Posted on 20 April 2021
One of the best ways to keep seedlings from getting leggy is to pet or brush them with your hands.
Yes, you heard that right, we "pet" our seedlings to stimulate them to grow stockier and not get leggy. You can also use a small fan on them to keep them from getting leggy and spindly. Air circulation is important to keep seedlings healthy, and keep them from succumbing to dampening off, a common seedling ailment that causes them to shrivel and die. We grow a lot of pepper seeds and tomato seeds as well as other vegetable seeds, and we use this trick on all of them when we start the seeds indoors.
This trick works to prevent leggy lettuce seedlings, leggy kale seedlings, and leggy tomato seedlings! Once they get leggy, it's harder to help them – so it's good to give them a breeze or a pat right after they germinate, and to give them movement and air circulation daily. Stimulation is key as movement causes the seedling to strengthen it's stem. This also helps to prepare them for the breezes outside as you harden off your seedlings.
Think of movement as exercise for your seedlings – they will build strength with some resistance, whether it's from petting them with your hands or putting a small oscillating fan on them.