One of the most delicate steps in the growing process is the first. Getting your seedlings to germinate and start growing can be frustrating when you’re first starting. Even for seasoned pros, this first crucial time can turn out not as well as hoped.
Fortunately, you can follow a few simple guidelines to give your seedlings the best possible chance to not only begin to grow, but to be well prepared for the next steps in the journey to harvest.
1- START IN A MOIST, CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENT
Seedlings are very fragile!
When your seedlings are sprouting, they don’t want to be in the open air, with loose or unstable soil around them. Keep them in a small, contained environment. I like to start my seeds in Rapid Rooters or plant plugs, which are little pucks of organic medium that keep your seeds snug and safe. They can be purchased at most garden supply stores, and fit into trays that often have domed lids that fit over them. I like this a lot because it keeps the moisture trapped in the seedlings’ environment.
You don’t necessarily have to start in root plugs, though. A small pot will be fine. Some people use solo cups, or any of a hundred seed cracking methods you can find online. Whatever you decide, just make sure the seed is snug, warm, and keeping moist! Spray bottles are your best friends!
2 – LEAVE THEM ALONE!!!!!
Don’t let your anticipation kill your babies!
One of the biggest mistakes I made starting out was always checking on my little seedlings. I was anxious for them to sprout, so I would check on them every day by nudging my fingertips into the soil. This is that last thing you want to do! Even if you think you are being gentle, remember that seedlings are very sensitive, and any upsetting their environment can cause them to stop growing.
The best thing you can do for your seedlings is let them do their thing. As long as you keep the environment moist and stable, you are doing your part. It’s up to the seed to sprout now.
3 – PREPARE YOUR STARTS FOR LIGHT
Show them they can grow up big and strong!
When you start seeing the first true leaves, it’s time to begin introducing your babies to the sort of light environment they will be growing in. You may feel the urge to dim your lights way down so you don’t hurt the young starts, but actually, in this early stage, the plants are beginning to sense their environment. If the light is too dim, the plant will register that it’s growing in an environment with limited light, and so will build itself to use less energy to grow its leaves. Then, when you start kicking up the light later, the plant won’t be able to handle the change well.
The best thing to do is keep your lights backed off so the starts aren’t bombarded with direct rays, but dimmed up to 50% or so. If you don’t have dimmers on your lights, don’t worry- just raise your lights up higher. The idea here is to keep the light bright so the plant knows to absorb and use lots of energy, but also to have that bright light be bouncing around so that it comes from multiple angles and not a concentrated ray.
4 – KNOW WHEN TO TRANSPLANT
Try not to shock your plants!
When your plants have established leaves that are reaching out all the way to the edge of your pot (or whatever you started in), then you know they are doing well and their root system is healthy. Now it’s time to up-pot!
A good thing to keep in mind while your seedlings are just starting out is that they will need to be transplanted at some point, so it’s good to have their next environment prepping during that time. If you are growing with Green Sunshine’s Earth Dust, you can begin cooking your soil as soon as you see green poking through. Whatever medium you use, it’s important that it is a nutrient rich, moist environment for the plant to move into. This will decrease the shock of transplanting and give the plant something healthy to latch onto and begin really growing.
Whew! You made it! If you got your seedlings safely transplanted, then congratulations! You have just succeeded in getting a head start towards a very bountiful harvest! I know it’s a nerve-wracking time when your seedlings are just starting out, but if you remember the key elements of stability, moisture, and good ambient light, then you are sure to see those babies grow!
Once you have your starts going, you’re ready for early veg. Click here to get started!