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Traying Up My Fall Seedlings — The Grow Network Community
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Traying Up My Fall Seedlings

greyfurballgreyfurball Southeastern PennsylvaniaPosts: 592 ✭✭✭✭
edited October 2020 in Seed Saving & Fall Prep

Has anyone ever tried growing seedlings for Fall under grow lights, a window, or in a greenhouse?

I have never done it before. I always just went the direct seed route in mid-Summer for my Fall varieties. But this morning I decided to give it a try for the types of plants which I know will withstand being transplanted in the garden later next month or early September.

So this morning I started several varieties of lettuce, some spinach, a different variety of kale (than what I already have growing), some snow peas (which I do not think will work but I am going to find out), some more cabbage, carrots and beets plus a few new things which I have never planted before.

If you've ever done it, what was your success/failure rate?


  • JodieDownUnderJodieDownUnder Moderator Mid North Coast AustraliaPosts: 897 admin

    @greyfurball I've not done it but am keen to try towards the end of next winter, to get a head start on spring seedlings. This year the slugs have eaten a lot of my seedlings, so I'm keen to start earlier and get them up and growing strong, so they can withstand any attack. Got talking to some people who have done it before and they suggested I try a neon/LED light that stays cool and put it on a timer so that the seedlings get 12hrs of light a day. Which means you only have to extend the daylight hrs by 2 or 3 hrs, that's how I understood it but will ask again to make sure. I guess it depends where you start your seeds.

  • VermontCathyVermontCathy Posts: 676 ✭✭✭✭

    @greyfurball Now that we're well into fall, what was your success rate with the seedlings you started inside under lights during summer and transplanted out?

  • Monek MarieMonek Marie Moderator Posts: 2,225 admin

    Yes, I do fall and winter sowing.

    Lettuces and greens do best. A short season carrot will do better. Beets wilk do best for being grown for the greens. I have a 5 veggie salad mix I grow all season long that does well. I will get info on that.

    I have grown topmatos from plants I brought in and cucumbers but they take a lot more work and hand pollination.

    Herbs are wonderful and so are sporuts and microgreen for adding to fresh produce in ther fall and winter

    If your season is still warm enough outdoors to plant cold frames with cool weather crops do well. You plant then and pretty much ignore them for a bit

  • Monek MarieMonek Marie Moderator Posts: 2,225 admin


    I plant a lot of seeds in late winter, early spring. Your set up will depend on the lighting and space you have. I volunteered at a community garden for 5 years and picked up a lot of tips from them

    The biggest errors I see when first starting seedlings are: starting them too soon, more sopil mix selection. not enough light, over watering ( I water from below) And some plants do better with a heat mat underneath the tray (tomatoes, peppers, and some flowers)

    And when I rstart my seeds I do use a timer set at 16 hours of light a day.

    If you seedlings are strong and green you're doing a good job!

    Oh, a fan that blows them or running your hand across ther top of the seedlings helps to make them stronger and simulate wind and the seedlings like that

  • Monek MarieMonek Marie Moderator Posts: 2,225 admin


    If you seedling look strong, are not lanky and a nice green they will do well as transplants. My rate is high 90%'s.

    You need to start hardening them off before you put them out and a bit after too.

    At first in a greenhouse or indoor set up you really baby them so they need to have a littel less attention, change in lighting and water schedule. The I slowly start changing temps.

    like all seedlings, even from greenhouses they need to be hardened off not to get shock.

    I think ther biggest problem I see with plants started indoors is not enough time in hardening them off for being outdoors. Plants suffer from shock and even if they still look ok, it can set tehr plant back or even affect fruit and harvest production later in the year

    One year all tehr tomato plants we started in the community garden greenhouse did not prioduce or porduced so late it was a waster of time and space for the gardeners. We never knew for sure exactly what the problem was but I think it was watering

    I love starting plants indoors and I have to admit I killed most of the plants I started the first time. I did not read up enough on the process or ask enough questions. But there is that saying "You are not a good gardener until you have killed a lot of plants" ;)

  • greyfurballgreyfurball Southeastern PennsylvaniaPosts: 592 ✭✭✭✭



    Well, I started some sweet lettuce, spinach and snow peas indoors, in the outdoor greenhouse and direct-seeded also. Here's the results:

    Indoors - my house is an old farmhouse so it is HOT during the summer. When it was built, modern conveniences weren't on anyone's minds so it is difficult to get it to cool down very well. So to be honest, my indoor trays did not do very well. They constantly craved water and even misting three times each day they just couldn't seem to find some kind of schedule to help them thrive. So I finally, when they had managed to get to a couple of inches tall (but so spindly and lackluster, I just gave them to the compost pile.

