All Things Gardening forum: When and how to transplant seedlings?

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Name: Carol Texas
Central Texas (Zone 8b)
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Ecscuba
Jan 8, 2016 5:24 PM CST
I'm making progress in the GH this winter season. Things are sprouting up like crazy (lettuce, extra dwarf bok choy, etc). But then my inexperience (and lack of knowledge) makes itself apparent. I've noticed my seedlings are always, well, too thin and flimsy. I plant fairly shallow so they'll come up (container with soil less mix, and fertilome on top). But then the plants always seem spindly. So I wondered if I need to transplant them deeper after they're up. I had one crop of Extra Dwarf Bok Choy already - with really nice leafy tops (but very thin spindly stalks). This is my 2nd experiment.

The first container is the bok choy seedlings in the "nursery" under the grow light- and the 2nd is a larger container I've transplanted them in today. They are about 5 days old - so I was careful with the roots (hopefully I've not jumped the gun). The last pic is of a bunch of seedlings (more bok choy, lettuce, etc.)-and I have another shelf full too ! Before I transplant any more I wanted to see if anyone thinks I'm heading the right direction -- or has any advice for how I should be doing this ? Thanks so much !
Thumb of 2016-01-08/Ecscuba/955d82


Thumb of 2016-01-08/Ecscuba/904759


Thumb of 2016-01-08/Ecscuba/fd918f

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Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
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drdawg
Jan 8, 2016 5:31 PM CST
I think pretty much all my germinated vegetables come up thin like that and I don't necessarily plant them shallow. I do have strong light (they are started in a greenhouse) and that seems to make them more erect, but they are still spindly when only weeks old.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
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Name: Carol Texas
Central Texas (Zone 8b)
"Not all who wander are lost."
Region: Texas Composter Greenhouse Cactus and Succulents Organic Gardener Hummingbirder
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Ecscuba
Jan 8, 2016 6:14 PM CST
@drdawg how do you get them to fatten up? My first batch of dwarf bok choy was so spindly in the stem -- and the picture of it showed it should be nice and fat. We enjoyed the top leafy part - but the nice stalk was missing.

Do you usually transplant deeper? That's what I did with them today.
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Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
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jvdubb
Jan 8, 2016 6:38 PM CST
My mom runs her hand back and forth over them several times a day
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
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drdawg
Jan 8, 2016 9:09 PM CST
I don't do any hocus-pocus. I don't measure the seed depth, but the average depth probably is 1/4". When I transplant they go at the same depth as they grew from seed. I don't plant bok choy.
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Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
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CarolineScott
Jan 8, 2016 9:13 PM CST
For sturdier stems on tomatoe plants, we either stroke them, or run a fan on them.
The fan does not need to be all the time, but just for short time.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Jan 8, 2016 11:02 PM CST
Carol, I have that "spindly" problem with Brassicas in particular... even when I direct sow them outside in full sun. It almost seems like part of the root is above ground. I do plant them a little deeper when I pot them up (or transplant outdoors). If anyone has anything else to offer in that regard, I'm I'm all ears! !

I like planting my seeds in 6-packs (2-3 seeds to a cell, then thin to 1 plant; unless I only have a few seeds, or expensive seeds, then just 1 to a cell and no thinning) rather than a bunch together in a container... I find it easier to transplant them, but that might just be me.
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Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
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DavidLMO
Jan 8, 2016 11:13 PM CST
Fans help. Sometimes planting seed a bit deeper will help.

I have not had problems with bok choy. I have grown it.

Wondering - could it be treated like a lanky tomato and laid in a trough? I don't know.

Carol - Are things getting adequate light? I know they are in a GH.
Seeking Feng Shui with my plants since 1976
Name: Carol Texas
Central Texas (Zone 8b)
"Not all who wander are lost."
Region: Texas Composter Greenhouse Cactus and Succulents Organic Gardener Hummingbirder
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Ecscuba
Jan 10, 2016 1:42 PM CST
@DavidLMO I have CFLs for each planter - to supplement the light coming in (now that they are transplanted). Initially they were under a full spectrum 3' grow light -- so they should have had enough light, but they were spindly when I took them out of there and transplanted. I've transplanted deeper into larger container, so will watch and see if that does the trick. I hesitate to plant them deeper initially because I was concerned they might not sprout at all. A learning process I guess :)
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My passion is painting but gardening is running a close second.
Name: Carol Texas
Central Texas (Zone 8b)
"Not all who wander are lost."
Region: Texas Composter Greenhouse Cactus and Succulents Organic Gardener Hummingbirder
Herbs Garden Art Dragonflies Garden Ideas: Level 2
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Ecscuba
Jan 10, 2016 2:38 PM CST
@DavidLMO you got me thinking - I have a good grow light in there, but I am keeping it about 18 inches above the containers because it gets up to 96 degrees (which seems to me fries the seeds). I raised the containers about 6 inches, and aimed a fan right at the containers to keep it cooler. I think it probably actually needs to be raised more - which I will do. I also covered some cardboard with those foil mylar blankets -- and made some "reflectors" to put around the plants that are getting CFL light, and moved the CFLs closer to the plants. I probably need more focus on the lighting. Thanks for getting me thinking.
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My passion is painting but gardening is running a close second.
Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
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DavidLMO
Jan 10, 2016 3:17 PM CST
Ecscuba said:@DavidLMO you got me thinking - I have a good grow light in there, but I am keeping it about 18 inches above the containers because it gets up to 96 degrees I probably need more focus on the lighting. Thanks for getting me thinking.


