My little lettuce seedlings have been growing for a month now, so here’s a quick update on their progress so far. Here’s my seed-starting set-up (see my previous post for details):
- Station 1: Natural window light only (South-facing)
- Station 2: Natural window light only, with a reflective backing
- Station 3: Same as Station 2, supplemented by a 100-watt CFL bulb
- Station 4: Artificial light only (from a 100-watt CFL bulb)
My seed-starting set-up. Stations 1-3 are in the window (the cardboard reflectors fold up and are fixed with thumbtacks). Station 4 is a DIY grow box (lid not shown).
The spinach is definitely the runt of the litter in my green group. It’s growing verrry sloooowly. I anticipated that the seedlings with more artificial light (station 4) would grow better, but in this case, the window seedlings are doing better than the ones in the grow box. The healthiest ones, albeit a little leggy, are in station 2 with reflected natural light.
Click on the photos to open a slideshow with a larger view:
Spinach (L-R: Stations 1, 2, 3, and 4)
The ones in the grow box (station 4) seem to be regressing and the soil has a green ‘haze’ to it, which I believe is some form of algae. Not good. I’m thinking I either kept the soil too wet, or there’s not enough air circulation in the plastic tote box. I should probably discard these as they seem to be dying, and I don’t want the problem to spread to the other seedlings in the box.
Lessons learned: Improve soil drainage for next time and maybe add a small fan inside the grow box for better air circulation.
I seeded the romaine more densely than the others, and it’s growing more quickly than the other crops. As you can see below, the window seedlings look rather pathetic. The more supplemental light they get, the bigger and healthier the leaves are. The leaves from the grow box (station 4) are about three times bigger than the ones getting only natural light (station 1).
Romaine (L-R: Stations 1, 2, 3, and 4)
The grow box romaine are doing so well that I decided to thin them to make room for continued growth. These thinnings made a great first salad with homegrown baby romaine, carrot slices, raisins, grated cheddar cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette!
The salad was very yummy, but the thinning process took a toll on the remaining seedlings. Because I seeded these more closely, I had to push the ‘keeper’ seedlings aside to be able to cut the targeted seedlings at soil level, leaving the rest looking a little dishevelled. Hopefully I didn’t break any stems, which would kill the seedling. I’ll find out soon enough.
I was concerned that the romaine seedlings left in the grow box weren’t in enough soil. When I sowed the seeds initially, I had to skimp a bit on the soil because I had a limited supply (the local garden center shuts down for the winter, and the local hardware stores didn’t have any potting mix in stock at that time). So I didn’t have the suggested 4 inches of soil in my container (it was more like 2 inches, which is fine for growing microgreens, but I wanted to see how big the romaine would get, which requires more soil for larger roots). Luckily, I was able to get my hands on another bag of organic seedling mix, and I tried to add some more soil in the empty spaces around the thinned seedlings, making the lot look even more dishevelled. Hopefully a shot of fertilizer will perk them back up again.
Lessons learned: Either seed farther apart next time so that thinning won’t be a big issue, or grow the romaine as microgreens instead. Also, stock up on seedling mix in the fall while it’s still available at the garden center!
I’ve never grown kale before (or eaten it, for that matter), so I wasn’t sure what to expect with these seedlings. As with the romaine, the grow box kale (station 4) has grown much larger than the seedlings getting only natural light (stations 1 and 2). The leaves on the larger kale seedlings are thicker and tougher, whereas the smaller seedlings in the window have a thinner leaf that looks more tender, but I won’t know which are better eats until I try it. I know these plants get huge when planted out in the garden, so I’m only growing them for baby greens.
Kale (L-R: Stations 1, 2, 3, and 4)
You’ll notice these is no picture for station 3. The kale never germinated in that particular container, and I think it may have been overwatered when I sowed the seed and they rotted in the soggy soil.
Lesson learned: Don’t make the seedling mix too wet when sowing seeds, and provide lots of drainage.