Question: I bought an all-in-one seed starting kit that is supposed to make the procedure a breeze. I’m new to this so I tried growing stuff like marigolds, pansies, and herbs but everything died! The seedlings grew tall and floppy with a couple of sad looking leaves. I propped them up but after a few days they gave up and “met their maker” so-to-speak. Can you give me some advice so I can see where I went wrong?
If your seedlings are growing tall and floppy it probably means they aren’t getting enough light. Light deficient seedlings grow tall, thin, and eventually weak as they reach towards the closest light source. This leads to sickly plants that are susceptible to the kind of disease that eventually carried your seedlings to plant heaven. In their early days, most seeds require heat rather than light to get the ball rolling. However, your seedlings will need plenty of strong light — at least 12 to 16 hours per day — once they have popped out of their shell and up through the soil.
Finding a good spot in your home can be tricky. A south-facing window will do during bright summer months, but even springtime sunshine lacks the consistently intense light that seedlings depend on.
An inexpensive fluorescent light is the best way to ensure the right start for your young flowers and herbs. Don’t break the bank on a swanky greenhouse system. Instead pick up a cheap and practical fluorescent shop light box with two fixtures (fits two tube bulbs) from your local hardware store. Get 40-watt bulbs; one cool white and one warm white and suspend the box about 4″ above your plants. Hang the light on a linked chain so you can raise it as your seedlings grow.
This setup isn’t exactly stylin’ (unless science-geek chic is your thing), but your next round of seedlings are bound to be robust, stocky and ready to make the journey outdoors.
Get It: A 4 ft shop light with built-in chain will cost around $25. at your local home improvement store. I recommend Phillips Alto T12 or T8 bulbs (about $2.50 each). Make sure your bulbs are a match for the fixture as the two aren’t interchangeable. A setup with T8 bulbs will be a slightly larger investment but are about 20% more energy efficient.
Guest post by Amy Urquhart
This morning on my blog I wrote about how we’re getting crowded out of our dining room by the sheer number of plants in there, so it seems only natural that the next thing I did this morning while drinking my coffee, and in my housecoat, no less, is root seven Rex Begonia cuttings. This means that if my project is a success, I will soon have seven more houseplants to add to the collection I complained about just this morning.
It all started when I decided to research just exactly what to do with those long, leafless necks sprawling across the surface of my Rex Begonia “Tiger Kitten”. I was very happy to find that all I needed to do was cut those back and with a little time and plant magic, my original “Tiger Kitten” would grow new leaves and eventually look as happy as it did the day I bought it at Canada Blooms two years ago.
First I took a deep breath and hacked it back. Here’s how it looked this morning in all its gangly glory before the hacking began:
And here it as after the shearing:
Here are the cuttings all ready to be potted up:
And here they are in their new homes, all dusted in rooting compound and snuggled into pots of equal parts vermiculite and pro-mix:
Guest post by Amy Urquhart
There have been some whispers in the Forums about starting seeds already. Some of the members of You Grow Girl live in areas where it’s already the season for growing. Here in Southern Ontario, though, we’re still experiencing snow and wind chill warnings. I’ve started to think about what I want to grow in my basement “grow-op” this year.
My set-up basically consists of a large work table and a pair of regular fluorescent shop-lights, suspended on a chain to allow for adjusting, depending on the height of the seedlings. The light is plugged into a standard timer, which I can adjust depending on how many hours of light I want to provide. I also have an oscillating fan that I run when the plants get a bit larger to simulate “wind”. I set this up in our laundry room every year, and so far I have had really good success while incurring minimal costs.
I love getting up in the morning and heading down to the basement to see what’s growing, watering where necessary, and just admiring the bits of green.
Guest post by Amy Urquhart
“Invasive” does, in fact mean, well, “invasive”. I’m always curious when I buy a new plant labelled as invasive, just how invasive can it be, really? That one little starter plant can’t really get to be that big in one season, can it?
Besides the usual mints, balms and the like, I give you the official 2006 list:
Plants In My Garden That Have Proved Just How Invasive They Can Be
Catnip - this is literally a shrub now, after starting it from seed just last spring. It has made many little catnip babies all around the base, too.
Monarda - my mother in law gave me some of this last year. Now I know why. It’s very beautiful, though, and in a contained area so it should be kept in check. I moved the clump to another place, and where it once sat, this year, it sprang from the earth again. I must have left a little piece of root behind.
Raspberries - also from my mother in law. We got three canes from her last year. Here’s the result so far.
Cherry Bells Campanula - These have taken over the entire small bed the first plant went into mid-way through last summer. The most prolific self-sower I’ve had yet.
So they’re not very stylin’, but these self-watering planters made from junked pop bottles are pretty handy for the well-intentioned but forgetful gardener. The bottom watering system keeps cuttings and seedlings on the right side of moist without the discipline (and hassle) of routine dampness patrol.
There’s more talk and experimentation with this concept in the forums.