If you have tried your hand at gardening in Texas you know one thing is for certain - Texas has unpredictable weather. The trick to growing a successful garden is to get a jump on the season because Spring can go from warm to incredibly hot very suddenly. In order to accomplish this you either need to own a greenhouse, which can be expensive and will take up a lot of space on your property, or you will need to start your transplants indoors. I decided to do the latter this year, so I did some research to figure out the best options to do so.
Through my research I discovered that lighting technology has certainly come a long way. Grow lights used to have many disadvantages: they were big and bulky; they put off a lot of heat which required a lot of expensive ventilation and created a fire hazard; they consumed a lot of energy which made them very expensive to run; or in the case of fluorescent lights they didn't put off enough quality light for optimal plant growth.
Starting plants indoors has its benefits: you can control the temperature, you have less chance of insect damage, and you can increase the amount of light your plants are receiving as compared to the lower light levels outside during the winter.
Here is a list of things to consider if you choose to start transplants indoors:
1. Temperature - Most seeds have an optimal germination temperature of about 70 degrees. Since most of us keep our houses around this temperature anyway, this makes for an optimal environment to start seedlings quickly. If you choose to start your plants in a garage or shed that may be cooler than 70 degrees then you might want to consider a germination heat mat to place under your trays. A space heater can also be used to keep the overall temperature of the room within an ideal range.
2. Air Circulation - Good air circulation is key if you are growing seedlings indoors to prevent fungal or bacterial problems. Utilizing a box fan or any smaller mountable fan will suffice for a smaller table-top operation.
3. Light - Plants need good quality light for optimal plant growth. If your seedlings don't receive enough light they will stretch and become leggy. A leggy plant is hard to recover from. Good quality light will ensure that your plants are compact and healthy. I chose to use four 1500 watt LED lights to cover an area of about 5 ft x 10ft. If you are just starting a few trays you may only need one light to achieve this. The great thing about LED lights is that they don't put off a lot of heat and they consume a lot less energy than high pressure sodium or metal halide grow lights. The LED lights are designed to put off the exact spectrum of light needed by plants too, which means optimal growth is achieved. The lights that I purchased were Yehsence 1500 watt:
4. Quality seedling soil - A good quality seedling mix is ideal when starting seeds in trays indoors. I do not recommend using Miracle Grow or actual soil from your garden. The two brands that I use are SunGro and Happy Frog by Fox Farm. You can usually find these soils at your local feed store or anywhere else they sell gardening supplies. They are available on Amazon as well if you are in a pinch and need them delivered.
5. Moisture - Keeping your seed trays moist will ensure quick germination rates. I use a spray bottle to mist the soil to keep it damp without dislodging the seeds. Once your plants are larger and are consuming more water you will want to water your trays with a watering can. You can take them outside to water them and bring them back in once they have drained, or you can water them in a sink to allow for the water to drain that way.
6. Fertilizer - Using a good quality liquid fertilizer is essential for your transplants to grow healthy roots and shoots. I recommend using an organic fertilizer because they are safe and effective, and you don't have to worry about burning your plants. Liquid fertilizer should be mixed based on the manufacturer's recommendations and applied to your plants about once a week until you are ready to plant your transplants outdoors. My recommendation for liquid fertilizer is Ocean Harvest by Microlife. This product is formulated with macro and micro nutrients, as well as growth stimulators, which are all essential for your plants.
Keeping these key elements in mind will ensure that you grow successful transplants indoors to get a jump on the Texas season. I have hundreds of seedlings growing to prepare for the spring season, as well as to get ready for the plant sale at the farm on May 5th during our Spring Farm Day event.
For more information about the event please visit the Facebook event page at:
Tickets for the event can be purchased at:
Corey Wahl - director of farm operations at Ronin Farm - Bryan, TX.