Leggy Seedlings and How to fix them
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product or service with the links that I provide I may receive a small commission. There is no additional charge to you! Thank you for supporting 7Savings.com so I can continue to provide you free content each week! You guys are amazing!
If you start your seeds indoors or outside, you might have or have had leggy seedlings and there are several reasons for that. Leggy seedlings are seedlings that are thin, pale, slightly discolored.
Why are leggy seedlings a problem?
leggy seedlings are not strong enough to withstand outdoor weather conditions and also more susceptible to diseases and pests,
Can Leggy seedlings be saved
Yes, leggy seedlings can be saved by applying the recommended fix to the various issues.
Causes of Leggy Seedlings and how to fix them
Lack of Intense Light
Leggy seedlings are traditionally caused by a lack of light that is either too weak or indirect to meet the seedling needs. A lack of intense light will cause seedlings to be leggy because when there is not enough light your seedlings extend upwards or sideways to get as much light as possible thereby stretching the seedling.
As they use up all their energy to reach for the light, they get stretched out, and you end up with weak and leggy seedlings.
A common mistake many new gardeners make is starting seeds in a window sill or close to a window. The amount of light you get in spring is not strong enough for seedlings and it does not last long enough for seedlings.
The majority of Seedlings need about 12-18 hours of strong light per day once they germinate. The light you get from your window is not enough.
The best way to give your seedlings the light they need is to grow them under lights indoors. Led grow lights are much better because they produce less heat and use less energy. checkout my list of the top LED grow lights here.
If you’re already growing your seedlings under a grow light and they’ve gotten leggy, make sure to put the lights as close to your plants as possible without burning them. like I said earlier, seedlings need intense light to grow.
You can set up a grow shelf,(check out my post on setting up a grow shelf) or you can set up a mini indoor greenhouse (check out my post on setting up a mini indoor greenhouse).
Another solution will be to move the seeds outside during the warm days if temperature permits you to do that (temperature outside needs to be above 60 degrees Fahrenheit) in order to avoid the cold temperature outside killing the seedlings.
If you’re using fluorescent lights, it’s possible that your bulbs are too old and not putting out enough light.
Too compact seedlings
Planting too many seeds in one container can lead to Leggy seedlings,
When seedlings grow too close together, they don’t get enough light, because they shade each other out. This forces the seedlings to grow taller to compete for the light, and thereby get leggy.
Planting seedlings to close together also lead to all the seedlings struggling for limited resource in the soil compared to the number of seedlings in that container.
You can prevent legging by thinning out your seedlings when their first true leaves appear instead of letting them grow in that same crowded container.
Another solution to compact seedlings is to supply the seedlings with more nutrients through fertilization. fertilize the seeds with organic fertilizer to help them get enough nutrients.
Note: if you use chemical-based fertilizer, you need to dilute the fertilizer because regular chemical base fertilizers could be too strong for seedlings.
High heat can cause leggy seedlings
Too much heat is another cause of leggy seedlings. If you use heat mats to germinate your seeds and don't move the seedlings away from the heat mat after the seeds germinate, the seedlings will be leggy if the temperature is too warm. Some seeds like pepper and tomato require high temperatures to germinate well. But other seedlings will get leggy when they’re kept in temperature that is too warm.
if you are using a heat mat and your seeds germinate, move the seedlings away from the heat mat and maintain the seedlings in a temperature range provided on your seed packet.
Lack of air movement
lack of air movement can result in leggy seedlings, Seeds that germinate outside are strengthened by the movement of the wind. the plants get to develop some plant muscle. they are able to bend to the wind movement without breaking. the seedlings grown inside don't have that air movement and as a result, don't develop that resistance.
Use a fan to help the seedlings develop better. put a fan on the seedlings and set the fan on the lowest speed.
another alternative is to bring the seedlings outside during the day and bring them back inside at night.