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New to growing your own tomatoes? This is the forum to learn the successful techniques used by seasoned tomato growers. Questions are welcome, too.

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Old February 17, 2018   #1
DonnaMarieNJ
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Default Starting early veggies indoors

Do I treat the lettuces, celery, and other early varieties as I would tomatoes? I have little luck starting these indoors. I don't want to plant seeds outdoors in the spring. I want a head start.

Do I plant the seeds like tomatoes? Do I use a seed heating pad to germinate? Do I put a lid on the tray for humidity? Do I put them under a grow light when they sprout?

What, in general should I do? I can't seem to find the right way to do this.

Thanks!
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Old February 17, 2018   #2
bower
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Lettuce and celery both need light to germinate. I do mass planting to start - just sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil mist heavily and cover tightly with a clear lid. Pop the lid and mist at least once or twice a day until they sprout. You can sprinkle soil on top of the lettuce once they've sprouted. I usually leave them dense until a first true leaf is out, then transplant to whatever density is desired. For transplanting outdoors they get a nice size in sixpacks.
Celery seems to like the heat mat off and on - I like to give them day on/night off for a couple of days and then let them chill under the lights. They take awhile so be patient. I do think presoaking celery seed might help to speed it up, but forgot to try again this year.
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Old February 17, 2018   #3
kath
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Hi, DonnaMarie!
My celery just popped up yesterday from a 2/9 sowing- I never soak seeds ahead. Like Bower said don't cover except with the finest bit of material and keep in a lighted place. I had mine on top of a fluorescent fixture that was on 16 hrs./day for onions, parsley and mini-dwarf tomatoes. With things that like cool weather, I avoid heat mats because mine tends to make the soil really hot. I keep them on the mantel over the wood stove or on the slate surround or on top of lights and it's plenty warm. If you have a sunny window, a covered tray can stay pretty warm during the day already, too. Everything still needs a light at germination so as not to get leggy.

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Old February 18, 2018   #4
Cole_Robbie
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bower View Post
Lettuce and celery both need light to germinate.
So that's why my lettuce has not come up....whoops.
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Old February 18, 2018   #5
jmsieglaff
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I plant lettuce, broccoli, kale indoors. For lettuce I've never made a point of giving it light, I just very lightly cover and mist heavily, so maybe my technique implicitly gives it enough light? All of those type seeds sprout in a few days for me atop the fridge in the kitchen and then under the lights, then cold frame, then their final garden place.
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Old February 18, 2018   #6
Raiquee
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I think everyone has different ways of sowing seeds. Celery is very slow germinating comparing to other things like tomatoes and such.

I do standard practice for all of my seedlings. Never soak my seeds. I toss them in dirt, cover them up, water every other day, keep on a heat mat and under lights. Once they all pretty much come up they come off the heat mat. I find it I don't do a heat mat I get a much wider range of a germination period, which i'm not fond of because i'm growing 100's of seedlings and I want everyone on the same page. lol.
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Old February 18, 2018   #7
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Do be careful with mixing veggies in the same plug trays. Lettuces in one, parsley and celery in another, cole crops in their own and then the many trays of flowers. Much easier to manipulate under lights based on growth rates and sprout time.

As far as bottom heat goes; tucked around the wood stove, on top of the fridge and water heater, CFL's throw off a lot of heat in a confined area and on top of fluorescent fixtures. I put a wire rack on top of the fixture and the plug tray on the rack. Your ballast needs to expel heat.
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Old February 20, 2018   #8
DonnaMarieNJ
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Well, I obviously made mistakes already. I'll have to work around it.

Thanks, everyone.
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #9
greenthumbomaha
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kath View Post
Hi, DonnaMarie!
My celery just popped up yesterday from a 2/9 sowing- I never soak seeds ahead. Like Bower said don't cover except with the finest bit of material and keep in a lighted place. I had mine on top of a fluorescent fixture that was on 16 hrs./day for onions, parsley and mini-dwarf tomatoes. With things that like cool weather, I avoid heat mats because mine tends to make the soil really hot. I keep them on the mantel over the wood stove or on the slate surround or on top of lights and it's plenty warm. If you have a sunny window, a covered tray can stay pretty warm during the day already, too. Everything still needs a light at germination so as not to get leggy.

kath



Success at last!!! I used the pre-soaking and heat on/off techniques above and had excellent germination (almost to a fault) from 2015 seed, (Tango and Tendercrisp). I'll be adding a third heat tolerant variety soon, courtesy of MMMM.


After germination, how many hours of light do the tiny seedlings need, and how far from a T5 light is a good distance? I have had the tray in a sunny window and under light until 11pm. They are a fraction of the size of a pea, but I can see them stretching and leaning towards the light already.



- Lisa
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #10
bower
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Kath might be able to give you good advice about what to do for optimal results.


What I have learned about celery is that, as long as you keep them moist, they will tolerate everything else in the indoor environment, including crowding, low light and lack of ferts. I have had trays of extras that sat around in ambient light for as much as a year without any complaint, except staying small.



And potted up celery grew nicely in a window that only gets 6 hrs of direct daylight. However, they only grow when I give them liquid ferts. Otherwise, they just stay happily the same size. There seems to be a quick bump in growth whenever they get ferts then nothing.



So I would just treat them as any seedling, but expect to wait awhile for them to get that true leaf on so you can pot them up. Possibly you could speed that up by giving dilute liquid ferts? But I haven't tried that on freshly germinated seedlings, which we sometimes are advised to wait.


I just recently potted up four little celeries that have been neglected pretty severely over the past year - yes they are leftovers from a sixpack from last year! I'm only hoping to get a few leaves and crunches for flavoring our winter meals. Pretty sure these will bolt immediately if put into cold stress/heat stress or windy conditions that dry them out.
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #11
greenthumbomaha
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I'm headed over to the rack to turn off the lights! I was of the impression that with greens, the longer the "day length" the better. I've always been in awe of the giant cabbages and other greens that are grown by our friends in the upper northern areas. I was going to leave the light on 24/7. They are sharing the shelf with onions and leeks.

You are spot on with the growth spurt and fertilizer. I literally spoon fed the flat with a very weak solution of blue stuff. Its been growing in Jiffy mix with excess watering for over two weeks now, so I thought they might need some nitrogen to keep from yellowing. The downside is that they may start growing too quickly before it is warm enough to plant out.

It will be interesting to see if Kath concurs.


- Lisa
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Last edited by greenthumbomaha; 3 Weeks Ago at 02:00 AM. Reason: added photo
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #12
bower
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Long days (even 24 hr!) are great for some (or most) greens... maybe even celery, who knows? Bok choy I've read is the exception, maybe on risk of bolting in long days, since they are so bolt sensitive in general.

I'm not sure about onions and leeks, but never separated mine from other vegs.. My lights are typically left on for 16 hours because I don't have a timer, just turn everything off at bedtime.
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #13
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That is basil and parsley in the photo, the leeks and onions are off to the side. Herbs seem to love all the light. Lights are off by midnight because it faces the street and is quite bright for the neighbors. I have another light bank setup facing the north backyard which gets used 24/7 when I need extra space for T5 rotation. Once the tomatoes and peppers get going, I use this sunny south window for priority growing.

I searched dozens of websites and youtube for info, and they were excellent on describing the germination process but then none mentioned any further celery care until transplant. I saw a few videos from the UK with greenhouses and no lights. Your greenhouse came through for you, so nature is the leading method for now. I'll try and give extension a call next week and report back. Hopefully someone here will have additional thoughts with using artificial light.
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