This thread is kind of a response to Bob's tread about getting on topic, and kind of because its advice that I could definitely use.
1) Do you germinate your seeds or plant them in the dirt where you plan on having them grow?
Ans: It really depends on the seeds. I like to get a jump on tomato and pepper plants because they need a fairly long time for harvesting here in Oregon. I start them in a potting soil mix that I get from the farm store and it is prepared for commercial greenhouses. Other potting soild mixes would probably work quite well as long as they are not the high nitrogen type. I can plant my beans pretty early (mid-May) directly into the soil. But I can't do that with cucumbers, corn, or squash. I wait until Memorial day (end of May) and even then it is still too early if the soil has not warmed sufficiently.
2) Any suggestion on a good plant light? (I am using a ott-lite, www.ottlite.com
, that was on clearance at the end of last year at the Home Depot.)
Ans: I don't know about that particular light, but if it was sold in the garden center of HD, it is probably fine. I have three different kinds of light in my little greenhouse and all three seem to work as well as another. One type is regular fluorescent fixture and lamps. Another is fluorescent fixture with gro-lite tubes. The tubes are considerably more expensice that regular fluorescent tubes, but they may actually simulate daylight better. The third type is a quartz lamp and fixture that came with the greenhouse kit. It runs hot enough that I have to keep it further away from the plants than the fluorescents.
3) When should the seedlings be transplanted to the beds outside?
Ans: Soil temperature and frost dates will determine that. I start my plants about 8 weeks before planting time. That means about the 1st of March. The peppers and tomatoes will be planted right at Memorial Day, but hardened off about a week before that. Our frost date is April 15, but you can't trust it. I feel safe about May 15 that we won't have any more frosty nights. I have planted corn, squash, and cucumbers on Memorial Day and even then, if the soil has not warmed enough to stay above 50 degrees, the seeds may not germinate.
4) What materials do you use? (soils, cups, pellets, etc.)
Ans: Those will all work. I have used them all. But I have also gotten lazy and seed directly now into potting soil in 4" pots. Whatever you use though, be sure you have drainage holes in them. Standing water will rot the seeds.
5) Have you ever tried black light? I am under the impression that plants use alot of the UV and the black lights are mainly UV.
Ans: I have never tried black light or known anyone that did, so I have to let someone with more knowledge answer this one.
6) Where do you grow them? Where do you avoid? (closet, on top of a fridge, greenhouse, etc.)
Ans: I am fortunate to have a greenhouse with lights, timers and all that. But before that, I used a table here in the basement and my lights hung from the beams. The temperature was always above 60 or 65 degrees, so germination was not a problem. My basement is dark when no one is down here, so the grow lights were absolutely necessary after the plants began to emerge.
7) Do you keep them covered with a clear plastic? How long do you leave it on? Will that rob them of CO2 that they need?
Ans: The plastic will help retain moisture especially in some of the seed starting kits available from garden stores. But since I plant in those 4" pots, there is enough soil volume to keep a decent moisture content from one day to the next. On a warm day though, I best not miss watering the plants.
Thanks for input... I'm off to water my seeds...