I am new to this gardening thing and it appears I may have done something
wrong. Several weeks ago I started some seeds indoors, as I'm in zone 5 and
still getting frost at night. All of my seedlings are up but some are
getting very long and leggy looking. Some of them are starting to droop and
fold-over. Are they supposed to be this way? If not, what did I do wrong?
Anything I can do to correct the problem?
The seedlings are brocolli, brussels sprouts and various kinds of lettuce.
Thanks in advance for advice and/or comments.
Thanks for your quick response. Per your suggestion, I've put them all
outside. I'm doing this gardening thing this year with a friend who has
been putting her seedlings outdoors during the day, but it seems she's
having the same "leggy" problems I'm having. Is there something else we can
do to get them to recover? I have 2 seedlings per cell in the peat cells.
Would thinning them to one seedling per cell help? We were planning on
thinning them when we put them into the ground, so that we could utilize
both plants, but if we're sacrificing them for the sake of frugalness, that
would be a waste of time and energy, I suppose. Let me know your opinion on
this 2 per cell dilemma.
Being as you are in Zone 5, you do NOT want to set your seedlings out during
the daytime yet. Number one, seedlings need to be slowly acclimated (what
is commonly refered to as "hardened off") to the outside environment. This
is usually accomplished by setting outside for a small amount of time a day,
working your way up to the full day. Number two, our temperatures in Zone 5
are not yet warm enough for seedlings to survive being outside.
The optimum answer for you is to keep your seedlings in the brightest window
you have (or directly 1-2" below a flouresent light fixture would be ideal)
and turn them at least once a day. If you have a small fan, point it in the
direction of the plants so to provide them a slight breeze - this will help
harden them against the outside environment.
If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me.
As much as people on this newsgroup always try to be helpful, sometimes they
don't notice the zones where people are located and it can make all the
difference in the world.
Absolutely! It's way too early to think about hardening them off. That in
itself will put them under stress at this early point.
Two other things to look for......it is sometimes recommended that once the
second leaves emerge, pinch off the first leaves that first sprouted on the
seedling. Second, look to see if the roots are coming out the sides and
bottoms of the peat pods, this would indicate time to pot them.
Lettuce is awesome, in that the more leaves you pick, the more they will
grow, however, I'm really only familiar with leaf lettuce. I am also in
zone 5, and typically plant lettuce and radishes straight into the garden
about the second week of May in an effort to restrain myself from putting
too much in before the third week (as tempting as it is!!)
I'm in ZONE 5A, and we have had a string of 70+ days recently, today was 77.
I set my seedlings out yesterday for about an hour, and today for about 2
1/2 hours, both days plants were in partial sun (shaded a bit by the slats
of a bench). Now we are are headed back down to more normal temps.
I would say outside temps of 68+ would be safe? What do you think clc?
Is that a little close, some fluorescent lights fixture really put off the
heat. My fluorescent grow bulbs recommend a setting of 6-12" from the plant
Brigitte, it sounds as though your seedlings are simply starving for light.
They are "leggy" because they are putting their energy into getting
closer/more light. If you supply them with more light, then they will stop
"reaching". What type of light are you using? You really need some type of
HID lighting for indoor growing. But you can get by with flouro's as long
as you keep the flouro bulbs within an inch or so of the tops of your
plants. As a rule of thumb, I try to supply 50 watts of light per square
foot of growing space, ie, if you are trying to grow items indoors in a
2'x4' space, I would use 400watts of light. (8sq.ft * 50w/per = 400w)
If your plants get too leggy, they will fall over when they start growing,
or placed outside. In order to strengthen the stems, place an oscillating
fan near your plants on a low setting. This will simulate the natural
occuring gentle blowing winds outside. After a few weeks, the stems will be
nice and strong, ready to take on the great outdoors.
As others have said they need more sun light or a artificial light source.
You may also be over watering them, use a spray bottle to mist them as
My broccoli is leggy again this year, as is a one of my tomatoes varieties.
Two years ago this happened and I planted the broccoli anyway, it just laid
on the ground the first 24 hours looking doomed, but it took off after 2
days in the ground.
After you correct the real problem (light/water), you may want to prop the
plants back up that have folded over.
1) Stick 2 tooth-picks in the dirt, in a X pattern, next to the plant to
support it upright.
2) Or cut a large soda straw (like from a fast food place) in half, then
cut the half up the middle, so you have 4 U-shaped pieces. Insert these
pieces next to the plant for support.
I would thin the seeds now, I'm not sure you will be able to separate the
plants successfully before planting, better safe than sorry.
You might start a second batch of seeds, use Seed Starter Plant mix and
paper Egg cartons for a starter tray. When you transfer the plants to the
ground, dig the hole bigger than needed and add some of that left-over plant
The ones that are already all etiolated (the term for lengthening
stems trying to find light..not positive I remembered the spelling but
it's close ;-) they're not going to shorten and get sturdy stems that
make it stand up straight. They may at some point get thicker stems
from the new growth. You can try to get the enough light for future
growth to thicken and green up, but I'd plant some more, and get some
grow lights, or one cool and one warm white tube..but the warm whites
are hard to find at times. Get them down there and keep them 2" from
the growing point of the plant and they will form sturdy seedlings.
Rotate the plants at the ends of the tubes to the center, and the
center ones out to the ends of the tubes, because the light is
stronger in the middle.
Drop a couple lettuce seeds here and there around the yard, and then
a few days to a week later, drop a couple more here and there. Use
fresh seed as it seldom retains good viability past the year it's
packed for. The broccoli seed lasts longer, but lettuce and parsnips
and many other seeds like Orach and can't recall enough others that
are papery and don't have a lot of stored food for the seed to last
long need to be grown out every year and seed saved, or purchased most
every year. Some folks may manage to get some of them to sprout the
next year, but not meeee ;-)
I used to start hundreds of sees each year and I would come home from
work and put the flats out for a little while, then a little longer
and longer, working up to enough time that I could leave them out and
plant them. Lettuce I've seen volunteer on the north side of the
house, and a grand rapids plant would literally freeze so it was
crispy in the morning.. and in the efternoon when I came home .. it
was just fine, no sign of being frozen! Wish it worked like that in
the fridge when it gets too far back in their and freezes. That thing
must have had some natural antifreeze!
So, drop a few seeds here and there, plant some mache.. aka corn
salad. Never eaten it but it's supposed to be an earlier green than
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.