Monday, September 14, 2009
Seedlings Without Lights
Thanks to a reader in Boca Raton who asked an excellent question: "How do I get seedlings started indoors without grow lights?"
Even though I use lights for my seedlings, they aren't absolutely necessary. In fact, my best year was done without lights.
The best advice I can give if you don't have lights is to use the sun. Sprout your seedlings indoors as you normally would, then at about day 2 or 3, move them outside during the day. Find a spot with full sunlight, but not too windy. The sun, after all, is by far the best grow light, and your plants will be tougher because of their exposure to wind. In effect, you'll be hardening off the seedlings from Day 2 or so.
There are a few caveats, however. If there is a chance of rain, better to be safe than sorry and leave them inside that day. September rain can easily swamp your seedlings. Also, I wouldn't leave them outside overnight—what's the point of tempting any nocturnal beasties?
Why not just keep them inside on a windowsill? The truth is, you probably won't get enough light and your seedlings will stretch. Tomatoes like full sunlight from the moment they emerge. Unless you have an unobstructed south-facing window, it's unlikely you'll get enough light for truly healthy seedlings.
So it's a little more work to get seedlings underway without lights, but only because you have to schlep them outside in the morning and bring them back in later. But when you're eating fresh, homegrown tomatoes later this season, it'll be worth it.
P.S. It's still too early to plant outside, so hold off for a bit longer!