I love to start tomatoes and green peppers from seeds. This year I haven't had much luck. I am in zone 5. Does anyone use row covers to start their vegetables? What can I do to make my seedlings stronger (like the ones they sell in the stores).

  vegetable seedlings/row covers pioneer I love to start toma...
Because of the length of time needed for starting, and growing these from seed as well as the soil warmth you need to start them inside 6 to 8 weeks before your average latest date of frost. Attempting to start these outside, even under row covers, is not practical because both need a soil temtperature of around 70 degrees to germinate.
West Central Michigan along the lake shore.
  vegetable seedlings/row covers pioneer I love to start toma...
I do start my seedlings indoors. But it seems that when it's time to put them outdoors that they don't seem strong enough. We get quite a bit of wind in our yard. I thought row covers might protect the seedlings from the wind. When I buy plants from the garden centers they seem so much stronger. I'm trying to figure out why my seedlings seem weaker.

  Re: vegetable seedlings/row covers pioneer I do start my seedli...
Do your seedlings get enough light? Plants grown without enough light tend to have thin, spindly stems. Next year try growing them under grow lights hanging only 1" over the tops of the plants. Wait until the plants are growing into the lights before raising the lights again.

If you're growing them on a sunny windowsill, be aware of what the UV transmission of your windows is. Low UV transmission is great for keeping houses cooler and avoiding fading of the furniture, but it isn't so good for growing plants.

Also, make sure you don't crowd the plants. Make sure each plant has enough space laterally. Crowded plants will grow taller and spindlier as they try to compete for the available light.

And, as soon as the weather starts to warm up (around 60 degrees F daytime), I put my plants outside during the day, even if it means bringing them inside again every night for a few weeks. [I had a greenhouse, but it blew over last year! Sad ] Natural sun is the best for plant growth, and early exposure to wind (as long as it isn't too excessive) will also promote strong stem growth.

As for this year's plants, stake 'em! I hope you find something in here helpful. Good luck!
The great thing about gardening is that you always get a chance to start over!

  Re: vegetable seedlings/row covers IntrepidMeredith Do your seedlings ge...
Yes my plants do have thin spindly stems. Maybe light is my problem. I have a very bright/sunny room that I use for my seedlings. Maybe that's not enough. I think I'll try gro-lights next year and see what happens. I really don't want to give up on raising my own seedlings.
Thanks a bunch!

  Re: vegetable seedlings/row covers pioneer IntrepidMeredith,[br...
Spindly seedlings indicate a lack of adequate light. When I start seedlings inside I use a "shop light" fixture with 2 40 watt flourescent bulbs held away from the plants on a chain so I can move the fixture as needed. The fixture is put in place after the seeds germinate as close to the seedlings as possible (do not do this with an incadescent bulb because the heat that generates will harm your seedlings) and as the seedlings grow I move the fixture trying to keep the light just a couple of inches above the seedlings.
West Central Michigan along the lake shore.
  vegetable seedlings/row covers pioneer I love to start toma...

something wrong
I think

  Good day!!! ManForse [br]something wrong[...
I am in the PNW whatever zone that may be. I have started seedlings inside and outside. When I started them inside, my setup consisted of a growlight with timer, dish with rocks and water for humidity, spray bottle, and an old-fashioned pull down window shade, which was white - so the light bounced off it, and increased the heat. I used starter trays where you water from below, and never had spindly stems. BTW, that setup was in a closet with no natural light - only the growlight. Heat is the key to opening the seeds, and nutrious soil for keeping the plants going after they have gone beyond their seed leaves. A grow light will get most crops to transplant stage.

If you suffer from stem rot - this issue of Garden Gate suggests using Chamomile Tea to help get through that. I have not tried it, but intend to. Anyone tried this?
  vegetable seedlings/row covers pioneer I love to start toma...
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