How to Start Vegetable Seeds Indoors
Some vegetables, like Tomatoes , Eggplants, and Peppers require a long growing season. To ensure healthy growth, most gardeners start seeds for these vegetables indoors in Spring. Starting your own seeds is not only less expensive than purchasing transplants, it also generally results in a more productive harvest season. Plus, it’s a fun, rewarding way to kick off on the gardening season!
How do you start vegetable seeds indoors? Here are 10 tips for successfully starting seeds:
Purchase your seeds from a trusted source. Fresher, higher quality seeds will have a higher germination rate (meaning more will sprout), and will give you a head-start in growing delicious, nutritious vegetables. (Check out Landreth Seed, our line of heritage and heirloom vegetable seeds!)
Pot with seed-starting mix. These mixes don’t contain any actual soil, but they provide ideal conditions for sprouting seeds. Most importantly, they provide a good balance of drainage and water-holding capacity, and they minimize problems with disease on vulnerable seedlings. If possible, don’t use garden soil to start seeds indoors; it generally doesn’t drain well and may contain plant disease spores.
Make sure your containers have drainage holes. You can use recycled pots — for example, empty yogurt containers — but be sure to poke holes in the bottom for draining, so that your seeds are not over-watered. Plastic six-packs and flats are good choices and can be reused year after year. Biodegradable pots are fine, too.
Plant seeds at the proper depth. Check the seed packet for planting depth. You don’t need to measure precisely, but be careful not to plant any deeper than the directions suggest. The rule of thumb is to plant the seed two-to-three times as deep as the seed is wide. For example, tiny seeds should be barely covered by soil mix, while large seeds like beans should be sown about an inch deep. If you sow seeds too deeply, they won’t have enough stored energy to make it to the surface. Plant extra seeds, because it’s likely not all of them will germinate; you’ll thin out the extra ones later.
After sowing, set the containers in a warm location. On top of the refrigerator or near a radiator are usually good spots. Check your pots every day for signs of growth!
Keep seed-starting mix moist. Seedling roots need both air and water. Strive to keep the mix moist but not saturated with water — think of it as a damp sponge that contains both water and air.
As soon as seedlings emerge, place pots in a bright location. A sunny window will do, but adding consistent light from supplemental fluorescent lights will give you the best results. Suspend the lights just an inch or two over the tops of the plants.
Cool room temperature is best for seedlings. You’ll get sturdier, stockier seedlings if you grow them at temperatures in the high 60s. Finding a cooler room in your house or garage, while still maintaining a good light sorce, will help them thrive. At higher temperatures, seedlings may get leggy.
Begin fertilizing weekly. Use a half-strength fertilizer once your seedlings have one or two sets of leaves. Organic fertilizers are a good choice, since they provide a range of nutrients, including micronutrients.
Once seedlings have two sets of leaves, it’s time to thin. You want one seedling per pot, so choose the healthiest, strongest-looking seedling to keep. Snip the other seedlings off at the soil line and discard them.
Are you looking for unique, heirloom vegetables known for generations of successful growth? Check out Landreth Seeds, Scrupulously Selected Since 1784! You’ll find more than 100 vegetable varieties to try in your garden this year.
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Shop Wildflower Seeds To Attract Pollinators To Your Garden
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Our Backyard Birding Wildflower Seed Mix is an easy way to grow bird and pollinator habitat right in your own back yard. A rainbow of colorful flowers will light up your landscape fr.
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Topping Cannabis Guide: How to Top Your Plants
Topping is a cannabis plant training techniques that involves cutting off the top of a main stem. The technique is designed to give you a free way to create more colas as well as spread out the plant so you can take advantage of all your light. As a result, topping can help you achieve bigger marijuana yields!
Most plants naturally only have one main stem. The idea of “topping” is to cut off the top of a main stem to split it into two.
The two growth tips that remain will each develop into their own stem. Each stem can turn into a bud/cola in the flowering stage, so by topping the plant once or a few times, you increase the total number of buds sites under the grow light, and it also helps you keep the plant flat and wide.
