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Is fungus or cold killing my seedlings?

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Is fungus or cold killing my seedlings?

Post  ByronH on 6/15/2013, 9:24 am

Hi there, I'm a newbie to gardening and SFG in particular, and would appreciate any assistance in solving a problem I'm currently experiencing with my raised SFG.

My first attempt at growing seedlings using the recommended mix seemed to go well, albeit with some seeds taking a long time to germinate, e.g.: lettuce. However once the shoots came up things seem to progress well for a couple of weeks until the seedlings began looking unhealthy. Some would develop a kink in the base of the stem and simply fall over to die, while others just gradually shriveled up and died.

Disappointed at the failure I abandoned the project for a couple of weeks intending to try again later. Today I examined the soil (MM) around the dead seedlings and noticed what appears to be fungus growing around the roots (see image below).



This also seems to be growing along the edge of the SFG where soil meets wood. Could this have caused the seedlings to die, or is it simply decomposing the recently dead plant material?

I noticed with the raised SFG that the soil mix temperature at the bottom of the box is quite cold, even though the climate in our area is relatively hot even during the cold months. Could this be due to evaporation at the bottom of the raised boxes? Could this promote the growth of fungus as above and also hamper seed germination and healthy root growth? If this is the case, I am considering placing a layer of Styrofoam (with drainage holes) at the bottom of the boxes to insulate the soil from this evaporation cooling effect.

Any feedback will be greatly appreciated. Regards, Byron.


Last edited by ByronH on 6/15/2013, 9:28 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : fixed typo in topic heading)
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Re: Is fungus or cold killing my seedlings?

Post  boffer on 6/15/2013, 12:20 pm

I can't help with the fungus.

@ByronH wrote:...Could this promote the growth of fungus as above and also hamper seed germination and healthy root growth? If this is the case, I am considering placing a layer of Styrofoam (with drainage holes) at the bottom of the boxes to insulate the soil from this evaporation cooling effect...

I can tell you that the MM in my TTs runs cooler than boxes on the ground or the ground itself.  It does noticeably  slow down the growth of warm season crops, but I haven't had any issues with seed germination.  I figured it was due to my climate: cool nights even with 80°+ days.  I've started putting foam board in the bottom of my newest boxes.  I can't say yet if it is helping.

Another member, in a hotter climate, thought the open bottom caused additional evaporation which led to more frequent watering.  He was going to try adding plywood to the bottom.  I think adding plastic to the bottom in lieu of, or in addition to, weedblock would solve the evaporation issue.  

Plantoid suggested a table skirt to minimize evaporation due to breezes below the table.
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Re: Is fungus or cold killing my seedlings?

Post  Unmutual on 6/15/2013, 7:34 pm

@ByronH wrote: Some would develop a kink in the base of the stem and simply fall over to die

That sounds like classic damping off which is a fungal issue.  While I've never had damping off with direct seeding in to MM(in fact, I mix small batches of MM to germinate my seeds), compost can do this.  You can start seedlings in a mix of vermiculite and peat moss, or you can 'cook' your compost to 160 degrees for 10-15 minutes and kill off any pathogens, thereby making it a sterile mix.  Please note that the center needs to get to 160 for that 10-15 minutes for it to work.

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