Wednesday, 1 May 2013

HOW TO: Look After Young Vegetable Seedlings

Whilst a garden, patio or balcony full of vegetable plants requires a committed level of care and attention, I actually think that vegetable seedlings are perhaps more needy.

Regardless of where I've gardened – the Hackney balcony (spiritual home of the London Vegetable Garden), Surrey allotment or Peak District cottage garden – I've always grown my vegetable seeds in pots and trays on windowsills, due to the absence of a greenhouse (you can read more about growing vegetable plants on a windowsill here).  And in my opinion, whether for the amateur urban gardener or the seasoned veteran alike, this is now when the serious care and attention begins. 

I planted 2013's vegetable seeds last weekend, but have not watered them every night; in fact I have only watered them a couple of times since sowing, but then it has not been overly hot up here in the Peak District!  Now these vegetable seeds have grown into vegetable seedlings however (see last weekend's blog post), much due care and diligence is required.  Here is my tip to ensuring that my cauliflower and cabbage seedlings will thrive and grow into sturdy vegetable plants.

i) Do monitor your vegetable seedlings daily

Depending on your growing conditions, your vegetable seeds may not need watering every single day.  However, it's essential that you check!  As I have previously said, I have not checked my plants and pots every day; but now they are seedlings, they are highly vulnerable.  Simply check them each day and make sure the soil is damp enough that the seedlings have enough water to drink.

ii) Don't roast your vegetable seedlings

One of the factors that can lead to dry, parched vegetable seedlings is, unsurprisingly, heat!  Whilst it is important for young plants to receive enough warmth, it's essential that they are not left to dry out.  If you are growing your vegetable seeds in a greenhouse, ensure ventilation and check daily to ensure that the greenhouse has not acted as an oven.  Alternatively, if, like me, you are growing your vegetable seeds by a windowsill, ensure that they are not being baked alive!

iii) Do thin out

'Thinning' is something that happened to my hair when I was 21 and rapidly went bald!  But thinning out is also the practice of stripping away weak seedlings to give the strong ones a better chance.  In many of my trays and pots, I have planted a few seeds, to compensate for the few that won't germinate.  However, seedlings are all about the roots – and when seedlings are in cells in trays, or small pots, they will compete with other seedlings for root space.  If you have one or two really strong seedlings, 'thin' them out by pulling up any other ones and thus creating more root room for the strong seedlings.

I hope that these three tips bode you well for your horticultural adventures – good luck!

And remember, I'd love to hear how all of you are getting on – feel free to share pictures, chat with other gardeners or simply come along and 'like' us on our Facebook page, or come and have a gardening chat with me on Twitter, @londonveggarden.  Happy vegetable gardening!

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