#GrowWithFFC reached a milestone this week. Seedlings were thinned and potted up into actual pots where they will stay for several weeks before they start the process of hardening off.
If you look closely at where the new leaves meet with the stem, you might notice that they are yellow, instead of green, especially in the front row. This is an early sign of stress in seedlings, and often indicates that the plants are hungry for food, and the curly bendy stems are the plants way of trying to find it’s own space. Cute little guys, aren’t they.
Looking at the seedlings from the side and the top to see which are the strongest and have the qualities that I’m looking for. Beyond the strongest looking leaves, I’m also looking for a sturdy stem that is able to support the weight of additional growth, and has a healthy point of contact where it meets the soil.
Generally, I like to leave two plants in each pot, so that if something happens to one of them, the efforts put into the batch aren’t wasted. If there is clearly only one seedling that has what it’s going to take to get through the season, then I’ll daringly remove all but the one.
Moons ago, as a young gardener and early horticulture student I’d often make the mistake of selecting the tallest seedlings to keep. It’s a wiser option to look beyond height and select the strongest of the bunch.
Time has taught me well that taller seedlings often lead to ‘floppy’ plants that struggle under their own weight and require more support and staking once they’ve been planted outside.
Usually when it’s time to thin seedlings, they aren’t quite ready to be potted up. This year I wasn’t able to get to them as quickly as I usually do, and I had a free couple of hours so I went ahead and combined tasks.
It might be tempting to transplant these immediately into large pots, but too much soil too soon can lead to root rot, which is not treatable when the plants are at this stage.
Also be careful when fertilizing at this stage – if you use too much at any one time, or with every watering the soil can become ‘hot’ with fertilizer and the roots will burn, the plant can go into shock, and may die.
A good rule of thumb is to follow the directions of the fertilizer, but for the first and second feedings, use only half the amount that it calls for. Use plain water in between feedings to wash out any excess fertilizer. From the third feeding on, they should be ready for a full strength application.
Until next time, may your knees be green, and your spirits light.