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Spindly Seedlings?

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Spindly Seedlings?

Post  Weedless_ on 2/27/2011, 3:04 pm

I haven't grown brassicas yet, so I started my broccoli and cauliflower a couple of weeks ago. The seedlings look leggy and wobbly. Is this normal for them? I tried to look up pictures on the internet, but all I could find are "ready to transplant" seedlings, which are already looking healthy and mature.

Should I be worried about the legginess? I am totally going to bury them up to the first true leaves when transplanted, just wonder if this kind of lanky and skinny habit is normal for the new plants?

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 2/27/2011, 5:28 pm

I, and so many others, have had this same issue when starting from indoors. Personally, I have learned a lot from this season....my first attempt.

One, plants need adequate lighting, which I'm sure you know. However, what kind of lights are you using? I have heard some say any flourescent will do, and others swear by full spectrum and grow lights. I have no experience between them, but I use standard flourescents and was getting leggy plants until....

Two, how close are your lights to the tops of the plants? They should be very close. I mean VERY close. Light energy is an exponential source. Having lights moved from 2 inches away to 4 inches away doesn't simply cut the light energy in half....it cuts it by it's square root (if that makes sense). Keep those lights super close.

Three, if you have made it this far, you likely need to monitor your "soil" temps. Too warm and too chilly make a difference, apparently. You may need a seed heating mat to help things warm a little. I did that, to sprout things faster, but found....

Four, plants are hard-wired by Mother Nature for warm days and cooler nights. This fluctuation in temps is the key most of us miss, imo, and I didn't learn it myself until Friday. But, it makes so much sense. Here it is...are you ready? Take a note.....lol (sorry if you already know this, I'm trying to be cute, not condescending). The warmth stimulates growth. So, if the plants are being told to "Grow," but there is no more light....because it's "nighttime," what happens? They stretch like crazy for a light source that isn't there........boom.....leggy. Just cutting off your seed mat, or moving them off the top of the fridge, can be enough, at night, to tell the plants to "take a break for the night and get some rest." This likely has the effect of slowing the growth until the lights kick back on....very close to them...and telling them it's ok to grow again. However, with a close source of light, they don't overwork themselves.

I hope this makes sense. It was a real eye-opener for me. And, in three days, I have noticed a difference I would put money on.

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  elliephant on 2/27/2011, 6:20 pm

Unfortunately, those are the two plants I have not been successful growing with my laid-back, windowsill method. But that was last fall and I think I didn't water them enough, so maybe you'll have better luck. I love tomatoes because they love being buried deep and I just see a bit of legginess as future root growing space Laughing But I know peppers don't like being buried deep. I never got the chance to try it with my broccoli and cauliflower because they died before I could even try putting them out in the garden, so I just direct-seeded after that.

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  Weedless_ on 2/27/2011, 7:15 pm

Yep, I looked up the "legginess" in seedlings and found some recommendations. My concern was what to do with already leggy ones. So according to recommendations, I transplanted them into larger containers and set them deeper. Now I can place them closer to the light to prevent this from happening again. I use regular fluorescent lamps under my kitchen cabinets.
Unfortunately, I don't have sunny windows anywhere in my house, so this is my only option.

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  camprn on 2/27/2011, 7:24 pm

My old florescent bulbs have gotten dimmer. I am going to replace with full spectrum tubes in hopes to avoid the plants from reaching & getting leggy.

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 2/27/2011, 9:39 pm

On a humorous/frustrating note......to solve the currently leggy crop, you could...


Leave them unattended in your hoophouse trying to harden them off today only to return and see the squirrels raided you, nipped all the tops, and dug up your seeds, too.

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  The Cat's Other Mother on 2/27/2011, 10:52 pm

How cool is too cool? We've been having a spell of warm weather and I've been putting my seedlings out to soak up the sun during the day and moving them back indoors at night and some of them have grown pretty leggy.

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  model a man on 2/28/2011, 3:39 pm

mine are all leggy too and hope the will survie when I transplant them.

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  jkahn2eb on 2/28/2011, 5:15 pm

My first time gardening - I grew tons of seeding on the windowsill here
in AZ where they got strong sunlight for a few hours and plenty of
heat. No pads. No fancy lights.

Lettuce and broccoli were first
to get talk and weak. Lost a few broccoli to stems folding half-way
up. Trying to see if I can save some (and some continue to grow new
leaves).

Moved 'em outside to harden. Unfortunately, it's been
in the high 30's and low 40's most nights and only in the 60's during
the day. We now seem poised to be mid-40's nighttime and 70's daytime
so we'll see how everyone is doing. Most plants are in plastic cups
with holes drained at bottom.

Those that were transplanted into
the SFG soil seem to be happier. I'm guessing soil is more consistent
temp for them to grow compared to the plastic cups which likely get
chilly quickly.

