Gardening Tip ~ Leggy Seedlings? Not this year!

2 min to read

Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

Last year we started to place our seeds into the little pellets. We got ours when our Society was selling them but you can get them at nurseries, Walmart, and even local Dollar stores. Indeed, the one I got, was a mini greenhouse in that you put the seeds in the pellet and put that into the tray that came with the package. Then you water all the pellets and place the lid on them.  This created a self-watering unit that we placed near the window. Easy to use and no need to water for several weeks. It’s an inexpensive “seeding greenhouse”. This year, we’ll just need to buy the pellets. Or simply put soil in the sections in the tray and put the seeds in those.

It worked. The seeds sprouted and grew. However, by the end of April they were already a good size; however, we still had another month before we could grow them outdoors. I wasn’t into replanting each of the seedlings into bigger containers; so, the seedlings got leggy which means they grew long stems to push the branches up higher in order up to get more sun. That kind of plant is weaker and typically can not withstand the outdoors too well as the longer main stem weakens the plant. So how do I avoid that this year? 

After thinking about ways to avoid this issue, I had some ideas and suggestions from fellow members. 

One thought is to put them under grow lights. Remember that the stems grow longer to get the leaves nearer the light. So, if you move your plants closer to the proper light, or indeed put them under a grow light, then instead of getting leggy, the entire plant will grow proportionately and be larger seedlings for your plant date. My friend did this but because the seeds were planted so early ended up with fully grown plants in their living room by early May! Actually, that wasn’t just a short term space problem as the plants looked excellent once moved outdoors!

The other idea is to plant the seeds closer to the date that the seedlings need to be planted outdoors. This idea is more appealing to those without space for another shelving unit with grow lights.  Let’s take a look at how to do this.

Calculating the date to put seeds into the pellets.

If I look at each package of seeds, they’ll tell me how long they take to grow.  Using that as the time to plant outdoors, then I can count backwards on the calendar to see when those seeds should be planted indoors.  Of course, each seed type and variety has a different growing time, so I’ll need to make a list of which seeds to plant in the pellets each day.

I grew up in Leamington, Ontario and we always planted our seeds outdoors on the May 24th weekend.  But I find that Richmond Hill isn’t quite as warm as Leamington was then, so I think it is a good idea to start about a week later for your calculations in case the May 24th weekend is still a bit too chilly to plant the seedlings outdoors.  It is easier to start them a week later than to wish you had!  Of course, by May 24th, I actually mean the Victoria Day long weekend which is not often actually on May 24th.  In 2022, Victoria Day is a Tuesday so I’d hope to plant on May 21, 22nd but more likely will be planting on May 28th and 29th.

As an example, if my tomatoes seeds take 50 days to germinate, then looking at my calendar I should put the seeds in their pellets by April 8th to ensure that they will be ready for the ground on May 28th. 

Doing these things should make my seedlings stronger and ready to be planted and turned into wonderful flowers and vegetables!