Once vegetable seedlings begin to germinate in your garden, it may be difficult to distinguish one plant from another, especially if you forgot to label each section. The same challenge exists when searching among unlabeled seedlings at a nursery. Upon a closer look, once the plant has developed its first true leaves (cotyledons), you will notice each vegetable has its own distinctive shape and properties. It is important to identify seedlings, so you can meet specific care guidelines for each vegetable, such as spacing requirements. Also, you will want to distinguish vegetable seedlings from weeds, so you know which plants to physically remove.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
Look at online images of vegetable seedlings to help you specifically identify each vegetable. Consult the Resources section for some helpful websites.
Observe the shape of each seedling. For example, pepper seedlings have elliptical-shaped leaves with sharply pointed tips; pea seedling leaves are oval-shaped, light green and have pronounced white veins. Pay attention to even the smallest detail, as some seedlings look similar to one another. For example, both Brussels sprout and savoy cabbage seedlings have oval-shaped leaves with distinct veins; however, Brussels sprout leaves are smooth, whereas savoy cabbage leaves are slightly jagged.
Look for colour clues among seedlings, as some vegetable babies will not be ubiquitously green. For example, beet seedlings have green leaves with red stems and veins. Mustard seedlings may partially germinate purple leaves.
Identify seedlings through smell. Some vegetables have a distinct aroma even at the seedling stage. For example, young tomato plants actually smell like the fruit they will produce in the future. Herb seedlings, such as basil and sage, will smell like the full-grown plants.
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