GROW O'ahu

Island Style Gardening and Plant-Based Living

Getting Serious About Seeds


Our house glows.

I know why growers of “alternative” herbs, ahem, wink wink, do it in the closet.  They are not ashamed.  It’s because grow lights are FREAKING BRIGHT.

Pulling into my driveway the other night confirmed for me that the neighbors must be talking.  Because there is so much light coming out of every window that night-dog-walkers probably turn off their flashlights on our corner.  It’s ridiculous.

But this is what must happen to prevent this:

Leggy, sad seedlings.

You see when seeds germinate and stick their little heads up out of the soil, if they are not met with intense bright light, they will reach for light- and in our case, even having them next to a “sunny” window was not enough to prevent this from happening.  They were reaching, and reaching, and not growing roots or stems.  “Leggy” is the term.  I rotated, I used seed mix that was for “root growth” not leaf growth- but it was, I found, a light issue.  The intensity of the sun outside was too much for them, but window light was not enough.  I lost a whole tray of seedlings to this “legginess.”  Filing this one under “garden lessons.”

Because of the year round growing season here, having a constant supply of vegetable seedlings ready to go when some plants stop producing will save this Girl a bundle, so seeds it must be.  Plus, there is so much more variety in seed selection, I get to choose interesting purple Brussels sprouts or heirloom Cherokee tomatoes- not gonna find these at the local ma and pa garden center.  I wrote a while back about seeds vs. plants, but I’m thinking for the long term, it’s going to be seed growing.

So I hauled home a metal bakers rack from craigslist, bought a couple fluorescent fixtures and outfitted them with daylight bulbs.  The “grow” or “aquarium” bulbs would likely have been even better, but it was about 3x the price, and I just wasn’t sure it was worth it.

Here I have set up a pretty simple system from stuff I already had: reused nursery pots from my stash in the shed (sterilized with bleach water); under the bed storage box, and an interesting variety of seeds! They were amazingly fast to germinate and develop leaves in this new set up: 4 days.  It took about 2 weeks with just window lighting.  And I’m pleased to say, no leggy ones in sight. Everyone is developing good strong stems and leaves, and staying strong in their little pots.

The advantage to having them in a plastic storage box is that you can water from below, thus reducing chance of damaging delicate little seedlings.  It’s good to keep them moist at first, but as they grow, they seem to get stronger if allowed to dry out in between waterings.  Kinda like tough love for a kid.

I’m so happy with this set up that I’m increasing the number of seedlings I’m growing to fill all three shelves of the rack.  Whatever I don’t plant myself, I hope to sell for a few bucks out on the curb to folks who might want something different for the garden, like an heirloom squash or red romaine lettuce. (YUM!)

I’ve been getting seeds from three places:

University of Hawaii Seed Lab (open pollinated & hydroponically grown varieties)

Landreth Seed Company (oldest seed house in the USA.  Their $5 catalog is a wealth of information and it’s beautiful.  I read it before snuggling into bed.)

Seeds of Change (all organic) and really interesting varieties. I’m having good luck so far with my carrots from this company.

I have to say, that our little set up looks remarkably similar (yet low tech) to this futuristic kitchen design:

We are the future! Muahahahaha!

Happy growing people! Or Glowing, as the case would be.

Author: Carmen

Things I love: justice in all forms; flowers; locally grown food; cloth-diapering; breastfeeding; feminist theory; outdoor play; beaches; wine; Divine interventions; 4-H and coffee. Things I loathe: racism; homophobia; toxic crap; misogyny; litterbugs; the zombie apocalypse and pitbull-haters. My formal education is in sociology, gender studies, and public policy. I'm also a Lactation Educator; 4-H Youth Development coordinator a Certified Master Gardener and a graduate of a Permaculture Design Course. I've been blogging for several years on dozens of topics- everything from women's health to breed-specific legislation. But the thing I like to write about most is my gardening, food adventures and my kids. So there you have it. Please be kind. Thanks.

3 thoughts on “Getting Serious About Seeds

  1. I can say from seeing your “grow room” first hand that I am very impressed with how many plants you can get from a relatively small space! The futuristic picture above is impressive, yet totally overtakes the space and your craigslist meets Macgyver setup can open the door to most families being able to afford and maintain our own gardens this way:)

    • Thanks! I think so too. I’m totally dedicated to the creative re-use of things like a bakers rack, pallets, dressers-whatever- for the growing of food. Just today I found 3 new trellises for climbers in the TRASH! Sure they might look like pieces of recalled toddler bed, but to me, they say “grow cucumbers here.” 🙂

  2. Pingback: Year Round Growing! Tips for Starting from Seed | The Green Box Garden


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