We get asked all the time - what am I doing wrong???? Let's talk about it!
First, don't be embarrassed! It was only a few years ago that I was murdering like 1000 seedlings in my basement because I didn't know what the heck I was doing. I will be the first to admit that I learn best by trial and error - ahem by failing. But let me tell you, once you see a fail first hand, it becomes real and personal and is the best learning opportunity.
So what's the problem? We will address the most common mistakes made when starting seeds indoors.
Leggy and spindly. This is the number one biggest issue with starting seeds inside, and 99% of the time, it is because your plant babies aren't getting enough sun light! I have never once successfully grown plants by starting them in trays and putting them by a window. When I grow my babies inside, I literally have lights suspended directly above my seedlings and only a couple of inches away. Are you plants super long and frail and thin and leaning? They are trying as hard as they can to get closer to the light! So you've got leggy babies - next year, you can prevent that from happening, but what about this year? Try rotating your trays once or twice a day (if the light is coming from one side) to get the light to them more evenly. You can also put them outside, but being leggy, they are going to struggle in the elements big time. In my experience, you can save some of them by simply planting them deeper! That spindly, leggy part? Just burry it. Plant it where it can get more light and bury the leggy part.
Mold or algae. You've got too much moisture! Yes, plants need water, but too much will cause a bunch of other issues that will ultimately kill your plants. A simple misting of your seeds and sprouts once or twice a day is good. This is also a sign of poor air flow. I have a box fan running on my plants once a day for a couple of hours, and this cuts back on mold and algae big time! Running a fan also makes your seedlings stronger and gets them used to wind before their life outdoors. As an extra precaution, sprinkle cinnamon in your trays. It is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.
They died as soon as I transplanted them. This could be cause by a few different things. Most often, they were leggy and weak from lack of light and nutrients. It is also important to "harden off" your plants before transplanting them directly outside, especially in the early spring. Place seedlings outside in the elements for a few hours a day for about a week before actually transplanting them. Make sure you have been fertilizing your babies weekly as well to make them nice and strong, and like I said above, running a fan on them while they are growing indoors makes them stronger! Also - many plants do not like their roots to be messed with, so be SUPER careful with transplanting. Often, roots get all wrapped around each other and get choked out in trays, so avoid planting too early indoors - or have a plan for upgrade pots before planting outside.
They died after sprouting second set of leaves. Plants need more than just water and sun - they need nutrients!! By the time they have sprouted their first set of true leaves, they require food. Just like us, plants need food!! There are many options for feeding your plant babies, but my favorite is a nettle and chamomile tea. An easy, cheap, and natural way to get your seedlings the nutrients they need to keep growing.
They never sprouted! Did you know that each seed has special requirements for sprouting! Some require light to germinate. Some require darkness. Some require cold. Some need warmth. Always look up what your plant requires to germinate. Paying attention to how and where the grow in the wild is a huge indicator what their germination needs. For example, poppies, explode and fling their little tiny seeds all over in the summer each year and thrive in colder climates. This implies: they need to go through winter (cold), they are totally cool with being tossed on top of the soil and need light to germinate, and they take a long time to grow, preferring to be planted in the late summer or fall to bloom the following spring/summer. So pay attention to the needs of your plant - but sometimes, even if you do everything you can, you may just have a bad batch of seeds OR your dirt is bad. Yes, the soil itself can go bad. Did your potting mix sit outside in the garage all winter? TOSS IT. Don't waste your time and seeds on bad dirt!!!
Did you see your issue in that list? If you didn't, email us!! If you did, here's to learning and growing together! Cheers and happy planting!