I caught some snails in my greenhouse earlier, the buggers. They’d been hiding out in the roof and nibbling on plants over the last few nights. No lasting damage, but enough to get me thinking: I really must look after my seedlings.
Of course, seedling care goes much further than flinging a few snails out of the shed. Us allotmenteerists are currently in a critical period. This is ‘make or break’ for the little plants we have grown from seed and hope will go on to provide us with bountiful harvests.
We best look after them. Here are 6 things to do to help your seedlings grow strong.
Watch Out for Frost
Frost can strike well into May in many areas, so keep an eye on the weather forecast. Young seedlings can be killed off by sharp frosts unless you take some action to protect them.
Covering the little plants in horticultural fleece or bubble wrap is the easiest way to raise the temperature up a notch and stave off frost damage. If your seedlings are in pots create a micro-environment for warmth too by huddling them together.
Keep Temperatures Steady
One of the difficulties during Spring is that often the nights are cold, but the days can be very warm, particularly if you’re seedlings are in the greenhouse. Don’t let the temperature get too high in there, as this will stress the plants.
If you forget to open the door during the day, temperatures can rocket. I learnt this the hard way, frazzling some lovely rosemary cuttings in 100 plus degrees!
Some greenhouses have automatic vents, and you can also buy special paint that helps shade the plants from too much heat.
Seedlings like routine, so I try to water my seedlings at the same time every day. Normally I do this first thing in the morning.
I make sure I use a watering can with a rose head too so that the plants get a nice sprinkle. I don’t like the power in which water comes out when a rose isn’t used, as this disturbs the soil around the base of the plant.
If your seedlings are in pots, you can leave them in saucers of water. The water will be absorbed gently through the holes in the bottom of the pots.
The biggest danger to healthy seedlings is slugs and snails. Given half a chance, they’ll decimate a row of seedlings in a single night.
After dark slug hunts can help boost seedling survival chances, as can removing as much habitat as possible for them to lurk within. Here are 5 steps I’ve taken to reduce the local snail and slug population.
Don’t Rush Your Hardening Off!
Take your time to get seedlings accustomed to outdoor temperatures before planting out.
Thin Your Seedlings
Too many seedlings mean that they’re all competing for the same nutrients and water. Make sure there is enough to go around by pulling up the seedlings you don’t need.
Many veg seedlings don’t mind being planted out elsewhere, so don’t throw them away if you’ve got the room. Beetroot is a good example of a plant that will happily relocate.