What light causes temp to rise to 96? Not the CFLs - at least my bank of 800 Watts eq does not get that hot.

The fan running will help to prevent legginess. Not much you can do after the fact other than transplant deeper. Many plants can handle that - some won't.

Well - even if someone cannot offer info that is spot on helpful, sometimes a way of doing things by others helps one think, put several suggestions together or just do something different that helps.

Best of luck.
Seeking Feng Shui with my plants since 1976
Skåne, Sweden (Zone 7b)
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William
Jan 10, 2016 3:18 PM CST
For seedlings indoors or under glass that gets a bit spindly I have occasionally used some dry sand sprinkled between the seedlings, just to emergency stabilize them. This way I can wait to transplant them until they have grown a bit bigger and are easier and safer to handle.

@Weedwhacker for direct sowing brassicas outdoors I make a deeper seed drill than needed. After I have sown the seeds I only cover them to correct depth, I don't fill the drill completely. Later on when they have emerged I can just use a hoe to fill the drills up fully at the same time as I remove weeds. With very little effort the plants are now at correct depth and stabilized so they won't flop over. As a plus less watering is needed during germination as the soil is more moist in the bottom of the deeper drill. Of course if one anticipates extreme amounts of rain before the seeds have germinated one could run into trouble on heavier soils, but it has never happened to me on my light sandy soil.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Jan 10, 2016 8:47 PM CST
Thank you, William -- those sound like excellent suggestions (I'll put them to the test this spring! Smiling )

Do you think vermiculite would work the same as the sand that you use for the indoor seedlings?
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Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
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DavidLMO
Jan 10, 2016 10:03 PM CST
Between the two, I would use the sand. The vermiculite is so fluffy, it would not serve the same purpose. Also, vermiculite can get clumpy and hold too much moisture. That would not be good up against the skinny stems.

I had forgotten William's suggestion and glad he mentioned it.
Seeking Feng Shui with my plants since 1976
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
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drdawg
Jan 11, 2016 6:55 AM CST
I agree Vermiculite holds lots of moisture. I no longer use it at all though it can be successfully used in starting seeds.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
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If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Jan 11, 2016 8:53 AM CST
Thanks, David - I'm definitely going to be trying this !
"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
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Skåne, Sweden (Zone 7b)
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William
Jan 11, 2016 8:57 AM CST
Sandy, I actually have never used vermiculite at all, so not the right person to ask. However I respect both David's and Ken's thoughts very much and their opinions here make much sense to me. I have sand for free, but even if you would need to buy some. it would be a lot cheaper than vermiculite as that is usually a very expensive product, at least here it is. Just make sure there isn't any salt in the sand and you will be fine. I heard the recommendation to taste the sand to make sure there is no excessive salt in it, but I'm not prepared to go that far myself Hilarious! Hilarious! Hilarious!
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Jan 11, 2016 9:02 AM CST
David's reply about the vermiculite makes sense to me, too -- and I'll use Lake Michigan sand, shouldn't be any salt in that!
"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
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Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Jan 11, 2016 1:16 PM CST
You probably should rinse the sand before using, regardless. If I need sand, I purchase it by the bag at Lowe's and it is "Play Sand". I am sure it is completely clean but I rinse it before use just to be safe.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
Seed Starter Vegetable Grower Birds Butterflies Dog Lover Cat Lover
Image
Weedwhacker
Jan 11, 2016 4:23 PM CST
Good suggestion, Ken -- I think I'll actually use a bag of "play sand" too, you never know what kind of bugs and stuff will be in the sand out of the lake, especially if I'm using it indoors.
"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
- John Powell / Cubits.org - A Universe of Communities
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