Seedling composts hold very small amount of nutrients, but enough so the seedlings can grow until they are transplanted. These nutrients are easily washed out with over watering, especially nitrogen which is the most important nutrient for growth.
There are number of ways of preserving these nutrients and you should always have a drainage tray under your seedling trays, so you collect the excess water when watering. Even a fine hose on a watering can, will sometimes give too much water. In commercial growing they usually have seedling trays on capillary matting and water overhead with a fine mist, so the compost is always slightly moist.
|Seedlings raised on capillary matting with mist watering (Photo Bare Mtn Farm)|
On a smaller scale I tend to use a 5 litre hand help sprayer to mist over the seedlings a few times a day, depending on the weather. This keeps the compost nice and moist without over-watering. Many people wonder why their seedlings seem to stop growing and think that it could be poor quality contaminated compost, which it could well be. However over watering could be another option.
|Water with a fine spray so you do not over water|
There is something very satisfying seeing your first seedling sprouting their first pair of leaves, these are the easy ones, lettuce, which came up in about a week along with some beetroot. The tomatoes will take about 15 days, so I am expecting them any day now.
My shop purchased tomatoes and peppers have been planted out in to the soil this week and are very healthy looking plants they will give me an earlier harvest until my home raised plants start producing. Last year I did a second crop in between the first crop. I just grew the first crop to the wire (2m) then stopped the head and removed most of the leaves to give more light for the new crop. I have added granules of slow release fertiliser into the beds, and earlier in the winter I dug in a generous helping of well rotted manure.
|Young pepper and tomato plants in the poly-tunnel|