    Outdoor greenhouse - well our summer was Hot, Dry and Baking! We averaged about 10-15 degrees higher than normal for us for about 3 months. That translates to upper 90's to 110 for many of the days. And with no moisture from the sky, the greenhouse was no more help than my house was. I left all the doors and windows open and had a small fan running much of the time and I just wasn't impressed with the results. Since I can't tell in May what the Summer will be like for July thru September I can't say for sure if I will do this again next year or not.

    Outdoors- My biggest hang-up every summer is I have a large garden but it is completely full. I do not grow by recommended spacing. Never will you see me out there spacing plants. I grow short season crops among mid season crops which are under long season crops. So that means I have spinach and lettuce plants broadcast all in the same area and those are broadcast underneath my tomato bushes or pepper plants. So the lettuce is the quickest so I am harvesting that as the spinach is still maturing. As it get taller I plant a few kale seeds as enough lettuce comes out. As those all get taller, I start removing branches at the bottom of the tomato plant until it is about 24" up onto the main stem. That gives the spinach, kale and the second seeding of lettuce room to grow up.

    I do this under all of my tomato bushes (remember you can only go up this high on indeterminate plants. You can not do this under determinate plants or you will end up with almost no harvest). I also make all kinds of multi-seeding companions. I usually plant spring onions with any brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts etc). The onions get done first so the cabbage has room to spread when the onions are removed. Then the cabbage is coming out when the tomato is getting close to harvest.

    I figure out each year from the seed varieties I have chosen to see what I can group together under my tomatoes. Gives me a lot more growing space and still works well. You just have to be careful what the height of the plant will be so you can confirm it will fit under a tomato (like broccoli and brussels sprouts grow too tall at maturity so you have to be careful to give them enough space so they can continue growing.)

    It works well if you can come up with the right combinations.

  • VermontCathyVermontCathy Posts: 676 ✭✭✭✭

    Have you tried putting a plastic bag upside-down over the young plant's pot to trap as much moisture as possible?

  • JodieDownUnderJodieDownUnder Moderator Mid North Coast AustraliaPosts: 897 admin

    @greyfurball I like the sound of your garden planting. I am trying to be like that. I was far too rigid, straight lines, one crop to a bed. Now I have onions growing next to tomatoes with lettuce and basil in between, all getting along and looking healthy. I'm pulling the onions now, so that gives the others more space.

    Do you have shade cloth over your greenhouse? Or maybe some sort of shade in the hottest months. The weather is certainly in a tizz everywhere. Just this last weekend around our area, hail was a big issue. Fortunately we didn't get any.

  • greyfurballgreyfurball Southeastern PennsylvaniaPosts: 592 ✭✭✭✭

    @jodienancarrow my best bed this year was the one I threw everything into it. By that I mean I had the four corners had a green pepper plant. Between each of them I had two cabbage plants. Then on the one end I had two tomatoes on each outside edge with two cabbages in between them. Next was 4 cabbages. Then two tomatoes with 2 cabbages in the middle. Two more tomatoes and 2 kale in the middle. Two more tomatoes and 2 brussels sprouts in the middle. Two more tomatoes with 2 red cabbage in the middle. 2 more tomatoes with 2 more red cabbage. Then I was back to the end so I put 2 more kale between those pepper plants. As all my cabbages were coming out I put seeded in carrots all over the cabbage areas.

    I then lined the entire bed all around it with onions. Interspersed all over the bed under tomatoes was the lettuce and spinach. Then I added the herbs and flowers. Those included dill, basil, parsley, celery and rosemary. For flowers I had asters, black-eyed susans, celosia, and borage (which grows wild all around the outside of the beds.) I leave it there because I still have enough room for my walkways plus the pollinators LOVE borage. Then I have a wildflower/nasturtium bed right beside that bed which helps bring in more pollinators.

    All in all, that bed did fantastic this year. Sure it was a little crowded but everybody was staged right that as something needed more room I was getting something out so it gave the other guy more room. Or if there was going to be space I added another plant, another variety. I love to try all kinds of varieties so I always make sure I have extra transplants ready or actually I do prefer direct seeding wherever possible.

