Maintaining Compact Early Started Seedlings

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jack oostenbrink
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Many of you will be starting your seedlings indoors before planting them outdoors. Here are a few tips for keeping them from getting too spindly and weak in the knees.
1. Once you have achieved germination for brassicas and lettuces and other cool season plants, try to drop the temperature to slow rapid vegetative growth
2. Plants respond to evenly warm temperatures by releasing less growth hormone and putting on less vegetative growth. In nature night temperatures are cooler then day temperatures causing release in growth hormone and resulting in lankier plants. If you can maintain even temperatures between night and day, the plants will stretch slower than if they had cool night temperatures. If temperatures are warmer at night then in the day, the plants will be even more compact. One way to trick the plants into thinking they have warmer nights than day times, is to give them a cool morning pulse (open the window, or set your heating mat to turn off at dawn for a few hours. This will actually result in more compact plants.
3. Get your light as close to the plants as you can. They should be sitting just an inch or two from the seedlings. If you half the distance that the ligths are situated from the seedlings, you double the intensity of the light for the plants. Seedlings with plenty of light will not be stretching their necks out lookng for it.
4. Don't start too early with tomatoes or peppers, to avoid them becoming too leggy simply because they have been indoors too long. Starting them 6-8 weeks before planting out is about right (maybe a bit longer for peppers)
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I was just coming to ask about this! This is my first time starting seeds indoors and I fear they're all too leggy. But I'm not really sure? I've got scallions, peppers, celery and rosemary in these pics. I'd be grateful for advice from someone with more experience. Too leggy? Should I start over? Move the light closer? I mostly use the heating mat at night and keep it off in the day.

Unfortunately I can't figure out how to insert photos in the post. It keeps telling me the files too large and I've shrunk them as small as I can. Here's a link to a google drive with pics. ... sp=sharing Hopefully that works!
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I checked out the pictures you shared and I believe that your plants are starting out too spindly. The onions could be trimmed back to 1/2" and will probably be okay, some of the peppers might be fine...but I'm concerned about the other plants. You might need to start over.
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