Jean-François Lévesque has been producing seeds for years. Co-owner of the renowned house Jardins de l’ecumène, in Saint-Damien, in the Lanaudière region, he lists the main factors of seedling failure: lack of light, planting period and method, aeration. Lisa Birri uses the same language. A member of the famous Jean-Talon Market family of market gardeners, she offers heirloom seeds on the internet. “It’s very rare that seeds are involved,” she said. So when a customer tells me that his seedlings have not given the expected result, that they have withered, for example, I try to find the origin of the problem. Unfortunately, spring fever causes many to act hastily and to make mistakes. »

Etiolation is primarily attributable to insufficient light, our experts explain. Elongated and stunted, the plant is often doomed to premature death. And if he survives intensive care, the recovery in the vegetable garden will be very difficult and will often not be worth the energy devoted.

The rule of thumb: it is better to sow later than earlier. The later you sow (early April for many varieties that will need to be transplanted), the longer the days will be and the more your plants will benefit. 14 hours of light per day is recommended, which shows just how demanding seedlings are. The longer they are inside, the greater the risk of etiolation. Growing conditions at home will never equal those prevailing in a greenhouse.

To optimize your chances of success, it is always preferable and often essential to use an artificial lighting system.

The planting method is also important. Too dense, it also promotes etiolation. Moreover, a seed buried too deeply will take a lot of energy to emerge, which will jeopardize its future. Follow the directions on the seed packet to the letter.

Damping off is always dramatic. The fungal disease destroys the seedlings as soon as they emerge from the soil. We have to start all over again.

A few basic tips: always use potting soil sold for this purpose. Never garden soil. Disinfect any container that has already been used, even fruit and vegetable trays that can be used for this purpose.

Open the dome of your trays or seed kit as soon as the first leaves appear and make sure there is adequate ventilation. According to Jean-François Lévesque, good circulation of the ambient air is essential; otherwise, it would be better to use a fan. Once the seedlings are well erected, wait until the surface of the soil is dry before watering again, always gently, or by spraying.

It is always best to moisten the soil well before sowing. Lightly press the surface once the seeds are in the ground to ensure perfect contact with the substrate. Then lightly mist the surface of the planting. If the seedbeds allow the seedlings to reach the desired size, transplanting requires a richer substrate, either by adding mycorrhizae or a soil activator to help the plant develop well before it is planted. in the ground in the vegetable garden. Please note: Cucurbits (cucumbers, melons, zucchini, squash, etc.) do not tolerate transplanting well. It is therefore preferable to use a good size biodegradable pot that can be put directly in the ground at the end of May or the beginning of June.

Finally, don’t waste all your efforts by transplanting your plants to the garden too early or failing to take a good week to acclimate them to their new environment, says Lisa Birri. Take your pots outside gradually, avoid direct sunlight, windy places and, if necessary, bring your plants indoors if the temperature requires it.