Seedlings are seeds that have germinated and require special attention. They are young plants that require tender care to produce the plants of maturity. Understanding the needs of the young plants is crucial to the development.
The young plants need water and proper lighting. They require about 14 to 16 hours of intense light in order to grow and reach their full potential. If possible, place the seedlings in the windowsill or in direct sunlight. Rotate the plants so they are not twisted toward the light source every two or three days. Fluorescent lighting is one type of light source the plants will thrive with if they have exposure within four inches of the light.
Make sure the seedlings have adequate water for optimal growth and development. Keep the soil moist with room temperature water to avoid shocking the root system and young plants. In the beginning of the growing cycle, water from the top of the soil while after the plants start maturing, water from the bottom to encourage the roots to grow towards the water source.
The seedlings need to germinate and thrive. The temperature is essential to their growth; keep the range 65 to 75 degrees for optimal growth. One secret to maximum growth is to keep the temperature at 72 degrees constantly and as they mature, the temperature can be reduced to 50 or 60 degrees in most climates.
Provide proper nutrition to the seedlings as they develop their second set of leaves. They are now growing and need the boost of the additional plant food such as organic kelp-fish emulsion, compost tea, or a balanced plant food in small amounts.
Once the seedlings have matured it is time to expose them to the outside world. Select a cloudy day for the transition to the outside world. The less sun exposure during the transition will avoid shocking the young plants allowing them to harden off and adapt to the new location. Allow the seedlings a shady two or three hour period outside before returning them back inside. Do this procedure for several days.
Transplant the seedlings on a cool overcast cloudy day or in the late evening when they will not have direct sun exposure. Keep the soil damp until the plants adapt to the outside location. Place the plants in an area without direct exposure to the elements such as wind, sun, and rain. Create a shield with plastic jugs or cloth coverings.
Keep the young plants watered daily and monitor their development. Some new seedlings will appear to droop or wilt when first transplanted yet they generally will revive to their healthy appearance over several days once they adapt to the outside elements.
Keep weeds from forming around the seedlings. Make sure to have well-drained soil that allows the new roots to breathe and thrive. Keep the soil moist daily. After a few weeks in the new soil, add a plant food to provide an additional boost for the young plants. They need the nutrition and will gladly accept the added supplements.