Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Container Garden: Seedlings First True Leaves

Six weeks from their start date, my seedlings are still doing their thing (see, e.g., parsley above and basil below the jump). They're a little leggy because they're sun exposure isn't quite optimal. Right now the basil and parsley have developed their first true leaves. This means it's time to start the grow juice.According to Container Gardening for Dummies by Bill Marken and the Editors of the National Gardening Association (1998) (which is out of print and only has about a page on starting from seeds), at two weeks seedlings are ready for a little fertilizer. CG4D recommends the weekly application of a water soluble fertilizer mixed at half the strength described on the package.

The Gardener's Guide to Starting and Growing Plants from Seeds disagrees.

Once the first true leaves (the second set to emerge) develop, you can begin to feed your plants. Up until this time the seedlings have been being nourished from the seed itself. Fertilizing should be still done from the bottom at this point, using a very dilute 1/4 strength mix of soluble all purpose plant food once a week. When the plants have reached about 3 inches you can begin to water and feed the plants from above.
My tomato seedling still hasn't developed its first true leaves. I think the strain for sunshine might have been fatal.The two tomato plants I bought at the Fullerton Arboretum are doing O.K. Hopefully they will succeed where my tomato seedling appears to be failing.

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Rebecca said...

My seedlings look so wimpy compared to yours. They are long and scraggly and seem like they will never be big enough to produce enough plant matter that I could actually eat something. I think I should have started growing them about 3 months ago for them to be anywhere close to big enough to survive outside.

Sarah said...

I have the exact same concerns about my sprouts and I think I started mine a few weeks before you did. If it makes you feel any better, I think my wimpy tomato sprout finally died yesterday.

My friend Bridget has all of her tomato and basil sprouts outside all the time and they're not much bigger than these and they seem happy as clams. Maybe we're coddling ours too much and what they really need is to get planted outside already. I dunno.

Have your sprouts developed true leaves yet?

Rebecca said...

We're still getting some very cold temps at night, so I definitely don't want to put my plants out yet - it's been freezing or close to it several nights this past week. The people who have plants in the garden already covered their plants at night last week.

My cherry tomatoes are doing amazingly well. They have started getting a second pair of leaves. The cilantro, parsley and beefsteak tomatoes look like they are about to get some new leaves going. But, the stems are so thin and week. The peppers don't have secondary leaves, but they are more robust looking plants. I actually germinated them in the sun because I started them late and everything else needed sun. Maybe I shouldn't have kept everything in the dark for the sake of the parsley?

I think I should start to feed them some nutrients though. Maybe that will help them bulk up. What kind of fertilizer are you planning on using?

Sarah said...

I used E.B. Stone Organics Tomato and Vegetable Food. It is NOT water soluble. It DOES smell like poop. And it might be just awful for the herbs as it claims, "It will contribute to even plant growth without producing excessive foliage."

According to the Earthtainer website, for your tomatoes "Tomato-tone and Fox Farms tomato fertilizers have specially added micro-nutrients, and are excellent choices. Avoid using fertilizers that are higher than 10-10-10, as they could “burn” the plants." I couldn't find Tomato-tone or Fox Farms products at my local garden center.

The only water soluble fertilizer I'm familiar with is Miracle-Gro. They've got an organic liquid plant food, Miracle-Gro® Organic Choice® All Purpose Plant Food Concentrate, but it's only got nitrogen, no P or K. Weird.