How to Start Plants Without GrowLights~ Ravings of a Lunatic Gardener
First off let me just say I had no intention of doing our starts like this.
While I planted all nine trays of seeds I was under the false assumption that my husband would be coming back soon, as in before they came up, with our grow light.
Well folks, that wasn’t what happened. The little buggers just kept coming up and the grow light (and husband) were still back home and not likely to be here anytime soon.
This created a serious problem because the way our house it set up it doesn’t get enough sun for seedlings in front of any window even if it was sunny enough outside, which it’s not, to keep them healthy let alone alive.
Seedlings that don’t have enough light become “leggy” meaning they get tall and spindly. Legging seedlings don’t transplant as well. Lots of them die during transplanting because inclement weather of any kind really does extra damage to their fragile little stems. It’s definitely something we strive to avoid in our starts.
So how did I make it work?
I carted them outside.
Twice a day.
And covered them on nasty days or put them in the car on really bad days.
This sort of thing will only work if you live somewhere it’s above freezing outside during the day. Its in the high 40’s low 50’s on an average nasty day here which is fine for the starts once they are up.
The trick is that you have to keep them inside, warm and moist until they sprout. We quadruple stacked ours so I still had some semblance of a kitchen and cranked the heater. It’s downright tropical in our house and will stay that way until everything’s come up or I give up on pots.
Morning and night I go through all the pots that haven’t sprouted since the last time I checked and look for just emerging seedlings. Those are moved into top trays to go outside during the day. As more and more come up you can stack fewer and fewer trays on top of each other. It started to get crazy fitting everything in our tiny apartment about a week ago.
Which makes taking them outside even more important, because to get in the freezer -oh wait we don’t have one right now, thanks broken freezer for making life even more complicated, really appreciate that- or do much of anything in the kitchen the trays have to be moved.
As you can tell this is not an ideal method but it works and sometimes that’s all that matters. If you find yourself needing to start plants without grow lights there are a few other things to be aware of:
Make sure critters can’t eat/dig up/ roll on your starts.
Livestock, wildlife and pets are all equally problematic. This is the biggest concern when they are itty bitty. I cover mine with clear drawers from a fridge, cut up milk jugs and the plastic containers that you buy greens in. It ain’t pretty folks but it works.
Wind can be just as dangerous as hale or rain.
It sucks the moisture right out of plants and will rip the leaves off baby plants in no time.
A really sunny day after a stretch of cloudy days can sunburn your plants.
Sunburn shows up as leaves that are totally dried up and dead looking when they were previously perfectly normal. If you start seeing it move the affected starts to a shaded area. Some plants seem to get this more than others, our melons and cucumbers seem to be the worst off and some but not all of our cosmos also sunburned.
Starting plants without grow lights takes more time and effort to be successful with. This just goes to show that if you really want a garden nothing should stand in your way! I haven’t posted any photos of the garden spot yet so I thought you might all like a glimpse into our weed patch.
I’m totally serious.
We have lots of them and they are awesome because its free bunny food, I’m always looking to stretch a bag of feed.
Here are “Before and After” photos. We have a lot of work to do yet but we’ve also accomplished a lot!
The side of the arena is great as a wind break and heat sink but the drainage comes right off here and is making keeping things dry right now impossible, which is why we are doing raised beds and pots.
We only have potatoes and peas planted right now but AJ watered everything to trick the weeds into sprouting earlier so we can pull them sooner. I’m no fan of weeding when its hot. We’re lazy like that, what can I say.
There you have it folks! A peek into our garden and into how we started seeds without grow lights this year. I want to hear all about what’s going on in your garden right now!