With the anticipation of spring it is not uncommon for gardeners to start seedlings a bit too early for their growing season. We’ve all done it and we’ll all do it again. Your potted seedlings start out great but then begin to go down as they wait patiently for warmer outdoor temperatures. The result is tall, spindly and weakened plant seedlings.
Your seedlings are most likely stretched due to lack of adequate light. The plant stretches it’s limbs searching for that life preserving necessity. Perhaps your seedlings are starting to look weak and floppy, maybe even yellowing a bit. They may have outgrown their original pots or plugs, and the planting medium by now has probably lost much of its original nutrients.
With several more weeks to go before you can plant them outside, what to do? You simply will have to rescue them. The easiest and most effective thing you can is to repot them. Repot seedlings up to their necks into slightly larger containers using fresh potting soil.
Your standard 4 cm pot works great for this. Place new soil into the bottom of the pot, then sink your seedling down low enough so the soil covers up most of it’s stretched stem, leaving the leaves just above ground level. Fill in with new soil and tap gently. Once your plants have grown 3 full sets of permanent leaves, you can begin to lightly fertilize them with a weakened all purpose soluble fertilizer. Continue growing seedlings in as much light, either natural or artificial as you possibly can.
This method should buy you a few extra weeks of indoor growth until you can transplant your seedlings into the garden. As your seedlings bend toward the light source, keep rotating their pots for even growth. Continue to water as needed, never allowing them to dry out. If possible, bottom watering is best.
Mark on your calendar when you started your seedlings this year with a note to start a bit later next year. Not that it will do any good! Besides, even if you do there is always the possibility of a late spring and you may find yourself back in the same position again. As with many things in life, timing is everything!