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Common Mistakes Made While Growing Seeds Indoors

Guidance on Watering, Lighting, and Other Growing Factors

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Kelly Miller/The Spruce

It is quite economical to start seeds indoors, especially when the seedlings grow into robust plants. However, growing seeds indoors can be challenging. To significantly increase your chances of success, avoid these common seed-starting mistakes.

Watch Now: Mistakes to Avoid When Growing Seeds Indoors

Not Supplying Enough Light

Seedlings need a lot of light to grow into sturdy, healthy plants. No matter what anyone tells you, chances are that you do not have enough natural light in your home to grow robust seedlings. Even a south-facing window usually will not do. You can, however, use artificial light to achieve the right amount of light required by seedlings. To do so, obtain grow lights explicitly designed for plants. Or, for a more economical solution, purchase large fluorescent shop lights outfitted with one warm bulb and one cool bulb.

Suspend the lights from chains so that you can raise the lights higher as the seedlings grow. Keep the lights as close to the seedlings as possible without touching them (2 to 3 inches). When seedlings first appear, keep the lights turned on for 12 to 16 hours per day. To reduce your hands-on time, use a timer to turn the lights on and off automatically.

Applying Too Much or Too Little Water

The amount of water you supply can make or break seedling growth. Watering is one of the most challenging aspects of seed starting. Because seedlings are so delicate, there is very little room for error when it comes to watering. You must keep the sterile seed-starting medium damp but not wet.

To increase your chances of getting it right, here are a few things you can do:

  • Create a mini-greenhouse to keep soil moist: cover the container with plastic until the seeds germinate.
  • Water from the bottom to enable the seedlings to soak up water through the container drainage holes. There is less chance of over-watering when you use this approach. Add water slowly for 10 to 30 minutes, and use your finger to touch the top of the soil to ensure that moisture has reached the top of the container.
  • Check soil moisture at least once a day.
  • Buy a self-watering, seed-starting system.

Starting Seeds Too Soon

Many plants do not tolerate cold temperatures, and exposing them to chilly air or cold soil will stress them out. Chas Gill, who runs the Kennebec Flower Farm, agrees that one of the biggest mistakes people make when starting seeds is starting the seeds too early. Stressed-out plants are more susceptible to pests and disease. Most plants are ready to go outside four to six weeks after you start the seeds.

Planting Seeds Too Deeply

Seeds are finicky when it comes to how deep they are planted. Some seeds need complete darkness to germinate and others require light to germinate.   Proper planting depth is usually provided on the seed packet. If there is no information on the packet, the rule of thumb is to plant seeds two to three times as deep as they are wide. Determining depth can be a challenge, but if you are not sure, err on the shallow side.

For seeds that need light to germinate, make sure the seeds are in contact with the seed starting medium but are not covered. To do this, gently press the soil medium to create a firm surface. Then, place the seed on top of the medium and gently press down, making sure the seed is still exposed.

Moving Seedlings Outdoors Too Soon

There is no benefit to a tough-love approach with seedlings when they are young. They will either instantly die or become weak and then fail to thrive. Even the most stalwart plants, when young, need a considerable amount of coddling and attention.

When your seedlings are large enough to plant outdoors, you need to prepare them for the transition by hardening off.   Hardening off gradually prepares them for outdoor conditions like wind, rain, and sun. The hardening-off process is simple, though it can be time-consuming; it involves exposing your plants to the elements gradually. The first day of hardening off, place your seedlings outdoors for one hour, and then bring them back indoors. Gradually increase the amount of outdoor time every day for 6 to 10 days. You will need to make some judgment calls based on the outdoor temperature and the fragility of your seedlings. If it is a particularly cool day or very rainy, you will want to decrease the time of that hardening-off session.

Sowing Too Many Seeds

When sowing seeds, begin modestly if you are a beginner. If you sow more seeds than you can reasonably maintain, it will become challenging to nurture the seedlings into adulthood. Depending on the type of plant you want to grow, you might be able to direct-sow seeds in outdoor containers or in the ground when outdoor temperatures warm up.

Keeping Seeds Too Cool

For seeds to germinate, most must be kept warm: about 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. A favorite place to keep seeds warm in order to germinate is on top of the refrigerator. Or, you can purchase seed-warming mats to place under the seed trays. Once a seedling emerges, they can tolerate fluctuating temperatures (within reason). Whatever type of light you use, natural or artificial, make sure it produces enough heat to keep the plants in the 65- to 75-degree range.

Failing to Label Seeds

To be able to identify seedlings as they grow and to know when they will be ready for transplanting, you should label the seed containers as you are sowing. For every type of seed sown, use popsicle sticks or plastic plant markers and permanent ink pens to record the plant name and date sown. Insert the plant labels into the soil near the edge of the container or tray.

