Creative Lighting for Seed Starting

As we get close to the time to start tomato, pepper, and other seedlings indoors, I thought I’d share this picture of my older sister’s seed starting setup from few years ago:

lamps et al

Two desk lamps with compact florescent bulbs. Not traditional, but worked great. Just a reminder that you can get creative when it comes to lighting for seedlings, using whatever fixtures and layout works for your space. The only rules are to use florescent or LED bulbs, not those old fashioned incandescent bulbs which have poor light for plants, and err on the side of more light rather than less to make sure you get compact, healthy plants that will transition to the sunny outside world without drama.
Joseph Tychonievich


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Linda Chalker-Scott

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott has a Ph.D. in Horticulture from Oregon State University and is an ISA certified arborist and an ASCA consulting arborist. She is WSU’s Extension Urban Horticulturist and a Professor in the Department of Horticulture, and holds two affiliate associate professor positions at University of Washington. She conducts research in applied plant and soil sciences, publishing the results in scientific articles and university Extension fact sheets. Linda also is the award-winning author of five books: the horticultural myth-busting The Informed Gardener (2008) and The Informed Gardener Blooms Again (2010) from the University of Washington Press and Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens: Good Science – Practical Application (2009) from GFG Publishing, Inc., and How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do from Timber Press (2015). Her latest effort is an update of Art Kruckeberg’s Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest from UW Press (2019). In 2018 Linda was featured in a video series – The Science of Gardening – produced by The Great Courses. She also is one of the Garden Professors – a group of academic colleagues who educate and entertain through their blog and Facebook pages. Linda’s contribution to gardeners was recognized in 2017 by the Association for Garden Communicators as the first recipient of their Cynthia Westcott Scientific Writing Award. "The Garden Professors" Facebook page - "The Garden Professors" Facebook group - Books:

5 thoughts on “Creative Lighting for Seed Starting”

  1. “more light rather than less to make sure you get compact, healthy plants that will transition to the sunny outside world without drama.” You say it so well Joseph!

  2. LED is still rather an emerging source of lighting. It is more expensive but not a contributor to potentially spreading more Mercury into living environments as CFLs.

    Since most will probably go cheaper and choose CFLs over LEDs:

    Consumers should also focus in on CFL package labels for output in lumens. There is a significant light difference between CFL “daylight” -“soft white” type bulbs. Lumens effect intensity as well as light quality in terms of color (wavelength spectrum)

    Soft White 2500-3000k
    Bright White 3500-4100k
    Daylight 5000-6500k

    Best bet are the Daylight type CFLs as they usually have a wavelength spectrum closer to what most seedlings need as well as a higher lumens output.

    Lumens measure the amount of light produced. The more lumens in a light bulb, the brighter the light. Daylight type CFLs generally have higher lumen output. This higher output should result in stockier seedlings.

    Another alternative is for HO or VHO fluorescents (High Output/Very High Outpout). These can be purchased or easily built. Just requires a specific ballast and bulbs which are more expensive (but still probably not in the LED price range). I don’t think these worth the cost for once a year for a few weeks warriors.

  3. Good points on CFL lights. I am switching to LED’s even though expensive: more energy efficient, perfect wave length for plants (matches chlorophyll absorption), no heat so can have closer to plants, and as you say no mercury. They also last longer. Good investment.

  4. That’s a very good idea! I just finished with the seed starters, but my sister is now beginning with the preparations and this will be of a great help for her. I’m definitely recommending this post to her and to some friends too. Thanks for the great suggestion!

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