Leggy Tomato Seedlings

Our tomato seedlings have really taken off. In fact, I think they are a bit more leggy this year than some years. I’m not a fan.

These plants are just 3 weeks old! Well…the seeds were planted 3 weeks ago today. This is why I try very hard to start our tomatoes no sooner than 4 weeks before we want to plant outside. Normally I would be starting to put them outside for hardening off right now – except that it’s only 44 degrees outside. Yeah, not so much. Most years I insistently hold the line on not planting our tomato plants before the first week of May, and this year I decided that we could plant on April 23rd so they were in before Herb Day. (I’m going to be away from the garden on April 30th.) Well, at present they are still forecasting overnight lows below 40 degrees for next week. No tomato plants going outside here!

Yes, I suppose we could break out the milk jugs (ugh, they blow away in the wind!) or the wall-o-waters (ugh, expensive!). But I don’t really think there is much benefit to doing those things at this point.

Part of the reason the plants are so leggy this year is that they level of my light stand they are on has 2 of the 4 fluorescent tubes burned out. I think it is the fixtures, because the same tubes are burned out every spring. The peppers and eggplant under the middle tier aren’t getting leggy yet.

So, since I can’t put the plants outside, here are the steps I’m taking to prevent further legginess:

1. Moved them to the bottom tier of lights where there are 4 tubes working.

2. Placed the lights as close to the tops of the plants as possible without actually touching.

3. Provide minimal fertilizer. (I’ve only fertilized once because I saw a little bit of purple color showing up on some of the leaves.)

4. Keep my office cooler…yeah…I can try!

5. Put them outside whenever a warm, sunny day presents itself. (Even a cloudy, warm day would be acceptable at this point.)

Whenever you are getting leggy seedlings the keys to keeping them shorter are: more light, closer/brighter light, cooler temps, less fertilizer, less water. Even small differences can make a big difference in the growth of your plants.

Oh yeah, and I’m hoping that the forecast straightens out into something more closely resembling mild spring weather.

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on April 16, 2013, in Around the Garden and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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