The Q&A Archives: How Should Seedlings Look?

Question: I have just recently taken up growing plants and had a question. I purchased a plastic "mini green house" with a plastic dome. I planted sage, basil, thyme, jalapenos, and two different kinds of tomato. Every one has germinated and has grown to about an inch. My question is that they seem to grow mostly stems. I have read up on "pinching" but I dont think you can pinch off the two very first unique leaves in order to promote bushy growth. I just want to know if this is a normal growth pattern.

Answer: Now that your seedlings are up and growing, be sure to remove the plastic dome to increase air circulation and help prevent the fungal disease called 'damping off'. You are wise to wait to pinch your seedlings back to promote bushyness. Wait until the fourth set of leaves develops, then pinch or snip off the terminal bud. Two new stems will develop. You can continue to pinch the tips of each stem after they've developed 3-4 sets of leaves, but it's not necessary. Make sure your seedlings get 14-16 hours of bright light each day to keep them stout and hardy. (Don't rely on natural daylight during this time of year - supplement daylight with artificial lighting.) Keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy wet and your seedlings should thrive.

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