How to look after Seedlings
So I've sown some seeds and they've germinated.... now what?
It can be quite panicky when you first grow from seed, but I've got you covered. I'll explain what to do with your new seedlings.
Firstly, what is a Seedling? A seedling is a young plant grown from seed. It's when it is more than a seed with a tiny shoot and it's not quite a fully grown plant.
Top tips for your Seedlings:
1) Don't over water them! It can be so tempting when you first grow from seed to over-care for your Seedlings. You need to ensure the soil is damp, but not soaking wet. Leaving seedlings drenched in water will not help them thrive and could kill them off. I usually water my seedlings every 3-5 days (this will depend on where and what temperature they are at, and what time of year it is). Often it is better to water the seedlings from the bottom by placing them in a tray of water, but don't leave them to sit in water.
2) Light: you need to ensure your seedlings get plenty of light. Especially seeds grown early in the season such as Sweet Peas and Cosmos. Without enough light they will turn what we call 'leggy'. This is where they grow really quickly towards the light because they're not getting enough light. This will create slightly less healthy plants than those with plenty of light.
3) Pinching: This is not a universal rule. Some plants do well from being 'pinched'. Pinching is where you pinch off the top leaves just above a set of leaves. This stops the plant growing taller and instead creates branching so that you can have bushier plants with usually more flowers.
Use your fingertips or a clean, small pair of sharp scissors or pruners to snip off the top of the seedling's stem just above the point where a leaf or set of leaves connect to it. Don't pinch right at the point where the leaves connect, or you may remove the bud that will become a new branch.
By pinching just above the set of leaves you will activate little buds which will create new stems. The auxin hormones will redirect to these new stems and growth will occur.
Seedlings that thrive from pinching include Cosmos, Sweet Peas and plants such as Dahlias.
4) Air circulation: it is so tempting when you're new to gardening to sow as many seeds in a tray or pot as possible 'just in case they go wrong'.... we've all been there! However, you're better to sow seeds thinly... not only will give them plenty of space to grow and as they get bigger they will have enough nutrients and light, but it also allows enough air circulation. A lack of airflow creates several problems such as wet or damp foliage, spores settling on leaves and unnaturally stiff stems on seedlings. Ensure if you are keeping your seedlings in a greenhouse or zippy that you open the doors during the day occasionally to allow plenty of air flow, particularly on hot days!
5) Thin seedlings when needed. Often it is better to have fewer stronger plants. Plants in your garden do not like to be crowded. Ditto with your seedlings, who need all the sun and nutrients that they can get.
6) When moving seedlings be very delicate with the roots. Never pull the seedlings up from trays by the stem- always use a leaf to move seedling. This will prevent the stem from snapping.