Starting seeds too early

(Question)

Hello. I started some seeds last week Wednesday and amazingly by Saturday, 3 days later I had growth!! However now I am worried they will grow too quickly. I used no fancy equipment, no additional light, just a plastic bag over the seeds. The seeds that have come up are; basil, Lupin, tomatoes, September ruby, aster,  petunias, and lavender. Does this seem early? And are there any tips on preventing them from growing too quickly and leggy? Thanks

(Answer)

Leggy seedlings result from the light source being too far away, forcing the seedlings to grow too fast to reach the light source. To prevent this, hang a grow light or fluorescent light 2-4″ above the sprouting seedlings. Select a grow light that does not produce much heat otherwise it will dry up the seedlings and potentially burn them. If you use fluorescent lighting, use cool white bulbs and supplement with one standard fluorescent light in the same fixture. This gives the plant the full spectrum of light needed for an adequate growth environment.

As your seedlings grow, keep raising the lights so that they remain 2 – 4″ above the tops. This will keep them growing at an acceptable rate which prevents legginess, and enables you to transfer the seedlings outdoors more quickly.

Concerning whether the seedlings are early or on time varies according to the plant and the zone. The seed packet will usually provide directions as to the approximate growing times before the plants are ready to be moved outdoors. This might be something to keep in mind for next year. Always start hardening off your plants about a week before you plan to move your plants outside, (at the earliest, about mid to end of May). This means moving the pots to a shady spot outside during the day and bringing them back in at night, gradually exposing them to more sun. Try transplanting them on an overcast day to ease the transition from pot to ground. Good luck with your seedlings!

You might like to review our Gardening Guide — Growing from Seed.