Are your vegetable seedlings growing too fast? Mine certainly are, thanks to an unusually warm spell. I live in a high desert region with a short growing season which is why I usually start my seedlings indoors 8 weeks ahead of the last frost of spring. The warmth combined with humidity brought on by seasonal rains has worked wonders on all my seedlings which are at planting size now. The problem is that it’s still much too early for them to go in the ground.
Slowing down the growth of vegetable seedlings is a bit of challenge but not impossible. Here are few steps I’ve been taking to slow down the growth of my tomatoes, cucumbers, and squashes.
Begin the process of hardening
Hardening is the process of gradually acclimating your vegetable seedlings to weather and sun before planting them in the ground. While this isn’t usually done until the week before the plants go into the ground, I’ve started hardening my fast growing seedlings early. Tomatoes, cukes, summer squashes and beans are now spending the day outdoors instead of in the greenhouse.
Our daytime temps have ranged between 45-60 degrees which is on the cool side for summer vegetables.That’s OK though because it’s the cool temperatures and cooler soil that will slow down the growth of these plants. Once your plants are acclimated, they too can spend the day outdoors in the cool spring air.
Watch the sun and temperatures
Most vegetable seedlings need at least six hours a day of sunshine. For slowing down rapid growth, avoid afternoon sun and place the plants instead on the east side of your potting shed or house where they’ll see morning sun but will be in the shade in the afternoon. Be sure to keep an eye on the temperatures as well. Squashes and cukes will droop a bit if the outdoor temps are below 45 degrees.
By moving my summer veggies outdoors during the days, their growth has slowed down considerably. At night, I keep the greenhouse temps to 50 degrees as well so that my vegetable seedlings aren’t shocked too much from the temperature change from indoors to outdoors.
More by this contributor:
8 high yield vegetables for the garden
10 clever ways to cut vegetable gardening costs
Why I plant vegetables and flowers together