The Q&A Archives: Leggy Tomato Seedlings

Question: I started my tomato seeds according to the chart, 6 -8 weeks prior to the last frost date. My seeds have germinated and grown very quickly. The roots are starting to come out of the bottom of the seed starter packs and they are getting tall, leggy , and slightly yellowish in color. Can you make a suggestion as to what to do? It is still a bout three weeks to early to place them outside.

Answer: Leggy seedlings are usually caused by lack of light. Most gardeners find it necessary to use artifical light such as shop lights turned on for about 16 hours a day in order to produce good quality seedlings.

You may also find that your tomatoes need to be repotted into larger pots, if the roots are crowding, it is time to pot them up. THis is important to keeping them in active growth. Off color can be caused by pest or disease problems, but it can also be caused by low fertility and/or water stress. This would be consistent with needing to be repotted. Make sure you are fertilizing regularly with a very dilute solution of a complete water soluble fertilizer and/or a seaweed based liquid fertilizer.

Finally, remember to harden off your seedlings prior to setting them in the garden to avoid shocking them. The hardening off period usually slows growth somewhat as they become accustomed to slightly less frequent watering as well as the rigors of wind and life in the open.

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