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I'm a First-time Vegetable Gardner who needs some help!

Posted by tcbrocks CA (My Page) on
Sun, Mar 18, 12 at 14:33

Hi Everyone!

I'm a sophomore in high school and recently just got interested in vegetable gardening! So about 4 weeks ago I bought some jiffy seed starting trays and some jiffy seed starting mix to start the seeds. I will be planting lettuce, onions, broccoli, spinach, carrots and garlic. Also, I will be building a 3'x6' raised bed soon as well. The plants will be planted using square-foot-gardening techniques.

Anyways, I am four weeks into seed starting indoors and have come across some problems. My first set of Romaine lettuce was doing great until its stems became too weak to support the leaves and keeled over, becoming rather spindly. This is the same for my 1st set of Great lakes lettuce that I planted a week later. As I have done plenty of research and talked with many vegetables gardeners I know, I do not understand what I am doing wrong and want some advice. First of all, as you can see by the photos, my plants are sitting on my bathroom counter with grow lights I bought at Wal-Mart pointed directly at them. Those in turn are supported by some pvc structures I built. From what I know, the plants are getting enough direct light as I have them on for about 15 hours a day. There is one 2 foot fluorescent light for each jiffy tray. As for the soil, there should not be a problem as I am using the jiffy seed starting mix. Just for more information: the growing environment is about 67 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature every day. My main concern is the watering, as I know it is for many beginners just like me. In the past few weeks, I have been using a squirt bottle to water the plants. My process of watering goes like this: I will give each individual square about 6 squirts then go to the next until every one of them is done. Then occasionally I will feel the tops of the soils to see if they are moist. If they are not, I squirt a couple more times. On average, this means I water about once a day.

So with all of this said, where have I gone wrong? What is interesting is that the only other seedlings I have started (by using the same watering techniques I might add and under the same conditions) are onions and they are thriving! I know I need to water them enough but I do not want to water too much either. I also am positive it is not a fungus or disease of some sort. I could totally be missing something obvious, but from what I can tell, everything I am doing is correct.

Go to these links for the pictures!

Thank you so much in advance for your considerations and advice and I hope that I can use everyones expertise and information to have a successful first-time harvest this year!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: I'm a First-time Vegetable Gardner who needs some help!

Not enough light, IMO. The lights should have been only an inch or two from your trays then inched up as the plants grow. The plants fell over reaching for the light. Also, some plants as seedlings will fall over naturally, such as broccoli and cilantro and some lettuces, but yours are definitely leggy from reaching for the light.
Drop those lights down and see if things improve and start more(back-up)seeds in the mean time.

RE: I'm a First-time Vegetable Gardner who needs some help!

Hi tcbrocks,

I agree with noinwi, the lights are too far away from the seedlings. From the photos, it looks like the lights are T12 (or maybe T8). If that's the case, lower the lights to within an inch or two from the seedlings. If the lights happen to be T5 you might not want to get them that close, the T5 bulbs get very hot (especially on the ends). Also, I really don't think one 2 foot light bulb is enough for each Jiffy tray. After you lower the lights, you'll see that the light does not cover the entire tray. You probably should have two light bulbs to properly light each tray.


RE: I'm a First-time Vegetable Gardner who needs some help!

Thank you so much! So you guys are pretty sure it is lack of lighting?

A couple more questions:
-Is my watering being correctly done?
-Is it too late to plant some back ups seeds as I was hoping to plant them in April sometime?Or is this even correct at all?
-Are there any other methods for me to use to ensure that I dont have this same problems with other seedlings?

I look forward to your responses!

RE: I'm a First-time Vegetable Gardner who needs some help!

If you're in a frost free area of CA, planting lettuce and other greens in containers outdoors in partial shade might be easier. Or try both and compare the results as a personal science experiment. Onions, carrots and garlic should be planted in the place where you want them to grow, they do better without transplanting in my experience. Especially carrots.

RE: I'm a First-time Vegetable Gardner who needs some help!

As for watering, most here water from the bottom (discard any standing water in the trays that is not absorbed in a reasonable time). I water from the top and have no problems with damping off, but some do. As for when and how much to water, I use the weight of the container to judge if it needs water. It takes a little practice, but once you can judge the weight of a container with sufficient water vs. the lesser weight of one that needs water, you won't be fooled into over watering based on how things appear on the surface.

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