Fall Transplants and the Case of the Purple Leaves

There always seems to be something new, some issue or problem that I don’t expect. As I harvested potatoes, weeded like crazy, aerated beds and prepped with 10-10-10 fertilizer, along with all the other summer garden chores, my fall seedlings grew. I checked them and made sure they had water. I thinned them when needed. I also came into an Amazon gift card that I used for a new larger grow light. 8 bulbs! This size covered the full area of four 10×20 flats. I had no trouble growing my seedlings in the spring (other than the legginess I want to try to lessen), so I expected my seedlings to be fine…

Cabbage transplant with discolored leaves

Ahhh, but add a new variable and you add new benefits as well as potential problems – the grow light. As it came time to transplant, I noticed that a lot (as in most) had developed purplish blueish leaves, mixed with the typical green. I am growing kalettes, a mix between brussels sprouts and red russian kale, and purple cauliflower, so I thought it was normal. Cabbage, broccoli, collards… well these should not be purple.

Cabbage with discolored leaves

I asked my good friend Google for his/her opinion, and was led inadvertently to the marijuana forums. Every time I search for growing seedlings I end up on one of these boards! Note to self: always mention the plant (i.e. broccoli, cabbage, etc) and you will get to a gardening forum. I learned that I could have a phosphate deficiency, but some say that a nutritional deficiency manifests in similar ways. I thought perhaps I had not mixed my soil block mix well enough so that there was not enough fertilizer in this mix. Was this was the problem? One person suggested seedlings can get sort of burned by lamps that are too close to the leaves, but was chastised by another grower. I didn’t actually ask about this personally, but read similar questions from other growers.

So, I transplanted all my seedlings with trepidation – would they survive? I envisioned a dejected journey to Lowes to replace my broccoli, cauliflower, and others. I had read that, whatever the source of the purplish leaves, the plant would recover. I was hopeful, and I really could not ask for a better week to transplant: rain, cooler temperatures, nothing in the 90’s. I made sure to fertilize with liquid Miracle Grow to supplement any deficiencies that may be present. I did have one other bit of evidence to help pinpoint the potential root cause – I had made some soil blocks with the same mix, the last of it from my spring mixture, growing under my old lamp… and it was doing quite well.

Hmmm. I had all 8 bulbs going… I am thinking that is the real problem. Or too close. Or both. Well, I will keep all this in mind for future growings.

So… did the seedlings survive?

Cabbage, transplanted and putting down roots

Why yes, yes they did! I have been diligently watering them, and fed them another round of Miracle Grow for nutrients. They are looking very good! Some of the leaves may dry up, but it looks like they are all adapting and taking root. Now to keep those cursed insects in check!

Kale and Chard

The last bed, cleaned out and prepped for fall veg.

I had one more raised bed to clear out and pull up the rest of the carrots. I was not sure if letting them go this long into summer would make them taste bitter, or if they would rot. Well, my wife mad a very lovely lentil stew with them and they are delicious!

Kale and Chard, ready for transplant

This is a picture of the Kale and Chard I started on July 23, and are now resting comfortably in their new home. No discoloration, no purple leaves. I had neglected this tray and had not thinned the seedlings. I kept them trimmings and will blend them up with apples, bananas and pineapple tomorrow morning!


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