How to Prevent Your Seedlings from Getting Leggy

leggy seedlings
bellemarematt/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Every intrepid, seed-starting gardener has dealt with them at least once, and, probably, several times: leggy seedlings. We sow some seeds, give them water, place them near a window, and wait with bated breath until they germinate. And, once the do, they grow with an almost freakish speed, taller and taller. Unfortunately, this tall, spindly growth is also unhealthy for your seedlings. A seedling that grows tall and weak is said to be "leggy." Leggy seedlings are caused by lack of light, or by light that is too weak to meet the plant's needs.

Luckily, preventing leggy seedlings is a pretty straightforward affair.

To prevent leggy seedlings:

  • Be sure to place the seedlings in bright light. A window, especially in late winter and early spring, is probably not bright enough. An artificial light set-up, comprised of a basic flourescent shop light kit, is all you need.
  • Provide your seedlings with 18 hours of light per day. Using a timer will make it easier to keep track of this.
  • Keep the lights within two to three inches of the tops of the seedlings. More than that, and they'll stretch toward the light, resulting in leggy seedlings yet again.