Vegetable Transplant Growing Secrets of a Greenhouse Professional

| 4/7/2014 10:29:00 AM

After planting a vegetable seed (let’s say it is a tomato seed), there is an extended holding period while the seed germinates and grows into a plug that is large enough to transplant. Typically, tomato seeds germinate in 7-14 days. Following germination it takes another two weeks for the seedling to size up so it is ready to move into a larger container, where it may grow for another 2-3 weeks. During this early growth period you need to provide your immature plants with healthy growing conditions so they develop into sturdy seedlings. The critical elements are light, water, air circulation and nutrients. You need the role each plays in the development of a healthy seedling.

A weak seedling

Saturate Your Seedlings with Light

Vegetable seedlings need lots of light. They are outdoor plants that grow their best when they are surrounded by light. It is challenging to match the intensity of outside light in an inside growing area. While a south facing window may appear to be full of light, the light is entering through one plane only. Your plants need 360 degrees of light surrounding them to grow their best. The ideal growing environment is found in a greenhouse or cold frame that has a good orientation to the sun so your seedlings are bathed in light from sunrise until sunset.

Photo (left): Thin, pale stems without enough light.

If you are unable to buy, build or borrow space in one of these structures, you may elect to set up an indoor growing area using artificial light. Fluorescent bulbs are commonly used in these setups. While these can be effective, their energy dissipates rapidly the farther away they are from your plug trays. Place your fluorescent bulbs a mere 2” above your vegetable plugs for best results.

There are easily recognizable signs that your plugs are not receiving enough light. The stems become awkwardly elongated and look pale, thin and frail as your plants stretch to find light. If you don’t take immediate action, your seedlings will collapse under their own weight or their tissues will be so weak that they cannot survive the transition to the out of doors.

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