2 inch tomato seedling re ready to transplant

Six on Saturday 3-17-18, How to Help Those Little Seedlings Grow and Prosper

Have you used sphagnum as your seed starter for your seedlings? If so, you probably already know that it contains zero nutrients.

When the seedlings begin sprouting their first sets of true leaves, it’s time to transplant or thin them, and fertilize.

Tomato seedlings first grow seed leaves (cotyledons), then a pair of true leaves.
The first set of true leaves are beginning to grow on the tomato plants. Time to start fertilizing with a 50% strength fish emulsion solution two or three times a week.

Some seed starting mixes contain slow release fertilizers, so you will need to check the package to determine if yours does.  I like to treat my seedlings to fish emulsion. (Okay, I don’t like it, but they like it!)  This natural fertilizer adds micronutrients, in addition to the big three – nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Fish emulsion fertilizer contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, plus micronutrients.
Fish emulsion is sold as a great fertilizer for indoor and outdoor plants, but imo it’s still a little stinky.

Beyond fertilizing, and later hardening off, the only real question left is when to repot these little darlings.

Basil seedling with cotyledons and first true leaves.
The basil has sprouted true leaves, but much more is happening underground!

I used some old peat pots for the basil, and they weren’t staying particularly moist, so I decided to remove the wrapper and have a look at the seedling roots.

Several roots emerge from the bottom of the 2 inch peat pot.
The roots from the basil seedling are already protruding from the bottom of the peat pot.

As you can see, the basil seedlings have been busy underground sending their roots out.  These seedlings are two and a half weeks old, and the peat pots are about 2 inches tall. The roots are already stretching beyond the peat pot.

This is the time to transplant the seedlings, while the roots are easy to reestablish.  If you are using individual cells and want to snip off extra plants that germinated, that’s another option.  I have a hard time killing these baby plants, so I just use an old ballpoint pen to tease them out and repot them into their own cells.

Nicotiana sylvestris presents a challenge, though.  The seeds were so small, I spilt way too many into the cells.  Any suggestions?  I’m guessing this is a survival of the fittest scenario.

What’s amazing about the Nicotiana sylvestris is that the seeds and seedlings are so small, yet it is one of the largest annuals in my garden.

I don’t see it for sale at our local garden centers, which is weird because it’s such a great, late-blooming annual that looks striking and sends out a sweet fragrance. Maybe customers don’t want to wait for it to grow.


Nicotiana sylvestris seedlings are tiny and the seeds are even smaller.
Nicotiana sylvestris seedlings germinated well, but there are too many in each cell.
Woodland tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris) grows to a striking plant about four feet tall.
Woodland tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris)

There are my six for this Saturday. As you can see, things are growing along in the basement, even though the weather outside refuses to cooperate.

Check out The Propagator for more garden news from around the globe!


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10 comments on “Six on Saturday 3-17-18, How to Help Those Little Seedlings Grow and Prosper”
  1. Hope they work out for you. They are on my wish list but I have too many packets of seeds already! Maybe I will try sowing them direct in May.

  2. A. JoAnn says:

    I know, it takes a fire under me sometimes to get moving! The Nicotiana picture from last August is a self-sower. They pop up all over the place now, after I grew some when we first moved in 20 years ago. They don’t flower until late August when started outdoors, so I decided to start some indoors this year.

  3. Good advice here – my first batch of seedlings need potting on but I am procrastinating. Is that a Nicotiana you grew earlier?

  4. A. JoAnn says:

    Thanks, Lora. I’m doing some thinning today. It’s hard…

  5. Horti Hugh says:

    Thanks JoAnn, that’s very kind of you to say … Lol … yes, one has to be dressed for YouTube … ???

  6. A. JoAnn says:

    I’m so impressed with your YouTube channel! Writing doesn’t require me to get dressed and look presentable ? count me a new subscriber

  7. Horti Hugh says:

    Ah, Basil means summer – lovely photos and write up. All the best, Hugh

  8. Lora Hughes says:

    Just look at those wee little tomato plants. Does anything get cuter? Yes, the basil, both roots & leaves! Great read. Very helpful.

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