I started some seeds. They are starting to get long and spindly. How do I prevent this, or is this normal? Why are they doing this?
A healthy seedling has a short and stocky stem. Your plants are suffering from lack of light and are stretching in an attempt to get more of it. This is not normal, but the seedlings can be saved.
Stake them up using skewers and twist ties, and increase the amount of light the plants are getting. Seedlings do not need a lot of light, although they grow fastest and healthiest with an intense beam.
Seeds can be started under an HPS lamp or under fluorescents. When the seeds are started under an HPS lamp, they grow very short and stocky. They go into their second stage, the growth of the first true leaves followed by rapid growth, very quickly. The drawback to starting under HPS lamps is that the planting medium may dry out between waterings, leaving the emerging seedling dry. This can be solved using a dome or plastic wrap to keep the medium moist until the seeds germinate.
Seeds can also be germinated under fluorescent lights. For each square foot of space the seedlings require about 20 watts of fluorescents. Compact, screw-in fluorescents may be the answer for small areas. Get ones that emit "cool white" rather than "warm white" light.
Once the seedlings have germinated they should be placed beneath the lights under which they are to grow.
Readers with grow questions (or answers) should send them to Ed at: Ask Ed, PMB 147, 530 Divisadero St., San Francisco, California 94117, USA
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