Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

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How do I start seedling under fluorescent lights?

Using fluorescent lights is an ideal way to start seedling. They provide high intensity light and can be placed most anywhere. Listen to message 3712 for some general information on using lights. When starting seedlings it is very important that the lights be close to the seedlings. They should clear by only 2-3 inches. This will keep the plants short and stocky. If the lights are too high the seedlings will very quickly stretch and become leggy.

Choose a good soilless mix that is sterile and always use clean containers. Styrofoam cups or yogurt containers can be used if you do not want to purchase seedling flats and pots. Moisten the soilless mix and sow seeds according to directions on the seed packet. Most seeds do not need light when they germinate but they will germinate quicker if gentle bottom heat is supplied. Around 70 degrees F. is ideal for most seeds. Special heating pads can be purchased for this purpose. Cover the seeds with a piece of glass, plastic wrap or waxed paper to hold in the moisture. Check daily. If dry, sprinkle with water. After the seeds germinate move the plants close to the lights. When the plants develop their first true leaves they can be transplanted to packs or trays in which they will grow until being set out. Water as needed, but be careful of over watering. Excessive water can lead to a disease problem called damping-off where the plants rot off at soil level. Set your timer for 14 to 16 hours of light a day and provide a gentle breeze with a fan if possible to help strengthen the plants. Fertilize weekly with an all purpose water soluble fertilizer.

Before the plants are set outside they should be hardened off. Hardening off is accomplished by exposing the young tender plants to increasing lengths of time outdoors in a protected location for one to two weeks. Once the plants are hardened off they can be planted out of doors as weather permits.