Why Tomato Seedlings Become Leggy
One of the problems with growing tomato plants at this time of the season, when light levels are usually low, is that plants grow too high, too soon, searching for light and become spindly or leggy.
Here are a few tips to help prevent this happening or at least slow them down.
- Keep plants in as much light as possible – a sheet of white paper directly behind and below helps reflect light back on them.
- Higher temperatures, when days are warm but cloudy, will also make them become leggy. Temperature and light should go up and down together for best results.
- Under-water rather than over-water when light levels are low because if it is too warm they will shoot up, and if it is cold they will be sat in cold, wet water overnight!
- If they are over-watered, too warm and in low light they will also become leggy.
Phew … that sounds a bit complicated and confusing … I think I’ve just confused myself!
To put it in as few words as possible, when it’s sunny and warm, you can water them as much as you like, within reason.
When light levels are low, be a bit mean with the water.
It’s a difficult balancing act between light, warmth and water.
Of course they do need to be watered, but after a good watering (when it’s not too cold), allow the compost or soil to become just slightly damp before watering again. If the seedlings/plants start to look limp, give them a spray mist of water, then water them thoroughly again.
By allowing soil to become almost dry lets air back into the soil – roots need moisture, nutrients and oxygen.
Some Varieties Don’t Become Leggy
Tumbling Tom is a bush variety that doesn’t become leggy in low light conditions.
A lot of the dwarf varieties for windowsill growing are also OK in low light conditions. However, most tomato plants do become leggy. Red Alert will shoot up like a rocket unless kept under control!
I have found that Black Cherry is rather unusual for a tall variety because it doesn’t shoot up as much as most other tall varieties do. I guess that’s one of the advantages of growing a black variety plant that originates from a cool area of the world – Eastern Europe or Russia.
Black Cherry contains lots of seeds and would be ideal as a Mum plant if you wanted to cross pollinate with another variety (see make your own hybrid).
How about Black Cherry and Chocolate Cherry … you could call it Black Chocolate!
Black Cherry is a great variety but like Sungold, it’s a bit prone to splitting if grown outside, and is exposed to rain.
Chocolate cherry has the advantage of being crack resistant and less likely to split.
If you grew Black Cherry or Chocolate Cherry last season, it would be great to hear from you – what do you think about either of these varieties?
Please leave a comment below if you would like to.