This year, like usual, we started our tomato, pepper, artichoke and eggplant seeds indoors in late February. We found that the seeds we had from 2012 and 2013 germinated very well. Older pepper seeds did not. Our eggplant seeds did not germinate well. The worst thing we found was that the Gardner & Bloome potting soil we bought was infested with fungal gnats.
We had never had this problem before. For weeks, I was vacuuming hundreds of them as they emerged from the soil and started flying around. I had to lift each pot and vacuum the ones hiding on the bottom and around the sides. I did this a few times each day. I also bought yellow sticky traps which attract some of the adults (but not all). Another thing I tried was putting potato chunks on the soil in some of the pots to attract the larvae. Sure enough, after a few days there would be clear larvae 1/4" long squirming on the underside of the potato. It was so disgusting.
While fungal gnats are not supposed to kill plants, a number of our seeds would start to germinate and then disappear. We pulled up a few weak seedlings and found the roots were eaten. Last weekend we divided our starts that had several in a pot and moved some weaker starts into fresh TAGRO potting soil. We also sterilized the leftover infested potting soil by putting it in a metal pot, adding some water and steaming it on the burner on our outdoor grill. We put a big dent in the population of gnats, so we're hoping the seedlings will start growing more quickly now.
Another thing that was different this year with our seedlings was that this was the first year we started our seeds under florescent lights in our back north & east facing room. In the past, we had started them in our south facing dining room window and then moved them under lights in the back room after they were well on their way. I feel like they took longer to germinate and are slower growing than when they have more exposure to natural sunlight. Hence, we are kicking ourselves for not building a greenhouse this past fall/winter. We definitely learned some lessons this year.
Our grow light setup- bigger and better than last year, but still not big enough.