It can be a bit challenging for gardeners to “dial in” the right moisture levels in their seedling soil. This is probably one of the more frequent issues that we hear about, anyway!
The most common problem is under-watering. Too often, we try to give our seedlings a light spritz of water and hope it’s good enough. It isn’t! The problem you’ll see is if you just lightly water the top of the soil, that moisture will be drawn in by the drier soil underneath, resulting in a very light overall amount of moisture in the soil. This will evaporate quickly, leading the gardener to think “my seedlings dry out too quickly!” The first 2-3 times you water your seedlings, you really need to get the water in there! It’s hard to put values on “how much” water to use, but it’s a surprising amount. For example, our 1020 trays usually get 2 to 4 cups of water for their initial few waterings!
Conversely, overwatering can also be a problem. If you soak your seedlings too much, it can lead to algae problems and also can simply drown your plants. Don’t let this cause you to underwater! Fortunately, overwatering is fairly easy to recover from! If you’re using humidity domes, like we recommend, they should have little vents in the top. If you start to see green growth, that’s your sign you need to open those vents up! You can also just give them a couple hours, preferably under lighting and without the humidity dome, to allow that moisture to evaporate. When you’re trying to recover from overwatering, give them a few days before you add more water! Wait until you start to see the soil dry up a bit, then you can get into your next watering cycles.
If your seedlings look well watered, it’s entirely unnecessary to water them! I know this seems like “common sense,” but I’m pretty dense sometimes and being “told” these simple things is helpful to me! Only do so when the soil is looking dried up a bit. Your seedlings will be just fine without “moist” soil for a few hours, even a day or more. Just don’t let it go on too long, check your seedlings at least once a day! It takes a little while to get the hang of it, but seedlings are remarkably resilient to us “dumb” gardeners.
Our peppers are coming right along this year! The frenzy of transplanting to larger containers will be upon us soon, April is our busiest month of all!