Giving Your Plants What They Need
by Sandy Swegel
It’s a fact of all young growing things. They need food. And while big hungry plants like Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors can loudly demand their food, the young seedlings you have growing on windowsills are no less insistent and starving. Most potting soils and seedling mixes come with a tiny amount of fertilizer to get seedlings off to a good start the first couple of weeks. But then comes the day when were vigorous seedlings now no longer look so good. My pepper plants are making this point to me right now. I’ve been watching them grow their first true leaves and finally their second set of true leaves. I’m ready for them to get off the windowsill and out of the garden but, until now, growth seemed a little slow. Then yesterday as I walked in, I noticed how yellowy the peppers looked. Hmmm. I checked the water and wondered briefly about some kind of fungus when I had the “duh” moment. I hadn’t fed them at all. I had switched to a new “organic” seedling mix this year and it probably didn’t have as much nitrogen in the mix, since “organic” mixes can’t just use cheap synthetic nitrogen.
Seedlings aren’t all that particular about what you feed them. Just that they get some food. Later in the garden, their roots will gather food from the soil and plants growing in good soil will also take in nitrogen in the air. But right now, they’re just growing in tap water. So I just mixed in some liquid kelp to make a weak fertilizing solution. Fish emulsion or any “grow” natural fertilizer will work at a weak concentration level. Don’t need to overwhelm them. I expect that by my dinnertime tonight (water-soluble fertilizers can work quickly) the tiny pepper leaves will green up with tomorrow’s warm sun, the seedlings will perk up and soon be ready for the move into the nutrient-rich garden soil.