It’s that wonderful and exciting time of year again! It’s time to start seeding for the 2014 growing season. This year, I would like to grow an abundance of Shishito peppers and tomatoes. I will grow some hot peppers and herbs, but will not experiment with anything new due to space limitations. What will be new is that I will attempt an indeterminate tomato from seed, as well as peppers. Typically I purchase tomato seedlings in mid-late May, and peppers whenever they are on the shelves. They tend to come out a little bit later than tomatoes, probably because they like hot weather.
This year, in order to have hardy seedlings, I’ve decided to grow under lights. You can purchase grow lights and fancy stands, but they cost hundreds of dollars. I’m not ready for that kind of commitment, especially since I have no idea where I would put a grow rack, nor do I need a rack because there is only so much I can accommodate in my container garden. So, this meant I was going down the DIY path. Of course I had to convince hubby of my new plan, since I would require his help in building this light stand. I sent him photos and instructions and last weekend, we visited Home Depot, Canadian Tire, and Lowes and purchased the PVC, light fixture, and light bulbs.
First step is always measuring. The PVC comes as a 9 or 10 foot pole, which just barely fit in our car.
Hubby was going to use his hand saw to cut, but when we were standing in the store, I asked him if buying the cutting tool would save time and he said yes, I told him to buy the tool. Obviously he bought the one of the cheapest ones if not the cheapest cutter, but was it ever easy to use. Not only did it save time, but it saved clean-up. I find sawing always makes a mess. And without a proper work bench, I’m not sure how easy it would have been to cut the PVC pipe.
Next comes the light fixture. I had showed hubby the trays I would be using and we measured it out. How lucky was I? We found a fixture that would fit above my two trays and sit on my Ikea table. We purchased two 48-inch T8 fluorescent lights, one being cool and the other being day-light, which would be a full-spectrum light. The full-spectrum lights are supposed to prevent distorting the colours of your plants. A cool light has a blue or yellow-green cast. We decided to use one of each, though I have now read that the full-spectrum is fine. If you get a cool colour light, you should combine it with a warm or full/broad-spectrum.
If you’re wondering what the colour difference looks like, see below. The brighter, blueish light in the front is the cool light.
The light fixture is hung from the PVC structure using string. In order to secure the structure so that the sides don’t slide off my table, hubby used rope instead of buying additional PVC to the base. Ingenious!
I will have to extend the string holding the chains, which hold up the light. Once the seeds germinate, you want the light to be 2-3-inches from the seedlings. Florescent lights do not emit much heat, so there is no risk of scorching leaves. Some people recommend heat mats for germinating, but last year I had no trouble germinating. During the day, when the sun is shining, the trays get warm. My light system is on a timer. In order to create strong seedlings, they need a lot of light and warmth, which means the light is set to be on for at least 12 hours each day. To learn more about this, visit gardeners.com