60February 17, 2010

One of the common complaints from people who try to grow plants from seed is that the plants get tall and leggy and eventually fall over. Many people who try to grow vegetable plants from seed run into this problem. The solution to the problem is often two-fold.

Many people will try to start plants from seed too early in the season. If you start tomato plants from seed, you need only about 8 to maybe 10 weeks for the plants to get to the proper size for transplanting outside. If you figure that you put tomato plants outside at the end of May, then you should start planting seeds around the end of March. Part of the problem is that starting plants earlier in the winter is that the length of day doesn’t give you enough hours of sunlight for healthy plant growth. Plants that are close to a south window usually don’t get enough light intensity and plants stretch towards the light. This creates the tall and leggy plants.

Even if you start the plants on time, you need to have at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight for plants to grow properly. Some of you may be blessed with a south facing window that will give you that length of sunshine. If you have that type of a window, you should be able to grow plants from seed. If you don’t have a good location, you may want to consider using grow lights.

There has been a lot of talk about the need for using grow lights. Some people have said that using regular fluorescent light bulbs will do the trick. However, grow lights use a different wavelength of light. The grow light bulbs are usually referred to as full spectrum light. The wavelength of light simulates natural sunlight. You can buy a complete set up with the fixture and bulbs. You can also use a regular shop light and add the grow light bulbs to the fixture. If you are starting seedlings, you need to keep the fixture about 4 to 6 inches above the plants. This allows the maximum amount of light to reach the plants. You should leave the light on for about 12 hours per day. If you have a hard time with keeping up with a schedule of turning the lights on and off, just add an appliance timer to turn the light on and off.

Growing plants from seed can be easy if you do it right. The common mistakes of starting the seeds too early and trying to grow them in too low of light intensity are things you can control now that you know how to fix the “problems”.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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