Do you fertilize your seedlings/Why can't i grow seedlings?

dcrosby(5MA)April 22, 2012

Dear Garden Folk

2 posts in one...

My seedlings are super leggy. Would fertlizer help?

What would you/do you use?

My seedlings are always leggy. I can't seem to get this right. Please see pic

Thanks!

Dale

Here is a link that might be useful:

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yiorges-z5il

Leggy seedlings is primarly caused by poor light (brightness and duration)
I do NOT fertilize my seedlings. ....may do so 30-40 days after transplanting.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 4:27PM
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ifraser25(z11 Brazil)

Too warm and dark. Don't fertilize until the plants are several months old.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 4:56PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Agree, your seedlings are leggy because they are not getting enough light - fertilizer would be counterproductive.

Once your seeds have germinated, you don't want to produce excessive growth with too much heat or fertilizer, cool and appropriate light is much better - resulting in sturdy compact plants.

FYI - Anything in a containers that is beginning to show a need for fertilizer, I will use a dilute strength, beginning with 1/4 the strength indicated on the package directions. I rarely move up to more than half strength even for mature plants, and I use a product formulated to be mixed with water rather than a granular or dry type (less chance of burning roots).

But again, your seedlings need sun/light, not fertilizer.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 4:58PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Agree. Leggy seedlings are caused by insufficient light. Plus too warm growing conditions can make it worse. But light - intense supplemental light - is the only way to prevent them.

Fertilizing only increases the problem 10 fold.

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: leggy seedlings discussions

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 5:00PM
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dcrosby(5MA)

I have the seedlings under a plant/aquarium light and leave the light on most of the day and into the night.

What more can i do?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 7:11PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

You need much more light than that. There are all sorts of discussions here about light set-ups, many with pics. Commonly used - multiple sets of 4 foot shop light fixtures with 4 foot T8 bulbs.

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: light set up discussions

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 7:37PM
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naturemitch(3/4 WI)

Get yourself a shoplite and move the plants to within a couple of inches of the light. The other thing that helps me is to NOT sow into single cells. I sow into 4" pots, leave them get a bit of size, and THEN transplant them into a bigger container. When I transplant at this time I can sink the plant down for any legginess that might have occurred.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 9:18PM
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homey_bird

As mentioned earlier, legginess is due to diffused light.

If you are in the cooler climates, use grow lights. I am in California and Jan/Feb sunshine by a windowsill is sufficient for my plants. So, when I see the little green dots popping out of the tiny pots or pellets, I move them to a bright windowsill and let them come out completely under bright light. This cuts down legginess.

My problem though is not much progress beyond this point. Being discussed on another thread where I posted question regarding this.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 9:40PM
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dcrosby(5MA)

What type of shop light should i get? (wattage (is that the word?)) I read the link that dave sent but i'm still not sure.

The thing that bugs me, though, is that the lights I�m using are part of a light table for which i paid a lot of money. The tubes are just 24"and obviously not strong enough.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 9:44PM
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dcrosby(5MA)

thanks all
...oops...sorry Dave, I didn't read your post correctly. Thanks for the info on the size and type of shop light i should be using
I�m putting something together with fingers crossed

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 11:11AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

What seedlings are they? And what is your weather like? If they are relatively hardy plants it is possible they could be hardened off and grown on outside where they will have ample light. But we'd need to know what you are growing before offering help on this.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 3:50AM
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dcrosby(5MA)

i'm growing Zinnia. I don't think i can move the outside yet. What do you think?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 1:19PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Check out the many other zinnia discussions here. Zinnia grow so quickly and turn leggy almost overnight so most feel they are best direct seeded outside.

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: zinnia discussions

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 5:54PM
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luvahydrangea(Albany, NY 5)

I'm in the same zone as you dcrosby, and I always direct sow my zinnias. I used to start them indoors and they never did well, but scatter them on the ground and lightly cover with soil and bam! best zinnias in town ;)

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 7:17PM
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dcrosby(5MA)

you'd think i would have figured it out by now.
direct sow zinnia!
my problem is and has always been that i don't have a spot to put down seed. Perhaps I'll set up a raised bed and do it that way
i guess i'll start again
thanks!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 10:55AM
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ohsillyme

Hi DC,
I'm in MA too. Have you considered Wintersowing your zinnias? Its a fool-proof way of starting seedlings and quite addictive actually. I havent started mine yet, but you have me itching to get my zinnias started soon! LoL!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 9:42PM
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zen_man

Dave,

"Zinnia grow so quickly and turn leggy almost overnight so most feel they are best direct seeded outside."

I agree that it is generally better to plant zinnias directly outside when that works with your schedule. However, I think Dale was trying to get an early start with his zinnias, hence the attempt at starting them early inside under lights. I agree with everybody who identified Dale's problem as not enough light.

I just want those who are considering starting zinnias indoors to know that they will not "turn leggy almost overnight" if you provide adequate light. With enough light they are quite docile and well behaved, and you can get an early start of a month or more if you have an adequate light setup. The shelf in this picture has four two-bulb T8 shoplights over it. The shelf measures 2 feet by 4 feet, and with a total of eight T8 fluorescent bulbs over it, the light on the seedlings is good.

That picture was taken a couple of days ago and I will be setting most of those zinnias into the garden in the near future. There are a few "late arrivals" in the picture that will spend some more time inside. They would be just cutworm fodder if I set them outside now. All of those zinnias are hand-hybridized hybrids, so I give them better care than I would for seed-packet zinnias.

ZM

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 10:49AM
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dcrosby(5MA)

wow zenman

Those look so good. Mine look nothing, and I mean nothing like yours.
It has become pretty obvious to me the importance of the correct light.
This year, however, I will just have to transplant them into a bigger pot and hope for the best

ohsillyme, curious, how do you winter sow a summer annual? Are your Zinnia ready to be put out?

Thanks all!
Dale

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 12:41PM
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ohsillyme

I suppose at this point, it is considered Spring Sowing. Its a 'method' of sowing seeds - instructions found here - http://www.wintersown.org/

There is also a forum right here on GW which is great (also a link at the top of this page-related forums) - http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/wtrsow/

Second warning - very addictive!

I am now off to start my Zinnias!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 3:23PM
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ohsillyme

Warning:
Gardeners using the wintersowing method have been to known to become heavily dependent within short periods of time. Any prolonged use may result in the following:
-Dumpster-diving with inclination to horde clear plastic recyclables
-Repeated complaints from neighbors for unsightly container ghettos
-Obsessive compulsive seed saving
-family relations lacking due to unavaliability of dining room table
-funny looks from coworkers looking at your dirty nails
-seed rack loitering and possible nursery Stalking
if any of these symptoms apply, call your doctor right away or join an online support group Wintersowers Anonymous......ohwait, they're the enablers.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 3:26PM
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dcrosby(5MA)

thanks,ohsillyme, for the links (super interesting) and the warning :)

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 11:46AM
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luvahydrangea(Albany, NY 5)

I thought winter sowing only applied to plants that were winter hardy or required some kind of stratification. I always called Spring sowing, "direct sowing."

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 10:07AM
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zen_man

Winter Sowing can be applied to pretty much anything, and is not limited to winter hardy plants or seeds that need cold treatment. With a smile on my face, I would say that doing Winter Sowing in the Spring is "silly".

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 10:38AM
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