It you let a marijuana plant grow naturally, it will usually grow one main stem
But if you top the plant when it’s young, you can cause it to grow multiple colas in basically the same amount of time! This often lets you grow more bud in the same amount of space with the same grow light.
…In the same amount of vertical space as a plant like this
All plant training techniques are designed to help growers get a more desirable plant shape and bigger yields without changing other aspects of their grow. For example, cannabis plants don’t naturally grow in a way that takes full advantage of indoor grow lights – a lot of light is wasted when cannabis plants are allowed to grow naturally without training.
Because of this, cannabis plant training techniques like topping are especially effective at increasing yields in indoor grow setups by creating a bushier plant with extra colas.
Notice how these plants have many colas instead of just one – this is due to using plant training techniques like topping.
Learn about FIMing, a very similar plant training technique that removes slightly “less off the top” but still results in multiple colas.
In the above example, the plant on the left was allowed to grow naturally, which resulted in the classic “Christmas tree” shape that’s not very efficient under indoor grow lights. The plant on the right was topped as a seedling. This broke the dominance of the main cola, and the plant started putting out multiple colas.
With topping, the growth tips that become new colas are already present. They just get bigger and become colas because topping breaks the symmetry of the plant and exposes these growth tips to light and air. Instead of focusing on just one cola, the plant starts focusing on many growth tips until they become colas.
Topping Involves Removing or Damaging Top Growth – This Reveals Hidden Growth Tips and Signals Plants to Start Putting Energy Into Them
By damaging the main stem, topping encourages the plant to spend energy growing many colas instead of focusing on just one.
Lower growth nodes will become new colas once they’re exposed to light and air, but they develop much faster when the main cola’s dominance is broken by topping.
Notice how these growth tips have started developing and rising up after plant is topped (the fan leaves have been removed so you can see the new colas more easily)
Here’s an example of a plant that was topped at a late age, after it had already grown 8 nodes. Although you might not get quite as good results as if you had topped it earlier, it still definitely increased the total number of colas and improved the yields!
Topping Quick Summary
- Cut off top of plant at stem in between nodes
- Creates 2 main colas at the top of the plant, and LST can be used to create more
- New colas are evenly spaced (attached to the stem in the same place)
- Can be used to reduce the height of plant in vegetative page
- Can slow down growth for a day or two
This video shows the whole cannabis topping process, in timelapse format. The lower growth tips begin to rise up, and each of these can produce even more main colas.
Here’s a video showing what a plant looks like after being topped (time-lapse of about 2 weeks)
You will end up with a wider, bushier plant that doesn’t grow just one main cola in a Christmas tree shape.
Some growers will use several phases of topping to produce cannabis plants with dozens of colas. Some techniques take this to the extreme, for example manifolding (also sometimes called “main-lining”) is a technique that uses topping several times to make a cannabis “manifold.”
Important: Don’t Top Too Early!
With both topping, you remove some of the growth on the end of a cola of a young marijuana plant, which causes the plant to stop focusing on one cola (like a Christmas tree) and instead to create many bud-laden colas (grow more bushy).
If you top the plant too early, it will have a hard time recovering. It may seem like a good idea, but you will get the best results and fastest recover if you wait until the plant has 4-5 nodes.
Wait Until Plant Has At Least 4-5+ Nodes – Topping a Too-Young Seedling Can Slow Down Growth. Waiting a Few More Days to Cut Can Result in a Much Faster Recovery.
Growers use the plant’s natural response to topping to produce short bushy plants with many colas. After the plant has been switched to the flowering stage, the widespread of colas allows the plant to efficiently use indoor grow lights to produce the biggest yields possible.
If you choose to use either of these methods, you will get the best results by doing it when the plant is young, usually when it has around 4-5 total nodes formed.
These young cannabis plants are almost ready to be topped
You get great results by breaking the tendency of the plant to grow one main cola while the plant is still short, because you can arrange your multiple colas however you want as the plant develops, instead of dealing with a Christmas tree shaped plant.
You can also top your plant later in the vegetative stage, but you will have a longer main stalk, giving you less ability to arrange the colas the way you want.
After being topped, your plant will need some time spent recovering in the vegetative stage, though generally this just causes the plant to ‘fill out’ more instead of growing taller, which is often desirable for indoor growers.
