Adventures in Seed Starting

This is my first season experimenting with seed starting.   I had a bunch of seed trays and containers leftover from previous plant purchases (hoarding for the win!) that I cleaned and disinfected by spraying with hydrogen peroxide.  I purchased a seed starting mix at a nearby nursery as well as a shop light and light timer from Home Depot.  I had PVC pipe from a previous project on hand that I used to create a stand to hang the shop light.  I tried to use what I had on hand as much as possible, so as you can see below it's a bit of a bootleg setup, but it worked for the most part.  

basement bootleg seed starting setup.

basement bootleg seed starting setup.

I started back in February with lettuce, kale, swiss chard, spinach, and leek seeds.  I'm not calling it a total fail, but definitely not a total success.  All of the seeds germinated except for the spinach and leek seeds.  A few lessons learned: I think I overwatered a bit.  The seedlings got a little "leggy"...I don't know if that makes sense, but the stems were really long and "stringy".  I thought I took a picture, but I guess I was too ashamed...  I watered from the bottom by putting about a half inch of water in the tray holding the containers.  That is the part I wouldn't change, but next time I will only water when the soil is dry on the top, which lately is less than once a week.  Also, I should have been better about thinning the lettuce early on, I put several seeds in each compartment, but didn't stay on top of thinning and they got tangled.  I think they would have done better with more "room to breathe" so to speak.

Having said that, I transplanted the strongest looking ones to the new raised bed in mid-March and they're still alive!  I really didn't think they were going to make it, but so far so good.  They haven't put on a ton of growth, but they're still trucking.

freshly transplanted lettuce, kale, and swiss chard starts on the left.

freshly transplanted lettuce, kale, and swiss chard starts on the left.

I was trying to get away with not buying a seed-starting mat, but I think I will have to if I want to keep this operation in the basement.  I thought the shop light would give off more heat, but advances in technology seem to have made them safer than I remember as a child - I can touch the bulb when it's on and not burn myself...thank you safety regulations.  The cool-season seeds still did fine and germinated within a week, but the warm-season ones took about 2 weeks - I think a warmer environment might have helped.  They are also pretty tall and skinny (any ideas?), but fortunately tomato stems will root so I can plant them deep and hopefully they will do okay.  I got a late start on these, so they're not quite as big as I was hoping they would be by now.  In fact, I was hoping to have them in the ground by now even though it's not technically recommended to do so around these parts until mid- to late-May.

various tomato, pepper, eggplant, and basil starts.

various tomato, pepper, eggplant, and basil starts.

I think I will end up buying additional starts of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and basil as an insurance policy since the seeds I started (shown above) don't exactly inspire confidence...