Caring for Seedlings

Caring for Seedlings

Vegetables and
Annual Flowers


Success! Your seeds are up! Congratulations!

But you’re not out of the woods yet! You'll still need to check your seedlings every day and that they aren’t growing up into the lights. Remember, you want to keep the lights an inch or two above the tips of the plants. Seedlings grow at different rates, so it can be a challenge to adjust the lights to suit all your plants. One way to tackle this is to have a number of small pieces of 1" thick wood to prop up shorter seedlings to the appropriate heights.

Watering
Water small seedlings from the bottom by placing their containers in a water-filled tray. Once the soil surface is moist, drain off excess water. Don’t let plants sit in water for more than an hour or two, or you may suffocate the roots and encourage root rot. If you'd rather use a watering can, be very careful not to topple seedlings. It's safer to water from below until seedlings are larger and sturdier.

Thin, Thin, Thin
If you look closely, you'll see that for many plants the first two "leaves" don't look like the plant's normal leaves. These are called the "seed leaves," and they are actually the cotyledons -- the food storage structure in the seed.

Once you see the first set of "true leaves" -- not counting the seed leaves -- you need to check on the crowding situation. You want only one plant growing in each cell of a six-pack, each peat pot, or any other small container. You have two choices. You can transplant the extra seedlings to different containers, or simply snip off the extras at the soil line.


Indoor Seed Starting FAQ #2

I had very poor germination of the leek seeds I started indoors. The seeds were leftovers from last year; could this be the problem?

Answer



Notice how the soil mix on the left, which is dry, is lighter in color than the moist mix on the right.


Indoor Seed Starting FAQ #3

I often see reference to seedlings’ first "true leaves." But my leeks and onions have grass-like leaves right from the start. How do I know when to begin fertilizing?

Answer

Thin seedlings to one plant per cell by using a pair of scissors to snip off the weaker plant(s).

Snipping them off is the best option, because it doesn't disturb the roots of the one you are saving. It hurts, but you have to do it! Otherwise, instead of one vigorous plant you'll have 2 or 3 weak, spindly plants in each container. Think carefully before you decide to transplant the extras. Do you really need a dozen extra tomato plants? Is it worth risking damaging the roots of the six you really want?

Fertilizing your Seedlings
O
nce you see the second set of true leaves, you can begin to fertilize your plants. The easiest way is to use a soluble fertilizer that you mix with water. Dilute the fertilizer to one third strength and use this solution to water the plants once a week.

Don't overdo it -- more is definitely NOT better! Never apply a more concentrated solution than is recommended on the label, or you can damage plant roots.

You’ve sown your seeds, and they’re up and growing! In the next class we’ll talk about planting and transplanting outdoors.

Transplanting
Some plants, including tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, grow quickly and will need to be transplanted into larger containers once or twice before it's time to set them into the garden. Choose a container that is about an inch larger in diameter than the current container, and use potting soil or a 50:50 mix of potting soil and seed starting mix.


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