This plant was trained for ~2 dozen colas in the vegetative stage
Important: Don’t Top in the Flowering Stage; It’s Too Late!
Topping should only be used in the vegetative stage! In fact, any training technique that involves cutting or damaging your plant should only be done in the vegetative stage of cannabis growth, and never during the flowering/budding stage.
In the flowering stage, only gentle training techniques such as LST or bending should ever be used to change the shape of the plant.
A plant with many colas can only be achieved by training a plant from early in the vegetative stage
Cannabis plants are much less tough in the flowering stage, and they no longer are growing vegetatively (producing new stems or colas).
If you watch a plant in the flowering stage, you’ll see that it doesn’t get taller or develop growth nodes. It only “focuses” on making buds. Topping at this point won’t do any good. Damaging your plant during the budding stage will usually cause a reduction in your final yields.
By the time your plants are in the flowering stage, much of the growth structure has already been created, and you generally need to try to manage as best you can if your plant has grown into a shape you don’t like.
What if my plant is already too tall in the flowering stage?
If your plant is already too tall in the flowering stage for your grow setup, you’ve got to take immediate action to prevent the plant from getting any taller.
My suggestion is to use bending (LST) your plant to control the height of further growth.
Once flowering is fully underway (after the initial flowering stretch), the plant will not grow much taller, so you can just try to hang on until harvest.
How Can You Tell That Your Plant is Diverting Energy to New Colas?
Almost immediately after topping, the connections to each node become enlarged at the base.
These thickened connections shows thatshow cannabis plant is spreading energy more evenly across the whole plant.
When you see your plant thicken connections like this, it means that the plant is strengthening the “internal system” of the stem, so it’s easeir to deliver nutrients and other building blocks. This results in faster growth, bigger colas, and increased yields for each of the affected stems.
The thickening that happens at the base of stems is one sign that the plant is diverting energy to the new colas (where before it was putting the majority of its energy into just the one main cola).
As time goes on, the most used stems can become so thick they’re almost like tree trunks.
How to Top Your Cannabis Plant
When topping your cannabis, you cut off a growing node of the plant, reducing the height instantly. This can be especially beneficial if you’ve let your plant get too tall. Topping also increases the number of colas, which can give you more bud at harvest,
When topping your marijuana plant, it’s best to top the plant when it is young, and has 4-5 nodes (sets of leaves) in total. Although you could do it a little earlier, you’re more likely to accidentally stunt your plant the younger it is.
“Topping” the plant means cutting off the newest node on your marijuana plant’s main cola in order to split it into two. However the word topping can also refer to cutting of the tip of any stem.
A good place to top is directly above the leaves of the next node.In other words, cut through the stem right above its next set of leaves from the top.
This will cause your plant to transfer its energy to two new main colas, as indicated by the two yellow dots in the diagram above.
14-day Timelapse Video of a Cannabis Plant’s Recover After Being Topped
These 2 new colas for a V which can easily be bent to spread wide. You can top these two new colas a few weeks later and have 4 total colas. This can even be doubled to produce 8 colas that all come from a single “manifold.” Learn more about manifolding cannabis.
Another benefit of topping is how the plant tends to grow bushier afterwards, spreading its energy much more evenly around to the whole plant.
Often lower branches rise up to become new main colas. This is especially true if you combine Topping with LST to open up the plant so the lower branches get more light.
If you’ve grown a very tall plant, it’s also possible to top your (vegetative) plant down to the node you want to reduce the height, but remember that all the time the plant spent getting tall will be lost. In order to get the most flexible colas, without losing vegetative time, try to top early in the plant’s life
If you’re still in the vegetative (non-budding) stage and plants are growing way too tall, you can top the plant immediately to remove height as needed. The time spent growing the extra growth will be lost, so this may add time to the veg stage.
If you want to top the plant multiple times, you may be interested in learning about main-lining (creating a manifold – a plant training technique).
How to Prepare for the Flowering Stretch
Right around the time when kids start hitting middle schools, short awkward teenagers go through puberty and turn into taller awkward teenagers…or was that just me? I’m sure you knew of at least one kid who grew so much, they looked almost as if someone grabbed them by their head and feet and just stretched them out.
