If you read part one, then you should already have your seeds in their containers ready to start growing, right?
But what do you do with them after they come up?
Well, your work is far from over!
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In my opinion, planting is the easy part- it’s the nurturing them after they emerge that gets a little trickier!
So, let’s learn together what you need to do to successfully grow your plants to transplanting size!
I. Seedlings Emerge
Nurturing your baby plants
Once your seedlings make an appearance, then it’s time to take off the plastic covering and turn on your lights!
Now, here’s the part that new growers may not realize- you need to keep that light only 2-3 inches above the plant.
Yup, you read that right. Some of my earliest newby mistakes resulted from not having my grow light close enough to the plants. This also means that as the plants grow, you will need to keep moving your lights upward to give them room, but always maintain that 2-3 inch distance.
You will also need to keep those lights on for 12-18 hours! Most sources I found recommend closer to the 16-18 hour mark. You can put a timer on your lights to help you with this.
Watering your seedlings
As your babies grow, you will need to keep a sharp eye on the soil moisture. This can get a little bit tricky.
Overwatering can be detrimental, but you certainly don’t want to skimp them on water, either.
Also, do not use softened water because the extra sodium can kill your tiny plants.
Many sources recommended watering from the bottom up. To do that, just put some water in your waterproof trays and let the soil and roots soak it up.
Remember that meat basting syringe that was recommended for watering in Part 1? You can use that here so that you don’t injure those fragile plants.
Some sources tell you to NOT water over the top of your plants to prevent fungus, but one source I found recommended periodically spraying your plants to mimic rain, but just make sure that you let your plants fully dry out between mistings.
The basic rule here is to water your seedlings consistently without over doing it.
Strengthening the stems
Now, our ultimate goal with our new plants is to put them outside in our gardens, right?
Well, on that note, another thing you need to be doing with your seedlings during this period of growth is strengthening their stems.
There are two ways to accomplish this:
You can train a small fan on them to mimic a light breeze blowing, or if you have your seedlings in a busy part of your house, you can run your hands over the tops of them several times a day as you pass by.
Now, depending on what type of soil starting medium you used, you may have to add some fertilizer to your plants a few weeks after they emerge.
If you used a soil mix that contains compost, you probably won’t need any additional fertilizer.
But, if you used a mix without any, then you may benefit from adding some.
DON’T OVERDO IT!
Whatever type of fertilizer you choose to use needs to be diluted by half.
And you only need to feed it your seedlings once a week.
Some fertilizer options include fish and kelp, a commercial fertilizer from your local garden store, or you can make your own.
This is the part that trips me up! I get too eager to put my new plants outside and then almost kill them in the process!
So, don’t be like me and instead follow these rules and tips.
OK, you need to start one week in advance of your transplanting date. I tend to shorten this period, which always gets me in trouble.
On the first day of hardening off, you should put your baby plants in a sheltered area, preferably with dappled shade. Trust me, full sun, even if it’s morning sun, can kill your plants. Only leave your plants outside for a couple hours on this first day.
The next day, leave them out for a little longer.
Gradually extend their time outside and make the conditions a little worse for them each time- a tad more sun, a little more wind.
Watch their soil moisture, because their little containers will dry out fast!
After a week, pick an overcast day and transplant your carefully nurtured plants in your garden!
Don’t you feel proud of yourself?? I know I always do 🙂
Check out this post and this post for tips on planting tomatoes and peppers in your garden!
Now, I’m going to wrap up this post with some common problems that can happen during this seed starting process (all of these have happened to me at some point in time!)
Damping Off– this looks like the seedling just suddenly collapsed. This is caused by the fungus botrytis. This can be prevented by keeping your plants dry between waterings or mistings or by keeping a fan on them.
Leggy Plants– your plants develop a long skinny stem. The most common cause is that the plants are looking for light. If you’ve kept your grow light within that 2-3 inch distance, that should help prevent this problem. It can also be caused by your room temperatures being too warm. In the picture above, my seedling only had west window lighting, which wasn’t enough.
Poor Root Growth– This can be caused by poor drainage or by temperatures being too low.
Anybody else have any seed starting advice?? Give me your best tips! And don’t forget to tell us what zone you live in 🙂
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