Q: I have my seed packets in hand, ready to start sprouting plants for my spring garden. But I am so confused as to what kind of fluorescent bulbs to buy. Everywhere I look, a different kind of bulb is recommended.
A: Now is a great time to start sprouting seed of tomatoes and annual flowers to use in a garden. With seed you get a wider choice of plant varieties and colors than if you buy plants at a nursery. It’s easy to set up a sprouting center. Simply poke a pencil hole (for drainage) in each egg-holding compartment of an egg carton and fill with sterile seed-starting media. Plant the seed, dampen the media and cover everything with clear kitchen wrap. Place the half-cartons under a two-tube fluorescent shop light hung a few inches above it. The bulbs can be the inexpensive cool-white type until your seedlings are three inches tall. At that point, shine a couple of 40 watt incandescent bulbs on the seed starting area to supply the red wavelengths that young plants need. Move the seedlings outdoors to a shady spot in mid-April and transplant to the garden when they seem strong enough to take full sunshine.