When cannabis plants start to mature, they also go through a brief transitional period; a sort of cannabis-puberty if you will. And just as humans undergo a burst of rapid growth, cannabis plants will also create a large portion of their final height in a very short period of time. This explosion of vertical grow this commonly called the cannabis ‘Flowering Stretch’.
What is the Flowering Stretch?
The best way to give you an idea is with pictures. Here’s a cool animated .gif Nebula made showing the flowering stretch in action.
Each strain is different. Notice how the plant on the right stretches much more than the plant on the left. It’s a good idea to match strains when possible.
This is a great example of how small or large a stretch can be. Notice that the plant on the left (818 Headband) gains only a few inches while the plant on the right doubles in size! And even this picture is misleading once you realize that by the end of the .gif, the plant on the left is actually raised an extra foot higher off the ground! Note: This was done to keep the plants more equidistant from the lights.
In short, the flowering stretch is a potential burst of rapid growth that happens shortly after switching to the flowering phase. It can be massive, or it can be next to nothing. The important thing is to expect that it might happen and have a plan ready in case it does. Luckily, most strains you buy from a seedbank are stabilized with details from the breeder on whether the plant will stretch a lot or a little. This allows us to not only plan for a stretch, but take advantage of it when it happens.
What to Expect
Depending on the strain you’re growing, you can expect a pretty wide range of stretching. Some strains can double their height or more, while some do almost nothing. However, if you know the name of the strain you’re growing, you can look up the breeder recommendations to get a good idea of what might happen. Additionally, there are other factors that can give you insight:
- Sativas – “Sativa” strains tend to grow taller, lanky stems even when trained; inch-for-inch they tend to stretch much more than an “Indica” strain.
- Strain height – Many breeders and seedbanks have the average height of their strains listed. Sometimes it’s as vague as “short – medium – tall”, but even that is enough to give you an idea of its growth characteristics. Expect “tall” strains to stretch a lot!
- Light type – Certain light types are more conducive to stretching than others. You can use the right light color spectrum (especially more blue) to help control growth characteristics and reduce stretching. More on that later…
- Light distance – Plants also stretch when they’re trying to get more light (like this plant below). As a result of this type of stretching, plants grow taller, but with fewer bud sites. Note that this is not the same thing as the flowering stretch, rather it’s a symptom of too-little light. Most growers want to avoid stretching caused by not enough light because it often results in less bud and potentially height problems.
This plant is getting tall because it needs more light
One of the main reasons it’s so important to know about stretching is that it can rapidly reduce the amount of space you have in your grow tent/area. If you’re growing in a space with limited height, a good stretch can make it so you no longer have room to raise your lights. This leads to light/heat stress and lost buds.
I personally had a stretch where there was no longer any room to raise the lights. The LEDs absolutely cooked the buds underneath it until I got desperate and cut the stuff that was too close. I would handle that situation differently now, but it shows that no one is immune if they’re unaware.
Planning for the Flowering Stretch
Planning for a stretch is easy to do when you know it’s a possibility. There are two things growers can do that will give a lot of control over planning for a potential stretching situation:
Research your strain
If you know what strain you’re going to grow, you can usually find its growth characteristics online. Seedfinder.eu is a pretty good resource for reviews on strains submitted by other growers. While it isn’t necessarily 100% accurate (what is?), it should give you a good range of what to expect. Knowing the strain you’re growing gives you the power to decide how much stretch you’ll deal with. Since stretching is often accompanied by a ‘tall’ final height, you can reduce stretch by getting plants that are characterized as being ‘medium’ or ‘short’.
Plan for a tall plant
In my opinion, the best way to be prepared for any stretch is to simply plan out the space as if you know that your plant will double in height by the end of flowering. Don’t worry, it’s much easier than it sounds! Here’s how you do it:
- Take the total amount of vertical (height) growing space you have in inches/cm.
- Take the total from #1, and subtract the height of your lights when it’s at its highest point.
- Next, subtract the height of the pot/container your plant will be in.
