Cultivating Hearty and Robust Seedlings
There is a bit of a shift in momentum here in our growing space and grow-along project. For weeks we were busy gathering supplies, sowing, and watching for seedlings to emerge. Taking them off heat, setting up shop lights and nursing our tiny little sprouts into full-fledged seedlings with multiple sets of true leaves. But now, our seedlings are off heat, robust, and it's time to take a deep breath and relax.
If this is the first you are reading of the grow-along project, below are the first four posts to get you caught up:
Here are tips for the next few weeks, as we nurture our seedlings into plants:
- WATER. Keep your soil damp but not drenched. If you are growing in smaller containers, check daily. If you are growing in larger containers, every other day will suffice. The larger the container, the more soil, which means the more moisture the container will hold. If you notice the plants wilt or the edges of the leaves turning brown, you are not watering enough.
- LIGHT. As your plants continue to grow taller, adjust grow lights so that they are always 5" higher than the top of your plants. Keep in mind that LED lights come in different strengths, so if you notice your plants appear to be scorched or turning a deep red or brown, raise the lights to 8" higher than the plants. If they start looking leggy, lower the positioning of the lights so they are a couple inches closer to the plants. If you are growing using only natural light, keep in mind that the sun will reposition a bit each day as we move closer to the next solstice and you may find shadows on your plants that were not there the day before. Reposition your plant location as needed and add artificial light if your seedlings are not thriving.
- SPACE. Transplant your seedlings into larger pots when you see roots protruding through your drainage holes or if the plants appear to be struggling or stunted in growth.
- AIR. Air circulation is important to the health of the plant. If you are growing in a lived-in space of your home (kitchen window, living room bay, etc.) than you likely have plenty of circulation in the space already. But if you are growing in a basement, greenhouse or covered porch that doesn't have as much walk-through traffic or heat registers, consider adding a small fan to circulate air throughout the day. Also, brushing your hand lightly back and forth over the top of your seedlings every now and then (almost like you are petting them) will also help them to become stockier and stronger.
NUTRIENTS. Once your plant has a few sets of true leaves (these are the leaves that grow AFTER the first set of cotyledon leaves), it is time to supplement your plant's diet. It is critical that you only use organic supplements on medicinal plants (or any plants, really). I use Neptune Harvest Organic Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer and AgroThrive All Purpose Organic Liquid Fertilizer. I have added them both to the Amazon supply list I created specifically for this grow-along. They can also be found at your local Home Depot. Fertilizers are important to add micronutrients to your soil and strengthen the root systems of your plants.
WARNING: organic fertilizers smell terrible so brace yourself! It's a very stinky job but your plants will thank you. I use rubber gloves so the smell doesn't stay on my hands even after I've scrubbed them.
When fertilizing seedlings, I recommend diluting the recommended indoor plant package instructions by 50%. For example, if the package instructions recommend 1 tablespoon of fertilizer for 1 gallon of water, use ½ tablespoon. Do this until the plants are 6" tall, then use the doses recommended on the package for indoor plants. Lastly, but very importantly, because we will harvest the aerial parts of the plant (leaves and flowers), I recommend sprinkling the leaves with water to rinse them of any fertilizer drops that may have settled on them during application.
Do not over fertilize! Dilute the dosage as instructed above AND ONLY fertilize small plants every 3-4 weeks.
Continue to follow these five steps over the next few weeks and enjoy watching your beautiful plants grow. I will post again for the grow-along in early December.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends. I'm so thankful for you.