My problem has been plant stems that start rotting at the soil line...

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  Squat_Johnson on 2/28/2011, 5:45 pm

I had the problem of shrinking plant stems at the surface you described last year. It's called "damping off". It is caused by a combination of over watering and a couple of different fungi. It can be avoided (so I have read) by using sterile seed starting mix and fans blowing on the plants (to keep them dry on top).

I lost 75% if my tomato starts last year to this. Sad

The guy at the local Nursery was the only one smiling.

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  jkahn2eb on 2/28/2011, 6:39 pm

That was what I thought the problem was. I kept my seedlings in plastic cups in the trays... water couldn't drain away - I thought I was being smart letting the water wick up when it needed. Earlier today I placed all the cups around the plants growing in the SFG (the planted ones are still small and the ones in the cups are for my friend who is ill so I'm planting her a 60 sq ft garden using one of her beds (I'll get some of the extra and so will her daughters).

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  Weedless_ on 3/3/2011, 12:00 pm

Update: I have moved all seedlings closer to the light (3-5 inches), and buried all brassicas deeper into compost mix. I saw great results within 24 hrs, literally. They all are setting new leaves and stopped wobbling and stretching thin. All stems got noticeably thicker right away. Thanks for all of the advice.

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  Furbalsmom on 3/3/2011, 1:30 pm

Weedless_in_Atlanta wrote:Update: I have moved all seedlings closer to the light (3-5 inches), and buried all brassicas deeper into compost mix. I saw great results within 24 hrs, literally. They all are setting new leaves and stopped wobbling and stretching thin. All stems got noticeably thicker right away. Thanks for all of the advice.

That is wonderful. I am glad to hear that leggy brassicas can be buried just a bit deeper and you saw improvement so quickly.

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  vinny09 on 3/3/2011, 1:40 pm

I'm thinking the same process should work for my leggy tomato seedlings? I got greedy and left them on top of the fridge to get all of them to sprout. Now they're by the window and I'm hoping to just transplant them deep into 4" pots. I figured that if we're to bury full size plants deep b/c roots grow from the hairs of the stem, that I could do the same with seedlings?

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  elliephant on 3/3/2011, 1:55 pm

@vinny09 wrote:I'm thinking the same process should work for my leggy tomato seedlings? I got greedy and left them on top of the fridge to get all of them to sprout. Now they're by the window and I'm hoping to just transplant them deep into 4" pots. I figured that if we're to bury full size plants deep b/c roots grow from the hairs of the stem, that I could do the same with seedlings?

YES! Tomatoes are great that way!

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  Healing Garden on 3/3/2011, 10:24 pm

Weedless_in_Atlanta wrote:Update: I have moved all seedlings closer to the light (3-5 inches), and buried all brassicas deeper into compost mix. I saw great results within 24 hrs, literally. They all are setting new leaves and stopped wobbling and stretching thin. All stems got noticeably thicker right away. Thanks for all of the advice.

Hi Weedless: Do you have pics? I have week old seedlings of my brassicas with no true leaves yet. I won't transplant them until they have true leaves. Did you add compost to the seedstarting mix or do you mean you took your start and repotted into a mix to bury deeper? First time for me doing the seed thing so I'm not sure if my seedlings qualify as spindly yet. My latest seedling pic is up on my blog http://y9fvg.blogspot.com/ I'd love to see what your brassicas look like Weedless.

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  Blackrose on 3/4/2011, 1:03 pm

I'm thinking of doing this with my spindly brassicas today. What is it about brassicas that causes them to get so leggy? I didn't have this problem with my other seedlings. Hmmmm....

Anyway, I plan to pot them up and bury them deep this afternoon while I have a few minutes to relax. Yes, potting up seedlings is relaxing for me. Laughing

We're supposed to get up to a high of 41F this afternoon, it's already 39F. I have opened windows to air out the house. So nice! Ahhhh.... My question is, would my brassica seedlings enjoy getting some fresh air too? Or is it too early? They are just starting to get their first set of "true" leaves. Would it be too much of a shock to transplant them and then put them outside for a few hours? They would be on a covered porch and it's overcast and calling for rain this afternoon anyway. So, I'm not worried about them getting too much sun all at once. There is only a slight breeze, so the wind shouldn't effect them too much. Any ideas?

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  walshevak on 3/4/2011, 6:11 pm

My broccoli was so leggy and only had 2 leaves, but I buried 4 in one of my beds that has a tulle cover. We had 30* one night but those little buggers stood right up through it. Not making any more growth, but not keeling over either.

Kay

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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

Post  Blackrose on 3/4/2011, 6:23 pm

It's supposed to get up to 41F tomorrow afternoon, so I may put them out for a few hours to toughen them up a bit.


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Re: Spindly Seedlings?

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