I have some theories about growing seedlings indoors. Not sure if some of them have any merit, but that never stopped me.

The first theory though, I’m sure of. Seedlings need a lot of light or they get leggy. I keep my lights 1″-2″ from the tops of the plants and run them for 14-16 hours a day. It takes a lot of light to pretend you’re outside!

The second theory, I’m not positive about, but it seems logical. Some folks brush their seedlings with a hand a few times a day. I have a small fan blowing. Same principle. Slightly stressing the plants to toughen them up and yield sturdier stems. Seems to work as far as I’ve observed, and it does no harm.

The third theory, which isn’t really a theory, is that you don’t want to over-fertilize. I use half-strength fish emulsion and liquid seaweed, applied just a couple of times during the indoor life of the plant. Over-fertilization causes rapid growth and leads to leggy plants.

The next theory is that my grow closet is too warm. I believe that greenhouse-grown seedlings grow stockier partly because they’re grown in cooler temperatures. Yes, even the tomatoes and peppers. I haven’t found a way to cool my small space other than the little fan, so I live with it in the mid-70s. I suspect that the mid-60s would be better for the seedlings, but it is what it is.

And finally another theory that I’m not sure about: moisture. It seems obvious that seedlings shouldn’t be kept either too wet or too dry. But I suspect that erring on the side of dryness is better than the other way. Again, just a little bit of a challenge to help the plant accustom itself to real life.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these ideas, because nothing teaches like first-hand experience.



14 thoughts on “theories

  1. I think your theories are spot on Dan, your theory about brushing the plant a few times a day or turning a fan on are, in my opinion, spot on. Plants in the wild would have to deal with the wind from the moment they poked through the ground so I believe this theory is sound.

    Your also right about over-fertilization. Rapid growth is usually not healthy for plants or humans. Everything must grow over time to strengthen properly….this is a lesson for myself as well, I want to learn things very fast and do things right now when in reality it’s not healthy for me.

    I have found the same thing when it comes to plants, opting on the side of dryness is best, I have ruined many seeds by watering too much and they rot.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I’m growing seedlings in my big picture window, and I appreciate your advice about brushing them. I never thought about recreating natural conditions to that extent, but I will now. Thanks!

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  3. I think I would agree with all of that. The watering thing is interesting because I think that young seedlings need to be a bit on the dry side rather than saturated or the airless compost can ‘drown’ the limited root system. But, of course, as they grow and the leaf area doubles they need more water and right now, in the greenhouse, the bigger ones need loads of water. That is where it can be tricky to water when you have a greenhouse or growing area with different plants at different stages of growth. Commercial growers can be exact about watering when they have thousands of plants all at the same stage of growth – we have to water individually. I do feed my seedlings, especially when they have been in the pots or cells a month or more or, as they grow, they get starved. That can be ok for some things but that stress can really damage some plants so liquid feeding s part of my routine till they get planted out. I think that brushing seedlings has been proved by science to toughen the littl’uns up 🙂

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  4. Yes, yes, and yes. I’ve got my seed starting setup in the basement. I need to check it, but I believe it’s in the lower 60s down there which I think is helpful. I start warm weather crops like tomatoes, peppers and cucurbits on a heating mat but as soon as they’re germinated they’re pulled off it. I also try to keep seedlings on the dry side. With nothing to really back up my belief, I think it helps keep them from getting too succulent and encourages the roots to develop and go looking for a drink. It’s hard to resist the temptation and water, though. Some days I just have to do SOMETHING with the plant kids!

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    • That sounds like a great environment for your seedlings! And I totally know what you mean about not being able to resist the temptation to water…I have that problem too 🙂


  5. Love those theories Dan … and yes those little guys needs loads of light. I’ve had them leggy before until the ‘light’ came on … hmmm. Ah, now I would err I think on the damper side. Although in our house hold it is quite often the reverse. My neighbour’s seedlings flourished kept in icecream containers full of water. Mine were not as good! LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always like hearing the thoughts of other gardeners like you, Julie. These were just theories, and you might be right about the moisture. Or like The Biking Gardener said, it could depend on the age of the seedling. Or it could be that it doesn’t really make much difference either way, and it’s just something for bored gardeners to talk about 🙂

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