Here are a few tips for making sure the seedings you started inside stay alive and thrive.
- Seedlings should have plenty of light to prevent them from getting leggy. Grow lights should be 2 inches above seedlings. If you have a south facing window you can put your pots close to the window and rotate every day to prevent them from overreaching towards the sunlight.
- Seedlings should have good drainage and air flow to prevent damping off (a fungus that will cause seedlings to fall over and die). Place a small fan next to seedlings and set it on low.
- If you see any signs of fungus or damping off make some chamomile tea and spray the cooled tea on the plants.
- Be sure to keep soil evenly moist. Seedlings are very delicate and will die quickly if the soil dries out.
- Feed the plants after they get their true leaves, the second set of leaves. (The first set of “leaves” is called the cotyledon or seed leaves.) Once the plant has its the true leaves, you should fertilize with a half-strength solution of liquid fertilizer.
Once seedlings have true leaves it’s time to give those babies some room!
I know it’s difficult, but you need to thin or prick out your plants now. You can thin the seedlings by snipping off the tops of the unwanted plants. I have a hard time doing this, but your plants will be much healthier when they have room to grow.
Pricking out is the process of separating seedlings and putting them into individual pots. Choose the best and healthiest plants to repot. Take a spoon or fork and lift up the soil under the seedlings. Gently pull them apart by tugging on their leaves — the stems are too delicate to handle at this point. Then plant them into individual pots immediately. You can poke a hole into moistened soil with your finger or a pencil and then gently pat it into place. Remember that the roots are very fragile, be gentle and never let them get dry.
Prepare your seedlings for the great outdoors.
When the weather is finally warm enough (usually after last frost date) to plant your plants outside, you will have to harden your seedlings off. This means acclimating them to the outside weather. Do this slowly.
If you don’t have a cold frame to place them in you will need to slowly expose them to direct sunlight and fluctuating temps. Take them out into the morning sun for a little while then bring them back inside. Slowly over a few days increase their exposure a few hours each day until they are strong enough to be planted in the ground.
Taking care of your seedlings now means you’ll have lots of strong healthy plants to transplant into the ground in a few weeks.