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The Best Lights To Use For Starting Seeds Indoors – Simple, Easy & Inexpensive!

Looking for the best lights to use for starting your vegetable or flowers seeds indoors this year? You might just be surprised how easy and inexpensive the perfect solution can be!

When it comes to getting ready for garden season, for many gardeners, it all begins with growing their own vegetable plants and annual flowers from seed. Not only is growing your own plants fun and rewarding – it also lets you grow any plant you can find a seed for. Even better, it can also save a tremendous amount of money!

But when it comes to growing strong, healthy transplants for your flowerbeds and garden, one of the biggest areas gardeners struggle with is giving their seedlings the light they need as they “grow up” indoors.

best lights for starting seeds indoors
Growing your own plants from seed is easy to do as long as you provide your plants with good lighting. Unfortunately, even though many try, the windowsill isn’t an ideal location to give young plants the light they need.

Getting the right kind and amount of light for young seedlings is absolutely critical in their development. Without enough light, plants will struggle to even develop. And if the light is too strong or too far away – it can lead to spindly, long, weak transplants that blow over with the first bit of wind after being planted outdoors.

Here’s the good news – contrary to popular belief, growing seedlings indoors doesn’t require fancy, expensive grow lights or equipment to start seeds indoors. They just simply aren’t necessary. But with that said, it does require more light than just placing your plants in a sunny windowsill.

The Windowsill Mistake – The Best Lights To Use For Starting Seeds Indoors

Starting seeds in a sunny windowsill may sound like a great plan, but it has quite a few shortcomings. Especially when it comes to growing strong, healthy plants that are ready to take on the outdoors.

So why is starting and growing plants in a window a bad plan? For starters, seeds have a difficult time germinating with the constant change in temperature from a window. Daytime in the sun can be plenty warm, but many windows become quite cold in the evening and overnight hours.

seedlings in a window
It can be hard to get seeds to germinate in a window. And even if they do, they then grow long and weak trying to stretch to the sun.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. If and when seeds finally germinate in a windowsill, they struggle to maintain proper growth. This is because the light that comes through a window from the sun is simply too far away.

Tender young plants need light. And they will stretch as far as they can to get it. In a windowsill, because the sun is so far away, they try to grow as quickly as they they can to it. The result is a seedling that grows spindly, tall and skinny.

Those same plants also lean heavily toward wherever the light is coming from. This too contributes to them becoming even more weak. Even for those that constantly turn their plants to correct the lean, the plants still grow leggy with extra long main stems.

One thing is for sure, windowsill growing will not create strong plants that are ready for the outdoors. But there is a perfect answer, and it’s cheaper and easier than you could ever imagine!

The Best Lights To Use For Starting Seeds Indoors

The Inexpensive Answer To Giving Great Light To Indoors Seedlings

Although you can certainly use expensive grow lights and stands to grow great transplants indoors, there is a much better, easier, and best of all, less expensive option.

Unlike tropical or unique plants that require special lighting to survive indoors, vegetable and annual flowers do not. They simply need bright, consistent light. And because of that, they grow with ease under ordinary fluorescent or LED ceiling shop lights. In fact, they thrive growing underneath them!

led lights for starting seeds
Ordinary LED or fluorescent shop lights are perfect for growing incredibly healthy transplants indoors from seed.

We are talking about the common, familiar hanging lights used to light up garages and basements. The double bulb light versions of these are the best for growing seeds with their wider width. They can usually easily be found in 2′ and 4′ lengths which fit over seed trays in perfect fashion.

Even better, most shop lights come with hanging chains included that make it easy to put directly over your plants. As for which is better when it comes to fluorescent or LED – both work equally well, although LED shop lights are far less expensive to operate. They also usually last far longer as well.

Now that we have covered what lights you can use – here is an in depth look at how to use shop lights to grow amazing transplants:

Starting Seeds With Shop Lights – The Best Lights To Use For Starting Seeds Indoors

When growing seeds indoors with fluorescent or LED shop lights, it’s all about low and slow. As in keeping the lights low to the plants to encourage slow, steady growth.

Both styles of lights provide bright but cool lighting. That means placing them close to the tops of plants won’t burn their tender leaves as they grow. Even when placed as close as 1 to 2 inches over the top of the foliage. That, by the way, happens to be the perfect height for allowing seedlings to grow slow and steady.

Listen In Below To Our Podcast On Starting Seeds Indoors With Ease!

So just how do you need to use the lights? For starters, when seeds are first planted into their cells, there is no need for the lights to be used at all. In fact, the light will only make the soil dry out faster.

Instead, when first starting your seeds, place a clear lid or even a bit of plastic wrap loosely over the top of your trays. This will help keep moisture in place until the first seeds begin to germinate. Again, they do not need light at this point, so place them in a warm room or area that will help speed sprouting.

Check the plants daily and once the first few seeds germinate, it’s time for the lights! Two, double-light fixtures can be easily used to start up to 4 large flats. By suspending the bulbs over the plants at 1 to 2 inches above the top of the leaves, plants grow slow and steady.

You can hang the lights over plants using cement blocks, bricks, or blocks of woods on the end. You can also easily create a stand from simple 2×4’s to hang and adjust the lights with a chain. We actually have plans in our Etsy shop for a great little table top stand that goes together with ease using just a few common 2×4’s. See: Easy DIY Tabletop Seed Stand

DIY Seed Starting Stand
This simple to make DIY seed starting stand is great for hanging to 4′ shop lights to start tons of seeds!

However you hang your lights over your plants, continue to adjust the lights up as needed, but always keep them just an inch or two above the foliage. This will help to develop strong stems and more compact foliage. Both of which are highly advantageous when it comes to transplanting success.

How Long Do The Lights Need To Be On? The Best Lights To Use For Starting Seeds Indoors

That leads to the final question of how long do the lights need to be left on each day? For best results, try to leave your lights on each day for 12 to 14 hours.

Leaving them on around the clock will cause too much early growth and have your plants too large and unruly long before planting day. They actually need the dark period each day to rest as well. On the other side, anything less than 12 hours each day and they will grow too slowly.

Use the lights to continue growing plants (usually 6+ weeks) until they are large and strong enough to begin the process of hardening off before transplanting. For more on this, see our article: How To Harden Off Seedlings & Transplants Before Planting Outdoors.

Here is to growing your own plants this year with ordinary shop lights – and to having your best transplants ever!

This Is My Garden

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