I have many seedlings started (in peat pellets and compartment trays) and now find I am going to be going on an 8 day vacation in Mid-March. There is no one who can water them while I'm gone. Any suggestions on helping as many of them as possible to survive, inexpensive watering contraptions, etc. would be appreciated. Most are Dahlias (from seed) herbs, impatiens and peppers. i expect to have those that have sprouted transplanted to 12 oz cups before I leave.
You might try getting some of those super duper disposable diapers, wet it to the dripping point then put your plants on top of it and enclose all in a plastic bag. Put the plants somewhere there won't be large temperature fluctuations as you don't want mold if it gets too hot. Ideally the plants will suck up whatever moisture they need, especially the peat pots. No guarantees on this method but it might just work.
Thanks to all of you for the great suggestions. Now, of course, I have more questions. :-)
I'll put 2 flourescent lights fixures over the seedlings (which I just transplanted to 20 oz plastic disposable cups with drain holes, but obviously for safety reasons, the light fixtures will have to be outside of the plastic sheeting. Also, I will but the lights on a timer to give the seedlings 16 hours per day of warm/cool light.
(1) about how many inches from the plants should I allow for the eight days I'll be gone? I'm sure I'll need to leave room for them to grow while I'm gone, but then there's also the problem of them getting leggy because of too much distance from the light source.
(2) If I give them 16 hours of warm/cool flourescent light does it make sense for me to move them away from the sunny window, to a darkened room? If left by the window the light fixtures will just block out sunlight for the back half of the trays anyway (I usually rotate the trays when I'm here) plus the baseboard heaters run along the wall under the windows which will probably only make for more temperature variation (mold problems?) and add to the soil drying out faster. I'm thinking of moving the setup to a room that is pretty constantly 60-65 degrees but has no sunlight to keep the temperature and moisture more stable, and relying only on 16 hours daily of warm/cool florescent light.
In case it matters, the seedlings are: zinnia, dahlia (from seed), hollyhock, echinacea, peppers, portulaca, moonflower (daturas), strawflowers, impatiens, parsley, basil and cucumber.
One last note: I did transplant everything into new cups and used Schultz all purpose potting soil (which I believe is sterile) so I wonder if that will help eliminate or at least reduce the potential mold problem.
Mold spore is airborn and you probably have mold already on them but conditions are not right for it to grow.
An idea might be to make them slow their growth for a week. That can be achieved by keepin the temperature below 50 degrees. I find that everything in my greenhouse, especially seedlings go comotose at 45 degrees and below. Seedlings can easily survive without damage, temperatures in the upper 30's. That will also help with any potential mold problem. By keeping them cold the lights should only encourage photosynthesis and not too much growth and you can put the lights fairly close unless they generate a lot of heat. Just make sure the lights are the only source of light. Cover the window. The main thing is you do not want to create a warm humid environment as that is when mold starts growing.
Xeramtheum - thank you so much for this idea. Minnesota being what it is I don't dare set the thermostats real low and then leave town (potential of pipes freezing) but with spring coming I think I may be able to set them up in the garage. Even in winter it only dips to freezing in there on the most extreme days, which should be over by next week. But I assume I still give them a very good watering before leaving but just not enclose them in platic or whatever so that the soil is wet but the air is dry and cool?