Start Some of Your Spring Planting Right Now! Part 3
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Once you have enticed some seeds to sprout indoors, how should you care for them? In our Master Gardener lecture on Propagation we learned to start fertilizing 3-4 weeks after the seeds sprouted with a water soluble fertilizer at 1/2 strength.
Prevention of Damping Off
Keeping your containers* clean and using sterile potting mix*, recommended in our previous article Start Some of Your Spring Planting Right Now! Part 2 are practices intended to prevent damping off – a fungal disease that kills young seedlings by infecting them at the soil line.
If you want to add a further preventative or possibly kill fungus if it appears despite your precautions, you can spray your seedlings with chamomile tea. An article in Mother Earth News recommends putting a chamomile tea bag into 4 cups of boiling water and letting it sit for 24 hours. Then put the tea into a plant mister* and spray the seedlings at each watering. I’m also experimenting with spraying my edible sprouts* with the chamomile tea and am having success!
Other additional preventive practices against fungus on seedlings are maintaining good air circulation around the plants and watering them from the bottom.
Transplanting the Seedlings
You can transplant the seedlings after the first “true” leaves are present. “True” leaves look like the actual plant leaves and not like the Cotyledons, also known as “seed leaves” which are first to appear. If you have planted your seedling in a peat pot* or pellet*, you don’t have to transplant it, just move it to a larger container surrounded by more potting soil.
If you do need to transplant seedlings, the recommended procedure is to create a hole in the medium large enough for the root system. Gently loosen the medium around the root system, and if any medium clings to the roots leave it there. Pick up the seedling by the leaves, not the stem, and place into the hole. Gently fill in any gaps with medium but don’t pack down. Water well (you can water from the top this time so the water settles the soil around the roots) and put it in a growing environment appropriate for the plant. You will get the most healthy seedlings if you can place them in strong light and if you can get the nighttime temperature around 60-65 degrees and 10-15 degrees warmer during the day.
Your seedlings should be hardened off for a couple of weeks before moving them outside permanently. On mild days you can start leaving them outdoors in a shady area that is sheltered from strong breezes. Wait awhile before moving them into the sun or leaving them out overnight. You can consult our Calendar for suggestions on when to move many popular plants outside!