    So see, if you are careful how you lay your bed out (by the way this bed is only a 4X12 bed) you can get an awfully lot of food in that bed. The only thing you have to be careful of, since I had all indeterminate tomatoes in that bed, you have to be studious about trimming your tomatoes all summer long. They must be trained to grow up, not out. You also have to be careful you know how to trim a tomato that you don't lose your harvest because you are cutting away the wrong branch. But that's easy, just have to learn how to do it.

    As for the shade cloth, I purchased shade cloth this year for over the top of about 80% of my garden. It helped the garden tremendously. But I have some small beds on the outside edges all over my garden area and they did not get the shade cloth. I did end up covering them with a canopy of lightweight insect cover though just to help get the sun's rays off them and that seemed to work better than without it.

    As for the greenhouse area, no I didn't think about shade cloth over that. I usually have a late Spring every year so I am begging for Sun for it just so my transplants get going. And since I don't usually have summer's in the 100+ range for extended periods like this year was, the greenhouse has never been a problem before. If it keeps doing it though, first I'm moving to Antarctica... then I will probably break down and use your suggestion and get a piece of shade cloth. Great idea!

  • Monek MarieMonek Marie Moderator Posts: 2,225 admin

    @jodienancarrow I grow my plants close together. It chokes out weeds and seems to keep the soil moister because its shaded. Its also great for small space or urban gardening. Love you plant lay out!

  • VermontCathyVermontCathy Posts: 676 ✭✭✭✭

    @greyfurball Wow! That is an ambitious bed. I should consider trying that instead of having distinct beds of specific families. And hopefully all that variety will confuse the insect pests!

    The only thing I worry about with mixed beds across families is disease and pest buildup. You can't really rotate between beds when you have every family you grow represented in every bed.

    Does anyone have either a lot of experience or some well-documented resources that discuss these tradeoffs? Many gardening writers will say "plan a mix, intercrop different plant families in the same bed, carrots love tomatoes, etc.", and will also say "rotate plant families, don't grow the same plants in the same place in subsequent years."

    But I have yet to read a gardening writer who understands that there is a direct conflict between these two pieces of advice.

    If you have a large garden that lets you leave some beds idle, you can let the unused beds go to grass or some type of green mulch. But those of us with small gardens need to use every bed, every year, for something we can eat.

    I'm fortunate that, living in a cold climate that freezes hard, I don't get the disease and pest buildup year after year that can plague gardens in warmer climates. (But rotation is still a good thing.) Those warm-climate beds really do need to be allowed to rest occasionally, or their output will fall steadily year after year.

  • greyfurballgreyfurball Southeastern PennsylvaniaPosts: 592 ✭✭✭✭


    Disease and pests has not been any kind of a problem in my multi-cultural (those beds with everything thrown in them) beds except for two things. Yes you will still see the cabbage worms/butterflies but even those were down by about 75%. I had a separate brassica bed also with just all kinds of brassicas and yes it was normal. Had to keep on top of it everyday or else the cabbage worms/butterflies would take over. But the mixed bed, I had no worms I ever found but a few of the butterflies would come over occasionally.

    The late season tomato virus still found me, but it also was much later than normal. I live in a hot humid area so I always have to fight with with early/middle/late tomato viruses. But the mixed bed stayed almost tomato disease free until September this year. The other tomatoes I had in other areas, normal all summer disease with constant organic controls to have to contain in starting as early as June.

    Then the other thing you might notice, I do not put any of the squash/melon/cukes/potatoes etc. in any mixed bed. All of those varieties have tons of problems with pests so I do keep them in rotated beds all the time within their own plant families. This way I am not inviting those pests to my mixed bed areas. I can also contain or eliminate any pests or diseases which show up easier that way.

    As for rotating, yes I always rotate my mixed bed each year. I have 3 - 4X10 beds, one 4X12 bed, 2 - 4X4 beds and then an assortment of smaller sizes fit into spaces where I can fit them. So I do have enough beds I can keep a rotational cycle all the time.

    If you want to try this mixed bed method, start small next year with a few plant families and see what works for you. It won't take you long to figure out where you have spaces. When I started, that's where I always threw in some lettuce, radish, spinach, pac choi, green bean bush type, etc. etc. It also allows you to grow the spring crops longer (snow peas, lettuce, radish, spinach etc) because you can use the tall plants to shade the easy bolting plants. It always upset me that I could have fresh lettuce in spring then it's gone until Sept/Oct.. Now I don't have that problem anymore. My tomato and pepper plants make a beautiful shade umbrella.

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