How to Fix Leggy Seedlings (and Prevent Them in the First Place)

Garden Betty

Leggy seedlings often happen with seeds started indoors and any type of vegetable, herb, or flower seedling can be affected.

The seedlings desperately stretch toward the light source, so much that their stems grow too long and lean in proportion to their leaves. They end up with pale, skinny stems and fewer, smaller leaves than healthy seedlings.

If you notice your seedlings leaning too much or looking thin and frail, keep reading for seven easy ways to fix them.

Fix #1: Starting seeds in front of windows? You need more light.

Most vegetable seedlings are long-day plants that thrive with 16 hours of light (and 8 hours of dark). An artificial light is the easiest way to achieve this, especially for northern gardeners with short growing seasons.

Fix #2: Be aware of the ambient room temperature and adjust as needed.

While warmer temperatures between 75°F and 80°F are ideal for germination, most seedlings grow best at a high of 65°F to 70°F during the day and a low of 55°F to 60°F at night.

Fix #3: Water from the bottom up to provide consistent moisture.

Bottom watering ensures the entire seed starting medium is moist and encourages roots to spread downward.

Fix #4: Give proper spacing between seedlings.

To promote good plant health and keep seedlings from stretching for light, space them no less than an inch or two apart once they develop the first true leaves.

Fix #5: Build stronger stems on your seedlings by brushing them.

This simple motion simulates an outdoor breeze and tricks the seedlings into thinking they need to grow thicker stems to hold up against windy conditions.

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Garden Betty