How To Care For Cabbage and Broccoli Seedlings
If you missed my post on How To Start Cabbage and Broccoli From Seed, you’ll wanna go back and check out those step-by-step instructions.
Now that the seeds have germinated and emerged, I thought it might be helpful to show you how the plants progress until transplanting time.
It has been seven days since I first planted my seeds. They have finally germinated, and are just beginning to poke their heads out of the soil. The germination process might have been slowed by the freezing temps I accidentally exposed my seeds to one night when I left them in the unheated greenhouse after the initial planting. Although, you can typically expect these seeds to germinate within 5-10 days.
As soon as any seedlings have emerged, they need to be put under a grow light or in a warm, south facing window if you have one. Don’t worry about the seeds which are still germinating and haven’t showed themselves yet, they’ll pop up in another day or so.
We use a shop light with regular halogen bulbs as our grow light. The light needs to be about 2 in. from the tops of the plants. I usually turn the light on when I wake up in the morning, and turn it off around 8pm.
Keep a close eye on the soil. When it starts to dry out, give it a good spritzing with a water bottle to keep it nice and moist. Just don’t overdo it. You don’t want the soil sopping wet, or else your plants will “damp off” and die.
Ten days after being planted, the first leaves are beginning to form. Since they are both brassicas, the cabbage and the broccoli seedlings look exactly the same. Except for the purple cabbage, which has a purplish stem.
If you planted 2-3 seeds per tray cell, you’ll most likely have some culling to do. This just means that if you have multiple seedlings germinate in a cell, you’ll need to cut the weakest ones out at the soil line. Don’t try to pull them up, or you’ll uproot the other seedling also. You must thin them in this way, or they will fight for nutrients and choke each other out. If you have a lot of thinning to do, feed the culled sprouts to your chickens!
The plants are growing well, and are developing their first set of true leaves. Make sure to raise the grow light as needed to keep it about 1-2 in. from the plants. If they get too close to the light, they’ll be burned. And if they are too far from the light, they will stretch themselves to try to reach it, and will become “leggy” and fall over.
By now some of the plants will have a nice sized set of “true” leaves. It’s time to pinch off the first set of leaves so that all of the plant’s energy is focused on growing the productive foliage.
See the heart-shaped leaves on this cabbage plant? Those are the first leaves. We’re going to pinch them off. Let’s do the ones on the plant in the middle there first.
See the difference? You can either use your fingernail to pinch them off, or a pair of scissors. Whatever you do, be very careful not to tug on the tender seedling and disrupt its root system.
Again, we remove the first set of leaves so that all of the plant’s energy can go into developing the true leaves. It won’t hurt anything if you don’t pinch them off, but it does benefit your plant if you do.
The cabbage has two nice sized sets of true leaves now. The broccoli is coming along, just beginning to develop its second set of true leaves.
My broccoli and cabbage seedlings are doing great! Looks like I’ve got some pinching and watering to do. The cabbage will be set out soon… I’m so excited!
When the plants have two sets of true leaves, you’ll be ready for the next step: Hardening Plants Before Transplanting.
Have you started any cabbage or broccoli seeds yet?