Most home gardeners purchase vegetable transplants. There are, however, several advantages to growing your own. If you grow your own transplants, they will be the size you want when you are ready to plant them. The container size can be controlled, as can the variety. There will be less danger of bringing in insects and diseases, and you can properly harden the transplants before planting. The cost may also be less.
Unfortunately, vegetable transplants are not easy to produce in the home. Optimum growth requires a heated structure, a greenhouse. If you grow transplants in the home, you will face two severe problems. First, vegetable transplants usually grow best with night temperatures 10 degrees below day temperatures. Second, the light intensity, even in a south-facing window, is not adequate to produce most vegetable transplants.
The first difficulty can be overcome by growing transplants in an unheated room and supplying heat only in the daytime or by simply turning down the thermostat at night. You can increase the light to suitable levels by building a light box. A light box is a partial-box with bottom, back and ends only. Make it about 15 inches high, a little over 4 feet long and about 18 inches from front to back. Line the inside with foil. Place the box in front of a south-facing window and set a fluorescent light on the open top. Attach the light to a timer set to turn on near dawn and to turn off 16 hours later. The light will not be sufficient to grow plants, but it will supplement the natural light from the south-facing window nicely. Special plant grow lights are available and work better than ordinary fluorescent lights for growing plants.
Use this plant box to grow a few transplants or to germinate many. If seedlings are started in this box, they will need to be moved to a more roomy, protected environment when they require additional space. A coldframe may be used for this. A coldframe or hotbed may be built according to the design in Extension PB 819 "Vegetable Transplant Production." This frame or bed will suffice to raise seedlings to the transplant stage. See also Extension SP291-A, "Growing Vegetable Transplants for Home Gardens." See Table 9 to determine ideal germinating and growing temperatures, as well as the time required to produce different kinds of vegetable plants.
Was this article helpful?