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My grandma could start her seeds in the house in the south window 6 to 8 weeks  before it was time to plant them.  I have been trying to get my seeds to start for years and have always ended up buying plants.  I have an entire shoebox full of seeds and I really want to grow my own seedlings.. The problem that I have is that the plants get leggy and they never start forming real leaves.. and then of course they die..  I have read everything I can get my hands on and I started this years batch with the heat lamp/grow light only three inches above the tray.  I'm scared that this won't work either.. Somebody help.. I'd like to grow my own heirloom GMO free seeds.  I don't want to spend money for plants!!!

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Hi Laura.  This is only my first season growing organic--or growing a garden that is my responsibility at all--but I think I have some advice for you, based on what is currently working for me.  Instead of an artificial light source, I have kept my seedlings just inside a sunny window (it receives a minimum of 6 hours of strong sunlight per day), some in plantable, biodegradable peet pots, and others (the majority) in a black plastic self-watering seed-starter kit from Burpee which comes with soil pellets in which to plant the seeds.  Follow the instructions on seed packets carefully, i.e., if it tells you to plant at a depth of 1/2 of an inch, don't make it a shallow 1/8th of an inch or a much deeper full inch or more.  Also, sometimes it is necessary to soak the seeds you wish to plant fr 12-24 hours before planting, to help break the seed and aid in germination. The self-waterer is great because a) it's cheap and b) you can always reuse next season to eliminate waste.  also c) it keeps the soil moist even if you're busy and forget to add water for two or three days.  They can be found at any home depot or online if you prefer.  

Another thing I've learned is that when transplanting, plants don't like to have their roots disturbed even a little bit--if you can avoid separating plants at the root level manually, whch can disturb the seedlings' nutrient and water absorption habits, and instead just snip off the weaker sprouts at the soil line before planting the stronger ones, then that is best for watching the plant grow to full size.  Make sure that when you do transplant, you wait until the seedlings you want to keep have a set of true leaves--at least one set of leaves other than the initial one or two which emerge.  If you keep it growing in natural light in good, well-watered (but not drowned) soil, you should have no problems seeing your seedlings live to sprout these true leaves, although, it can be a guessing game sometimes.  Remember, do not disturb the root ball, only slightly loosen it if the roots have begun to curl over each other on the outside of the root ball.  Also, keep the transplant well-watered when moving it into the ground, and only transplant a few at a time, so they don't wilt or die waiting to be placed in soil, which I've learned can help the plant's initial shock of a new environment.

You may still be able to use your grow light, but I would pull it back significantly (3 inches away is much too close in my opinion) to mimic the effects of natural light rather than force them to grow with intense artificial light.  I think the point is that they have an equal amount of light as they would get being outdoors.

That's another thing, leave your seed starters outdoors during the day time for a few days before transplanting them--make sure you cover them with plastic or glass so they get light but are safe from any animals or insects.  This is called "hardening off" and helps the seedlings adjust to the conditions outside a little better.

I was recently featured on "What's In" here on homegrown, and the article shows pictures of my sprouts in the initial weeks:  http://www.homegrown.org/photo/whats-in-erikas-seed-pots-and-seed-s...


Updates of all my plants can be found on my individual page.

Good luck!

Erika

Erika,  Some of my seeds are doing great!!  Other's not so great.  IF I had a south facing window that was warm and sunny like my grandma had I'm sure I wouldn't have this problem.  I'm keeping them watered and I just saw a few with a third leaf today.. thankfully I didn't plant all the seeds that I have, so if anything isn't growing properly then I can replant it if needed.. I'm upset right now because the cat (one of them) walked across the seedling bed.. I hope the two plants she flattened live..  I've been gardening all my life so the issue of leggy plants upsets me, because until we moved to NE Wisconsin I could grow anything anywhere.. Now.. it's not so easy!!

Oh, I see!  That does sound frustrating~ I just adopted a cat and I am also finding a seedling or two toppled over or uprooted next to some stray cat hairs on the windowsill--plain evidence of tampering!!  But i've recovered them so mine should be okay (I hope) until I transplant.

I've also had to replant one or two things that didnt sprout or withered permanently after transplanting.  We still have time to replant--it's not too late in the season! 

Good luck with your leggy plants and their feline threat! :)

I always keep my t5 lamps just above the plants, plants that get tall are reaching for light.

That would make sense but she keeps the light only 3 inches from the plants.

This is some of mine

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I think see said she is trying it a 3 inches now, if i'm wrong sorry

Erika H said:

That would make sense but she keeps the light only 3 inches from the plants.



Thomas said:

I think see said she is trying it a 3 inches now, if i'm wrong sorry

Erika H said:

That would make sense but she keeps the light only 3 inches from the plants.

The grow light is about only 3 or 4 inches above the plants.. I'm praying for third leaves.. the squash and cucumber that I planted in an OJ container.. they are leggy.. reaching for the light.. even tho they are very close to it..  I'm going to see if I can upload some pictures.. The peas I planted for my grand kids so they could have a "hanging garden".. they are doing very well!!



Laura Blum said:



Thomas said:

I think see said she is trying it a 3 inches now, if i'm wrong sorry

Erika H said:

That would make sense but she keeps the light only 3 inches from the plants.
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