The Q&A Archives: Seedlings With Light Still Leggy.

Question: I've read many question/answers regarding leggy seedlings. I still don't know what to do. I purchased larger size peat pots, used seed starting mix, used Burpee seeds. I have them in large trays where water can drain from the peat pots and retain moisture without being soggy. The room stays around 70-72 degrees. The seedlings popped up quickly and I immediately turned on the 4' shop light fixture and 2 additional 100 watt bulbs to cover my area. I have rotated seed trays under the lighting. I also have a cool mist humidifier in the room for added moisture. My seedlings are 2" tall with one set of leaves - all in a week. The light hangs approx. 2" above the seedlings in most places. Can I add more soilless mix to slightly cover the first set of leaves? Is it to late to do anything to help the tall leggy plants? What shall I do? The light goes on at 7 a.m. and off around 8:30 p.m. That's about the best I can do.

It gets so expensive to buy plant lights and fixtures. I thought this year things would work out better. Can you provide any suggestions?


Answer: Growing good quality seedlings at home is not easy. It is true that the lights can be expensive, however it is critical that the plants be kept within about an inch of the bulbs. Lack of light is probably the biggest reason for poor quality. In my experience, an ordinary shop light fixture with one "warm" bulb and one "cool" bulb turned on for 16 hours a day works well. The bulbs should be relatively new and should be dusted if they have been stored for a while. Slightly cooler temperatures might also help, most seedlings grow best at only about 60 to 65 degrees, especially when low light is an issue. Also make sure you are not overfertilizing them. I am not certain your area will need the extra moisture, especially if you reduce the temperature a bit. If you have more plants than will fit under the lights at a time, maybe you can set the more cold tolerant seedlings out in a coldframe soon (bring them in at night if it gets really cold)? Finally, some seedlings are just large, such as those of some annual vines and possibly cucurbits. Other seedlings such as foxgloves are very tiny. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with your plants.

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