Indoor Seedling Starts - Leggy Plants

Posted by Bob Matthews on 4/21/2018 to News
The surest way to get your indoor transplants off to a poor start, is to provide them with insufficient lighting.

A poor start has an unfavorable, season long effect on your plants. Without sufficient sunlight, plants strain to seek the sun. They do so, by developing a long, thin stem. Without enough light, the stem is weak and struggles to support the growing leaf structure. The stem bends, twists, falls over, and often breaks. So, let's avoid this common, beginning of the gardening season problem.  

Let's begin this discussion with the premise that all of your seedlings need full sunlight, as most plants certainly do. The best place to find full sunlight is out in your garden. The trouble is, you are starting your plants indoors because it is still too cold yet to plant them outdoors. This leaves you with more limited options, to provide as much sunlight or substitute lighting as possible.

The best option is a backyard greenhouse. If you have a walk-in greenhouse, lucky you... we all envy you. There are also many types of small greenhouses on the market, that you can get for just a few dollars. Small deck size greenhouses and cold frames are great options. Click Here  

For the vast majority of us, our seedlings begin the first few weeks of their life in our house or apartment. Our options for maximizing lighting is much more limited. We need to become "sunchasers", moving our seed trays from one sunny window to the next as the sun moves from east to west. Even on cloudy days, your seedlings will receive filtered sunlight through the window. 

Chances are, your young plants will need more than a sunny window. Household lighting, especially fluorescent lights, provide some degree of alternate lighting. What many gardeners often do not know, is that the closer the plants are to the light source, the more effective it is. If possible, place your young plants six to eight inches from the light source. I know a gardener who overwinters some plants in his basement, solely with fluorescent lighting! 

As the season nears, bring your seed trays out onto a sunny porch or deck during the warmer parts of the day. But, be certain to bring them in as the temperature drops. Forgetting to do so in advance of a cold or frosty night, is a fatal mistake.

Maximizing sunlight to your plants can be time consuming. But, it pays you back with healthy and far more successful plants. On transplanting day, you will marvel at how great your transplants look, even better that store bought plants!

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