Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday Seedling Update

What a difference a week makes. I started hardening off my onions and lettuce on the 15th. They have spent a lot of time outside under some nice sunny skies. Before they were floppy and I had to cut them off to 4" when they got too high. Currently they are 8" tall and holding themselves high and proud. I no longer have to snip them for any reason. During the day they are under plastic if the temperatures are less than 50°F. If it is warmer, then they get removed from their tunnel. They have spent several of the warmer nights outside, but not last night. It was cold. By noon it ought to be about 28°F outside. I'll probably put them back in their tunnel then for the afternoon. Until then they have to sit on my kitchen windowsill.

The lettuce has shown great improvement too. It was small and very light green when it started going outside a week ago. Now it has grown substantially and it is picking up its nice red hue. There are three different kinds of lettuce in there, but they are all red.

On March 15th, I had seeded a whole bunch of new plants, cool weather crops and my peppers. They have mostly come up. The exceptions are two of the five chard (I only put one seed in each cell for those unlike the others that have two in each) and one broccoli cell. All the rest have come up well. Most of the cool weather crops were up in 3-4 days and the peppers (on a heat mat) in 5-6 days. After the peppers germinated I moved them into the same flat as the other crops to share the light. I think they will grow fine without extra heat. I've found that chili peppers seem to do OK without extra heat once they are up.

As you can see by the photo, the seedlings are horribly leggy. They are not getting enough light. The LED lights don't seem to be doing the job, which is sad since I love the idea of them. They were fine for the onions that really never get leggy. They just get floppy and you can cut their tops off to compensate. The only other one I had seeded before was the lettuce and lettuce has a high tolerance for shade. It wasn't leggy then and the new seedlings coming up still aren't. I think the LEDs need to be twice as close together (they are 3/4" apart in all directions). Next year it is going to be back to fluorescent lights I think. I might have to break down and get one for this year. Some of those seedlings are 2" tall already and still only have their seed leaves. I might try natural light for a while. I have sunny windows that face southeast and southwest and with a reflector it might just be enough. Right now despite being in a sunny windowsill they don't see natural light. The LEDs are so close to them they block all the natural light.


  1. I have the same problem with some of my seedlings, as they too are rather leggy. I hate to spend money on starts from the nursery, but this year I may have to. Next year it is going to be a different story as I intend on using grow lights of some kind. I will have to do some research.

  2. That's too bad about you LED's. It did sound like a great idea. I turn the heat off under my peppers and tomatoes after they germinate, they do fine unless I overwater :(

  3. Well, Daphne, I'm sorry the LEDs didn't work out- it was a good test. With our research, it looks like the quality of the LEDs has to be high, and they have to be the kind that have deflectors on each individual LED light, so the light spans out from each quite far. This adds up! So, we are waiting for the price to go down a bit before attempting our design. My hubby has a contact that might get us a good price, however, so I'm hoping it will be this year :). Be sure to pass along anything else you learn in your experiments, and we'll be sure to add that to our data. When we do make them- you'll be the first to know :)

  4. I'm drooling over your onions! My brassic's are just as leggy and my light is like a stadium light. I also have bok choy in my coldframe and they are leggy too. I think that is just the way they grow.

  5. Keewee I'm sure I'll use my starts, leggy or not. The are all in the cabbage family and aren't hurt by planting deeply. I don't think it helps them all that much except to stand up on their own, but I don't think it hurts them either.

    Michelle, yeah I'm kinda sad about the whole thing. It would have made for nice seedlings that use less energy.

    Tessa, I think you are right. The little seedlings that grew way too much were not right under an LED. They really project straight down and not to the side. The tallest grew right up between two of the LEDs where there was little light. They were really across the board. Some were OK and some of the same variety were incredibly leggy. Even in the same cell I had one that was less than inch tall and one that was two inches. I'd love to see how they grow with lights with little deflectors. That ought to help a lot.

    Dan, I grew brassicas (Asian brassicas) last year that weren't leggy. They were in the window and had supplemental fluorescent light (full spectrum light). They do seem to be more picky than other plants. The peppers that were growing where more leggy than I would like, but not as bad as the brassicas. I think I'll mostly keep them outside and in the window from now on (with a reflector at the back). The last two days have been very sunny and they haven't gotten any taller. The problem with that method for me is the lack of a southern window. I have SE and SW. So at about 1pm I have to move them to the SW window then I move them back to the SE one at night. Such a pain.