch as I’ll try and raise healthy little plants.