Giving Up Too Soon

Starting seeds can be a difficult process. However, one of the most satisfying benefits of this labor of love is eating a tomato or marveling at the flowers that you nurtured from day one. Growing plants from seed takes dedication, attention, and time. Recognize that you might make mistakes along the way, but you should not give up. The results outweigh the challenges along the way.

Growing seeds indoors isn't hard, yet keeping them alive can be challenging. You can save a lot of money by starting plants from seeds.

Question: Can Seeds Be Overwatered?

What happens when you overwater seeds?

In addition, seeds may simply rot in the soil if overwatering continues.

Along with nutrients and moisture, seeds need some oxygen for healthy seedling growth.

Wet conditions prevent healthy oxygen levels around seeds, which may then fail to sprout..

How do you prevent overwatering plants?

There are some ways to save overwatered plants.Changing the soil to a grittier mix with better drainage may help.Check the drainage holes at repotting and ensure they are open.Use containers that help evaporate excess moisture, such as terra cotta and unglazed containers.More items…•

Why are my seedlings wilting?

Cause: If a batch of otherwise healthy seedlings fall over and wither seemingly overnight, they are likely victims of damping-off, a fungal disease that attacks stems at the soil surface and is usually deadly. Excess moisture or nutrients create conditions that promote damping-off.

Why is my plant drooping?

When plants don’t receive enough water, their leaves begin to droop, or wilt. Often the edges curl and the leaves turn yellow, too. This is a defense mechanism, because shedding leaves helps a plant get rid of some surface area that would lose water to the atmosphere.

How do you not kill seedlings?

HOW NOT TO KILL YOUR SEEDLINGSBy Faye.Killing your seedlings is easy, but so is growing them to become strong and vibrant young plants!*Use a sterilized soilless seed starting mix when sowing seeds.* Seeds need heat, seedlings need light. … * Don’t over crowd. … * Once they have 2 sets of true leaves, start to fertilize.More items…

How do you fix Overwatered seedlings?

How to fix overwatered plants. Let the soil dry out in the overwatered pot then lift the plant from the container, you will want to remove as much soil away from the roots as you can so you can inspect the roots. Trim off dead, damaged or unhealthy-looking roots so that only white ones remain.

What do Overwatered seedlings look like?

If your plants have yellowing leaves and old leaves, as well as new leaves that are falling at the same accelerated rate, you are overwatering.

How often should I water my seeds?

Until seeds have sprouted, keep the seed bed moist, never allowing it to dry out. Water with a fine-spray hose nozzle or watering can which will provide a fine misty spray and not wash away the soil. Water often enough (usually about once a day) so that the soil surface never dries out, but remains constantly moist.

Can wilted seedlings be revived?

If you find your plants wilting from lack of water, you may be able to save them by promptly giving proper hydration. … Give water until the soil feels moist, or for container plants, until the water runs out the drainage holes. Wait for 30 minutes to one hour. Water the plant again if the soil still feels dry.

Why is overwatering a seed a problem?

Overwatering is one of the more common causes of plant problem. Heavy and poorly drained soils are susceptible to becoming waterlogged. Roots growing in waterlogged soil may die because they cannot absorb the oxygen needed to function normally. The longer the air is cut off, the greater the root damage.

What is killing my seedlings?

Damping off affects many vegetables and flowers. It is caused by a fungus or mold that thrive in cool, wet conditions. It is most common in young seedlings. Often large sections or whole trays of seedlings are killed. It can cause root rot or crown rot in more mature plants.

Do I need to water seedlings every day?

Yes, seeds normally need to be watered at least once per day to keep the soil moist, not permitting it to dry out. In especially warm climates (or depending on your soil or garden setup), you may need to water more than once per day. Check on your seeds or seedlings frequently to make sure they have plenty of water.

Can plants recover from overwatering?

There is never a guarantee that your plant can bounce back from overwatering. If your plant is going to survive, you will see results within a week or so. At this point, you can move your plant back to its original location and resume watering it as normal.

Can seedlings get too much water?

For seeds to germinate, you need to keep the growing soil damp but not too wet. … Once seeds sprout, don’t miss a watering. Unlike established plants, seedlings don’t have an extensive root system they can rely on for vital moisture. At the same time, it’s important not to overwater and let seedlings sit in water.

What happens when you water a seed?

Water is one of the most important factors in seed germination. Water causes the seed pod to swell and eventually burst, which allows water to reach the plant embryo. Water is essential for cellular respiration, the metabolic process that gives a seedling energy until it can emerge from the soil and get sunlight.

Question: Can Seeds Be Overwatered? What happens when you overwater seeds? In addition, seeds may simply rot in the soil if overwatering continues. Along with nutrients and moisture, seeds