You may think that having seedling trays, a bag of potting compost, and a group of seed packets is all that you need for successfully growing plants from seeds. But growing consistently strong and healthy plants from seeds is not an easy task that everyone could easily accomplish. There is a lot of trial and error on the way from starting the growth process and getting a harvest. This is why you must be able to know leggy vs healthy seedlings and the ways to grow seedlings healthy.
It is a moment of great satisfaction when you eat your freshly grown veggies and garnish your food with homegrown herbs, the ones you have nurtured from seed and now you know exactly what has gone into every inch of them. So, try to grow the seedlings healthy to make the plants grow better and healthier.
What are leggy vs healthy seedlings?
When seedlings grow very tall, lanky, and skinny, they are termed leggy seedlings. For plants, taller means better and healthier plants, but for seedlings, it’s quite the opposite. The leggy seedlings are usually quite fragile and weak and appear pale yellow.
On the other hand, healthy seedlings have long, dense roots, and short leaf sheaths, and grow to an even height. They grow uniformly without any pest damage. Over time and with uniform growth, healthy seedlings produce a good canopy and every plant can get soil nutrients and sufficient sunlight.
While knowing leggy vs healthy seedlings do note that there isn’t an exact height, the seedlings taller than which are termed as leggy and the shorter ones are classified as being healthy. If you want to determine whether your seedlings are leggy, then compare their height and growth with healthy seedlings of the same variety that are given ideal growing conditions. If they stay much shorter than your seedlings, this means that you are growing less-happy and leggy seedlings.
Steps to grow healthy seedlings
Now you know leggy vs healthy seedlings, it’s time to discover the steps you must follow, according to How to grow healthy, strong seedlings, in order to have healthy seedlings, rather than the skinny and leggy ones.
Step 1: Choose the plant varieties to grow from seeds
The first step is the thinking step. You should think about how much space you have to grow the seedlings, what conditions you are going to offer them, when you need the harvest, how big you want the harvest to be, etc. If you wish to grow seedlings indoors, then think of a warm area to germinate the seeds and a place full of light for the seedlings to grow. If you are only going to use a small windowsill for growing seedlings, then remember that the plants are not going to fill a large garden.
The next thing to think about is how much time you have. When growing from seedlings, you will have to provide them with attention daily and potting is also going to take time. Make sure you will be able to give proper care and attention to the seedlings.
Next, you must think of how many plants you need in the end. For instance, if you need just a couple of tomato plants, then you don’t need to grow 20 seedlings. The veggies that grow best from seeds are lettuce, peas, carrots, brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, etc.), beans, radishes, etc. It is good to sow these plants on a regular basis, so you can get a continuous harvest.
Step 2: Buy fresh and healthy seeds
Ensure that you are buying good quality seeds. Do check the ‘sow by’ or ‘packed on’ date on the seed packet to make sure they are fresh. Older seeds are likely to have a poor germination rate, so get fresh seeds from garden centers and nurseries.
Rather than importing seeds from a faraway place, it is better to get them from local producers. This is because they have been grown, tested, and harvested locally, so they are likely to grow in the soil and climate of your garden.
Lastly, make sure that you read the instructions given on the seed packets carefully.
Step 3: Get the soil ready
Now you know which seeds you are growing and have bought seeds as well. The next thing is to get the soil ready in which you are going to germinate the seeds and grow the young seedlings. Some people prefer buying potting compost from the market to germinate their seeds rather than using garden soil as they think garden soil can be a source of pests and diseases for young and vulnerable seedlings.
If you are using garden soil, then don’t forget to remove any grubs and worms from the soil and it is best to sieve it before using it.
Step 4: Get the conditions right
The approximate germination temperature of most seeds is 21 degrees C. To speed up the germination of larger seeds, soak them overnight, such as sweet corn, squashes, beans, and peas. They will grow on their own without soaking, but it will need time and patience. When you see tiny seedlings sprouting out of the soil, and then get the conditions right for the seedlings. They will need plenty of sunlight and a less warm temperature, around 18-20 degrees C. Inadequate light and warm conditions can make the seedlings tall, spindly, and leggy.
