Wednesday, March 26, 2014

You've Started Seeds, Now What?

If you haven't started seeds yet, read this post:

Water them...every day.  Seedlings are fragile.  They need to be watered daily, at least at my house they do.  We use wood heat and the air is dry.  I also find that the cardboard containers seem to dry up much more quickly than their plastic counterparts.  I use my dish soap container (after being well rinsed) to water my little babies.  I try in general, to miss the leaves. and water at the base of the plant.  In addition to watering, at this point, you will want to remove any extra seedlings.  I keep one per pot.  I generally remove the weaker looking specimen - in the picture above the choice is pretty obvious.  The reason for doing this is to keep them from competing for resources, so in this case, the runt goes.  For some reason, I really seem to struggle when they both seem pretty healthy.  I guess I feel like I have nurtured these little lovelies into being and it is hard to just rip them up and throw them out - a bit silly, I guess, they are plants.  You also will want to turn your grow light - remember that I use a simple florescent light and it seems to do the trick just fine - on every morning and then turn it off again at night to replicate the day light that your seedlings would have if they were outside.
The other responsibility you have at this point as a plant parent is to re-pot the seedlings as they get too big for their containers.  I will post on this once my seedlings are ready.
 Okay, these little seedlings are a bit past a need to be re-potted.  There is probably some rule about when to transplant, but I just kinda eyeball them.  When they look ridiculously over-sized for their current home, I re-pot.  These ones are definitely ready to move on up.
It would be prudent to share why this is necessary: I want my little babies to thrive and they need room to stretch their roots in order to grow.  They run through all the water, nutrients in the soil, etc. too quickly for me to keep up with them in these tiny spaces and they can't get bigger when their growth is thwarted by the size of the container.
 For this, I use the same setup as before: potting soil, slightly larger pots, spades, and a towel on the floor in my dining room.
 I start by filling in the bottom of my larger "pot" with potting soil.
 Then, I remove the seedlings from their undersized, current homes.  I do this VERY carefully - these are fragile and I try to handle them very gently.  There are ups and downs to both types of pots at this point.  I like the cardboard kind, because you can kinda rip it off and then throw it in the garden or in the compost.  A couple of years ago I tried to just stick the cardboard in the bigger pot/ground, thinking that the roots would push through, but this was not very effective.  My plants seemed to really struggle to get through the cardboard barrier.
 You can kinda see in this picture that the roots were pushing at the edges of this small container - a sure sign that it is in need of some more space.
 Next, I place the seedling, dirt, roots and all in the bigger container and add more potting soil, which I tamp down lightly with my hand.
 Here are some other seedlings in need of a transplant.  They are laughably too large for their current space - I have been a bit of a procrastinator in doing this obviously.
 I find removing the seedlings from this type of container to be just a tad more intricate.  I start by gently - remember fragile babies - pinching the sides of the container to loosen up the roots/dirt and make it easier to pull the seedling out.
 Next, I grab the seedling near the base - right where the seedling meets the dirt in its current home - and pull it gently out.  Despite all of my best efforts, I always seem to loose at least one plant in this way.  That's why I always start more than I intend to need.
 You can see the roots in this shot were really overcrowded and searching for some space.  I repeat the same re-potting process as above - fill the bottom of the larger pot, put the seedling in and add more potting soil, which I tamp down slightly.
 Here are my much happier little tomato plants.  Now they look like they need to do some growing to fill their pots: perfect.
Today, I decided to give them an extra special treat and I am feeding them some Seaweed Concentrate - I hope they like it.
Almost time to transplant - I will post on that as soon as the need arises.  Until then, happy gardening.

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