Seedlings, they grow up so fast
Let’s talk about seedlings. Seedlings develop out of a plant embryo that is encased in a hard shell. We generally call this a seed.
They start with the germination of the seed, which is generally triggered by increased moisture reaching the seed. When this happens, the taproot of the seedling will crack open the shell and begin to stretch into the soil, while the shoot still covered by the seed shell, will begin to move towards the surface.
Once the shoot breaks through to the surface, it will split the shell off and will begin photosynthesis. Until this stage, the seedling has been feeding off stored energy.
Once it begins photosynthesis, it will no longer be dependent on this stored energy. The first true leaves will begin to expand and the seedling will start growing and developing new leaves.
Temperatures and light intensity will play a big role in determining the growth of the seedling and whether it will be healthy.
Photoperiod (is the duration of light the seedling receives), if this is less than 14 hours, will stun the growth of the seedling, whereas 16 hours or more will allow continuous free growth. Light intensity will play a big role in the development of the seedling, as higher levels of light will increase the production of the plant.
Newly developed seedlings can tolerate low light intensity, and some prefer the lower levels when they are still in the development phase. As they mature they will require higher levels of intensity of light.
While this activity happens at the surface, below the surface, the taproot (main root) will make its way deeper into the soil, looking for water and nutrients. The taproot will spread out more fibrous roots in search of water and nutrients, as well as anchor the seedling into the soil to prevent toppling over. This is stimulated by winds and breezes that blow against the seedling, which in turn will benefit the growth of the seedling.
How to grow seedlings?
Growing seedlings are a very simple task if you know what you are doing and have the correct method and materials available. Growing from seeds can also be more cost-effective than buying already established plugs.
TIPS ON STARTING SEEDLINGS
Choosing the right container:
- this can be plastic pots, cell packs, jiffy blocks/peat pots, seedling trays and even egg shells.
- remember that you will need to transplant later in the seedlings life if you have started the seedlings in a small container or seedling tray
Use a quality soil:
- we recommend using sterile soil such as coco peat as a seedling medium. don’t use garden soil as it is too heavy, could contain weed seeds, and possibly carry diseases or pathogens
plant at the right depth:
- most seed packs will instruct you on the right depth to plant the seeds. In some cases, seeds such as lettuce, require light to germinate and would need to be placed on top of the soil surface with ample access to moisture.
when to water:
- it is recommended that you always use room temperature after on your seeds. Always keep the soil consistently moist but not over-watered as this will encourage diseases that will be detrimental to the seedlings.
- the best way to water seeds without displacing the seed or soil would be to water from the bottom of the container. by letting the container sit in a tray of water, which allows the water to be absorbed into the medium from the bottom, avoiding displacement and encouraging roots to grow deeper into the medium to access the water.
Maintain constant moisture:
- the soil should be kept warm to allow for better germination. if the seeds germinate at a slow pace, the medium is likely too cold. the average temperature a seedling would need is around 25ºC
- only start feeding your seedlings after they have developed their second set of true leaves, by applying a half dose of liquid fertilizer weekly. after 4 weeks, you can apply the full dose until transplanting.
- if your seedlings don’t receive enough light, they will stretch until they do, which in turn could lead to them being leggy and not be able to hold themselves up as their stem is not strong enough yet. this will cause them to struggle outdoors then.
- for healthy seedlings, ensure 14-16 hours of direct light per day. the seedlings will bend towards the light and new growth will start. seedlings will do well with artificial light until they reach maturity
circulate the air:
- circulation of air helps prevent disease and stimulates the development of strong stems. avoid blasting the seedling with too much air movement as this can cause windburn.
harden off seedlings:
- before transplanting outdoors, you will need to acclimatize the seedlings to their new environment. this is called hardening off.
Planting seeds is that simple! With the right knowledge, it will turn this daunting task into a fun activity and the rewards will show.
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