Step 5: Potting on
Read the instructions given on the seed packet and follow them for the right time to pot on and harden off seedlings. It is important to thin out and throw away the seedlings that have just started as it ensures the plants aren’t competing with each other unnecessarily. Only select the strongest-looking plants when potting on and planting the seedlings.
If you have a smaller garden, then you can try growing plants vertically rather than leaving them to cuddle on the grown, such as tomatoes and squashes. You can also grow some plants in containers and put them on your patio or a windowsill, such as leafy veggies (lettuce, spinach, etc.), herbs, cherry tomatoes, and peppers.
What are the causes of leggy seedlings?
While knowing leggy vs healthy seedlings, it is important to what may be causing your seedlings to be leggy rather than healthy. The basic reason for seedlings to become leggy is a lack of sufficient light, either in proximity or brightness for the plant. Growing seeds indoors or in a too-shady place outdoors can result in insufficient light for the seedlings.
Even when growing in a greenhouse, it is good to use grow lights to make the seedlings grow happily. Because of being stretched out, and tall, the leggy seedlings will usually lean towards one side, the side that is desperately reaching out for the sun.
Is it bad if I have leggy seedlings?
When you know leggy vs healthy seedlings, you should be able to tell that the leggy growth pattern of seedlings is not ideal. As How to Prevent and Fix Leggy Seedlings say, for leggy seedlings, the plant grows thin, fragile, and weak seedlings rather than focusing its energies on growing thick, strong, sturdy stems. Leggy seedlings may flop over, beak, or get damaged easily due to their top-heavy nature. Leggy seedlings may also damp off and become wilted, very thin and rot just above the soil line.
If you know leggy vs healthy seedlings and are struggling with leggy seedlings, then read in detail the reasons and fixes for leggy seedlings in Can you bury leggy seedlings deeper? Ways to fix.
How to make leggy seedlings healthy?
If you know that your seedlings are leggy and you couldn’t prevent them from becoming tall and skinny, then thankfully, you can fix them and have healthy seedlings. This also makes the leggy vs healthy seedlings comparison better and more productive. Follow these tips to become better at growing healthy seedlings rather than leggy ones:
● Provide them light: If you aren’t using a grow light, then it is a good idea to set one up now and make sure the seedlings get bright light. The broad spectrum bulb should emit a minimum of 2,000 to 3,000 lumens per square foot for the growing space of seedlings. Also, make sure the grow light is close to the plants. When using multiple lights, some of the trays may go into the periphery of the light source, so keep them closer and check whether each seedling is receiving the right amount of light or not.
● Turn off heat mats and humidity dome: During the seed germination process, you may need heat mats and humidity domes to speed it up. But when the seeds germinate, you no longer want them to grow speedily into tall and leggy seedlings. You should keep heat mats under peppers, basil, or tomatoes or use any other technique to keep the soil temperature warm. The mat should have a thermostat that balances the temperature of the soil when it drops below 65 degrees Fahrenheit and keeps the soil warm to encourage speedy growth.
● Space out the seedlings properly: Ensure that the seedlings are at least one inch or two apart when their first true leaves start growing. If you see the seedlings overcrowded, then try to separate them gently or pluck out the thin and fragile ones, only leaving the strongest seedlings.
Last But Not Least:
● Water from the bottom: If you use a spray bottle to water the seedlings regularly, you may feel it is enough, but sometimes it is not. You cannot ensure that the water is reaching down to the starting mix. But if you water the seedlings from below, it will ensure that the seed starting mix is gathering the water it needs all the way through the medium, making the roots grow downwards.
● Promote stronger stems by using movement: Have you ever wondered why some people put a fan near their seedlings? This can offer multiple benefits; it makes the stems grow stronger as they have to deal with air movement constantly. Adequate airflow around the seedlings also prevents some fungal diseases and dampening off. If you can’t manage to put a fan near your seedlings, then simply brush your hands over the tops of the seedlings a few times a day. This promotes stronger and thicker stems.
Now you know leggy vs healthy seedlings, why your seedlings may become leggy, how you can grow leggy seedlings healthily, you can fix the issue of thin and skinny seedlings and make them grow healthy. This ensures that you will soon have freshly grown veggies on your salad plate which is the fruit of your efforts as you have worked hard to make the seeds grow into healthy seedlings and then the seedlings to become healthy plants and produce vegetables.