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How to Prevent Leggy Seedlings

If you’ve ever grown seedlings that were tall and skinny, you’d understand the disappointment. Leggy seeddlings tend to be floppy and weak. When they grow to full-sized plants, they are prone to diseases and look spindly or untidy. They are also almost guaranteed to produce less flowers.

Why do seedlings grow leggy?

Here are the common causes of leggy seedlings.

Lack of light: If you grow seedlings in a low light situation, it would be a natural reaction for them to stretch and grow towards light. Without sufficient light, they wouldn’t be able to produce important plant sugars. It is a natural survival technique to get closer to a light source as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this results in tall, spindly seedlings that are likely to flop over in strong winds or rain.

Lack of water: A lack of moisture due to soil that is not wet frequently or allowed to dry out will result in skinny seedlings. Being unable to absorb water and nutrients from the soil results in a seedling not having what it needs to grow strong stems and leaves.

Wrong temperature: This is usually in warmer months when high heat may inadvertently result in a growth spurt where the stems grow faster than the leaves. Sometimes it could also be due to thermostat being set too high in your home.

Seedlings growing too close together: This results in seedlings competing for light, water and nutrients, so they try to out-do one another by growing faster and taller.

How to Fix Leggy Seedlings

If you take action soon enough, it is possible to fix leggy seedlings. Otherwise, it may be easier to start all over again by planting new seeds in the right conditions. Here are some ways to fix leggy seedlings.

Increase access to light: This may be as simple as moving the seedlings to another location with more light. You could also move them outdoors (if weather conditions allow for it). Placing grow light or fluorescent light near the seedlings will also help.

Simulate wind: It is a natural reaction of plants to grow thicker stems to withstand the forces of wind. So one way is to place an oscillating fan nearby to create air movement. Another way is to brush your hand past the seedlings a few times a day to create movement. This will trick them into growing thicker stems.

Improve soil quality: Providing moist, nutrient-rich soil will allow your seedlings to absorb what they need in order to grow healthily. Plant food that includes potassium will enhance root growth and plant health. Ensure that you do not increase the level of nitrogen. Excess nitogen can cause a spike in development which exceeds a seedling’s ability to increase girth.

Space seedlings further apart: Giving seedlings more space from one another will also result in them having access to more light, moisture and nutrients.

Products for Optimal Seed Growing

There are a number of products on the market which will aid optimal seed growing. Here are our top picks and suggestions.

Recommended Products

Fertilome Seed & Cutting Starter Mix is an ideal starter formula for germinating seeds, as it is humate-rich for healthy root growth.
Ultra Efficient LED Grow Light (80 watt) has a wide-dispersion design which provides 90 degrees of useful light projection allowing for use very close to plants. Its passive thermal management dissipates heat away from plants reducing the need for fans.
LED Grow Light (7 watt) puts out a warm white light, covering not only the essential red/blue frequencies but also the various light frequencies in between which are essential for optimal plant health.
Window Shelf with suction cups which can be used to allow your plants to grow virtually anywhere, keeping your plants in a sunny and convenient area.

With these products and our tips on mistakes to avoid for successful seed growing, you’ll be able to save your leggy seedlings or prevent future occurrence of leggy seedlings. Happy gardening!