The Q&A Archives: When To Fertilize Annuals?

Question: I have started all types of annuals indoors under grow lights with a soil warming cable preset in the soil at 74 degrees. The seeds have no problem germinating and with low lights I try to keep them from getting leggy. Should I apply a high nitrogen plant food to produce early blooms? My marigolds are almost 6 inches, not very bushy and no signs of blooms? What can I do?

Answer: As soon as your seedlings develop two sets of true leaves you can begin fertilizing. Start with a liquid fertilizer that's been diluted to one-quarter strength and use it instead of plain water to water your seedlings. As they grow and develop you can increase to a half-strength solution every time you water. After they've been transplanted outdoors, use the fertilizer at the dilution rate directed on the label. It's almost past time to pinch your marigolds back, but if you do it immediately they'll develop additional stems. Just pinch out the very top bud and new side shoots will develop. You can unplug your heat cable now that your seedlings are up, and be sure to keep the fluorescent lights on 12-14 hours each day, with the bulbs only 2"-4" above the tops of the plants.

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