Leggy Seedlings: Don’t Let This Happen to You

posted in: Simple Garden | 2

Leggy seedlings from starting seeds indoors.I was thinking of an alternative name for this post, like “Friends don’t let friends garden badly,” but the cautionary warning won out instead. These leggy seedlings look awful, don’t they? I’m embarrassed to even post this. I’ve been growing my own garden for how many years? Twenty-six seasons. And that doesn’t include my childhood spent learning from the voices of gardening experience–my grandparents.

The truth is I haven’t had my grow light out for a while–a couple of years now. When I did use it, I just sort of planted stuff and hoped for the best. Coming off of hard winters, a few of those fighting depression, those little seedlings gave me hope. So whatever I did worked then–and thankfully so!

I’m in a better place these days. Life is pretty good. But when it comes to gardening, what once came easily is a challenge. Time for this girl to read up on leggy seedlings and grow lights.

The problem with leggy seedlings is that they are reaching for the light, and the farther the light source, the quicker they grow toward it, resulting in a spindly plant that won’t usually make it. My light was about a foot away from the tray. What I learned is that the grow light should be positioned about three inches above the tallest seedlings.

The duration of light exposure is also important. From my research, gardeners recommend the light be turned on for about eighteen hours. Mine was on for about fourteen.

So what do you do with leggy seedlings? Gently running a finger over the seedlings a few times a day to simulate wind actually causes some of them to adapt by growing thicker stems. I’m trying this out to see what happens. Some seedlings, tomatoes in particular, can actually be planted deeper and often survive it. Most seedlings don’t.

Though it’s late for starting seeds, I’ll plant another tray and see what grows. I’ll keep you posted.

Related posts: Seedlings: The Sequel

My Adventures Growing Zinnias

My 3 Essential Tips for Growing Strawberries


2 Responses

  1. calensariel

    And THAT is exactly why I don’t garden! But I do think there’s a lesson for us there. If LIGHT = LOVE (and it does in MY equation of life), we have a tendency to do the same thing those leggy little plants did. The farther away that LIGHT is, more we reach for it. Sometimes in healthy ways, sometimes in not so healthy ways. But I do think it’s natural that we ALL reach for the LIGHT. So how ’bout we all do each other a favor and try to SHINE on someone we don’t know tomorrow? 😀

    • amy@amyharkemoore.com

      Oh, I like that analogy! I have often said gardening has taught me so much about life. Thanks for your insight, Calen! 🙂