Your seedlings should now be growing along happily in their new home. At this stage they won’t require as much baby-ing, however it is still important to keep an eye on them while they are still busy establishing themselves.
Establishing and caring for plants
Watering – Keep in mind that until now your newly transplanted seedlings had limited space in which to grow their roots. Now that they have vastly more space, it is going to take some time for them to expand their root system. You can assist them by ensuring you water them deeply once a week. This will help the roots to grow down deep into the soil. Once they have done that, they will be less reliant on constant watering. Be aware that if they only receive shallow watering, their roots will remain where the water is, i.e. shallow, which means that they will also need watering more frequently, every time the topsoil layer dries out. Until such time that their roots grow deep, you still need to ensure that they receive enough water by watering them twice weekly (and even more during hot weather) where one of the waterings should be a deep watering.
Fertilising – Your plants will benefit greatly from continued feeding. Of course at this stage it doesn’t need to be as often as when they were still in the trays. Once every two weeks or even once a month will be sufficient. While they are still growing, be sure to give them a fertiliser that is high in nitrogen and after about 2 months from transplanting (or 3 months from direct sowing) you can switch to something that has a lower nitrogen and higher phosphorus and potassium content to encourage flowering.
Pinching – Different plants have different growing and flowering habits. Some plants have a natural basal (bottom) branching habit (meaning they naturally send up multiple branches from low down on the plant), while others tend to send up one central flower stem in the middle, which results in one very tall and thick flower stem. If you are growing for a garden display only, that might be ideal for you, but if your goal is to have many flowers to cut and arrange, you might want to consider pinching your plants to ensure you get more and more usable flower stems from them. Pinching is literally pinching off / removing the centre growing stem from the plant when it is still young. However, note that not all plants should be pinched, as some grow only one flowering stem and won’t branch out new stems at the bottom at all, so if these plants are pinched they will not flower at all. You can find pinching information (whether to pinch or not and where relevant, the height at which to pinch) on the product information tab of each of our seed varieties in the seed shop as well as on the back of the seed packets.
- With your pinching guide at hand, first determine whether the specific plant should be pinched and if so, what height should the plant reach before you consider pinching.
- When your plant is ready to be pinched, wash your hands and if you are using scissors, properly clean and sanitise them to ensure you don’t transfer any diseases to your plant.
- Looking at the plant, determine where you will be pinching them. Ideally you want to remove 1/3 (a third) of the total length of the plant.
- Using your thumb and forefinger (or scissors), remove (or cut) the central shoot just above an existing node (where the leaves grow from), thereby removing a third of the length of the plant.
- This might seem very harsh and like you are killing it, but rest assured that very soon you will see new shoots appear from the node just below where you have just cut.
Pinching forces the plant to focus its energy into shooting up multiple stems of equal length from lower down on the plant. Each of these new stems will also grow even more flowering stems ensuring that you will have a much larger display of flowers in your garden and more manageable stems for use in an arrangement.
Plant support – Sometimes the natural growth habit of a plant is such that it is not always strong enough to hold the entire plant upright when it is in bloom, especially during strong windy conditions. When plants fall over, their stems tend to curve upward and we end up with curved flower stems, which is not always ideal. Apart from that, it also limits the total number of flowering stems and the plant may possibly suffer from exposed roots. It is advisable to support plants when they start to grow taller. There are a couple of methods you can use to support your plants:
- Horizontal support netting – this is a polypropylene (plastic) net that goes over the entire row and has square blocks where the stems and flower stalks can grow through. It helps support the plants so that they can’t move a lot in any direction and it therefore helps to keep stems growing straight. The net is put over the row horizontally from the one end of your planting area to the other, it covers the whole area and is secured by attaching it to wooden / metal poles. The position of the net depends on the height of the plant and its flowers. A good rule of thumb is to put the net at 1/3 (from the bottom) of the total height of the plant. If the plants grow very tall, a second row of netting can be included, more towards the top.
- Corralling – Sometimes the individual stems of the plants are sturdy enough, but the plant is quite bushy and some of the stems on the outside might fall over and look untidy. To help secure these stems, we put a piece of string (again horizontally) across the whole planting area (if in a straight line), from the one side to the other, while each time fastening it to a pole as you go along. This can also be done at about ⅓ (from the bottom) of the total height of the plant. Some varieties will benefit from both, a net and corralling.
GOAL 4 | KEY TAKEAWAYS
* Your seedlings should be perfectly happy in their new home, but if you remember to keep to a regular watering and fertilising schedule, they will certainly reward you for it!
* Watering is weather dependent, but in the hottest months watering can be required as often as daily.
* The additional deep watering of establishing plants once a week will encourage their roots to grow deeper making them more tolerant to drier periods.
* Fertiliser once every two weeks to once a month should be sufficient.
* Most plants benefit from being pinched when they are young, but some should not be pinched.
* Some plants require support during the growing season or if grown in a windy area.
Before the glorious flowers make their appearance, the last, but oh so important step in the journey of growing your plants is making sure they are kept save and healthy. Learn about the Maintenance of your plants while they prepare to put on a show for you!