- Finally, subtract the amount of space you’ll need between your light and your plants.
- This varies depending on the lights; CFLs only need about 4″, HIDs need 12+”.
Not too bad right? It’ll seem even easier with an example! Here’s how it would work for my tent (math is below the picture):
- I have a 7 foot tall tent which comes out to 84 inches. Total: 84 inches
- My lights and the stuff to hold them take up 21 inches. Total: 63 inches
- My container is 13 inches tall. Total: 50 inches
- I’m planning to keep 16 inches between my plants and the light. Total: 34 inches
- I flower my plants when they are about 17 inches tall.
Basically, determine the max room available for the plant and initiate 12/12 when it’s about half the final desired size.
You don’t always need the space when you plan like this, but it allows you to easily deal with the times when your sweet little babies turn into monsters like this:
Reducing the Stretch
Since we know the factors that can lead to more stretching, reducing how much a plant stretches is just a matter of acting on those factors.
Genes – Indica plants tend to be shorter, so if you prefer Indicas and would like a short plant, you’re in luck. If you like Sativas and have limited height, there are many strains available that have a shorter finishing height. Again, you can usually find the heights of strains at the websites of breeders and seedbanks.
Light type – Did you know that some lights and spectrums cause more stretching than others?
(High-Pressure Sodium) grow lights encourage stretching. One way to combat extra stretching is to leave your MH (Metal Halide) bulb in for the first 2-3 weeks of flowering before switching to the HPS bulb. grow lights encourage stretching but typically with a nice branch structure. That means problems can be avoiding by initiating flowering a little earlier. The bonus is this results in a quicker harvest. growers can use vegetative (6500K) bulbs to encourage plants to grow squatter for the first fiew weeks after 12/12, then switching to flowering (2700K) colored bulbs. typically don’t produce an above-average amount of stretching in my experience, but every model is a little different. The more red and less blue, the more likely you may deal with extra stretching.
Light Distance – Keeping your lights the right distance away will ensure that your plants don’t have to stretch to get more light. Use the ‘hand test’ to make sure your lights are as close as they can be without harming your cannabis.
Hand test: Place one of your hands right over your plant with your palms facing downward. If the heat from your CFL or HPS lights is uncomfortably hot or painful to your hand, move the lights away an inch and try again. This test does NOT work for LED lights as some models run extremely cool.
Some General Rules About Light Distance:
- CFL and fluorescent grow lights should be kept a few inches from your plants.
- For MH/HPS lights it depends on the size of your light.
- For LEDs it’s different for each model so you should always check the manufacturer’s specifications, but it’s generally recommended to keep most LEDs 18-24″ away, though some of the most powerful LED grow lights need to be kept even further away, and smaller ones can be kept closer..
Plant Training – Although training itself does nothing to slow down stretching, it does give growers a good way to manage it. For example, if branches are set to grow vertically by low-stress training, a stretch can actually be beneficial since so much of the plant will be receiving light. Plant training can come in the forms of low-stress training, manifolding, topping, fimming, and more. These techniques are used in the vegetative stage to get your plant to grow the way you want in the flowering stage.
Making the Stretch Your Friend
The flowering stretch is not necessarily a bad thing. As long as you know what to expect, you can use it to your advantage.
For those with taller grow spaces, such as tents or custom-made grow spaces with 6+ feet of vertical grow room, big stretching strains can actually be a part of your growing plan. A taller grow space lets you choose from taller strains, giving you more strain choice. Plus if you’re growing a short strain in a tall space, it could take a long time to fill up the whole tent. Since you increase yields by filling up the space under the light with many long bud sites, a taller strain can help you do that more quickly and efficiently in a big space.
On the flip side, if you have a short space, you can choose a strain that doesn’t stretch much if at all. This might let you maximize your grow space by spreading your plant out wide under the light during the vegetative stage, without having to worry about a plant that keeps getting uncontrollably taller and taller when you switch to the flowering stage.
The ‘Flowering Stretch’ is another piece of knowledge that makes growing cannabis much easier once you know about it. I’ll leave you with a picture of when I got blindsided by a stretch and had no idea what to do (yet again). Don’t let this happen to you, too!