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My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

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My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  sarahmcdon on 3/21/2011, 11:48 am

I started 4 different varieties of tomatoes, broccoli, sweet peppers and jalepenos on Feb 20th. I used a mix of organic miracle grow and vermiculite. The only ones that are doing OK are a few broccoli and the jalepenos. Most of the sweet peppers didn't even germinate and I had to replant them. Only one of the new ones is sprouting so far. I have them under a grow light with one hot and one cool bulb and am using a heating mat. I'm also watering from the bottom. Most of the tomatoes have shrivelled up and the leaves are falling off and now this is happening to some of the broccoli. Can anyone tell me what I might be doing wrong?

Sarah

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  Old Hippie on 3/21/2011, 12:10 pm

it could be a problem with a virus called "Damping Off". It attacks new seedlings and they start dying for no apparent reason. There is a product you can get called "No Damp" which you put in the water. It is worth doing so you don't lose all your seedlings. Bottom heat usually keeps that from happening but not always so when I plant seeds I use it just in case.

That is so discouraging. So sorry you are having trouble. Someone else might have another idea but that is the one that comes to mind for me.

Best of luck

Gwynn

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 3/21/2011, 12:26 pm

Sounds like damping off to me, too. However, without pictures it's hard to say what else could be going on.

I am glad you shared details, OP, but it's just so hard to say without being there.

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  quiltbea on 3/21/2011, 12:39 pm

Are you trying to germinate the seeds under the lights?

I tried starting some basil disks in pots under the lights. I watered and waited. Nothing happened. Then I put the pots on a heat mat, covered them in plastic to hold in the humidity, and in a few days the basil germinated just fine.

Most folks start their seeds in trays, pots, cellblocks on a heat mat inside a plastic bag to hold the humidity and away from the lights. Those without a heat mat place them in a warm place, like atop the kitchen cabinets or on top of the refrigerator. Its not until seeds germinate that they are then placed under the lights.

The exception is lettuce which wants light to germinate.

I hope you resolve your problem. Good luck.

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  Blackrose on 3/21/2011, 12:43 pm

@quiltbea wrote:
The exception is lettuce which wants light to germinate.

And strawberries too apparently! I learned that the hard way. Sad

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  sarahmcdon on 3/21/2011, 12:50 pm

I'll try posting some pictures today. I did have a lid on them to germinate but since the peppers I replanted are sharing a flat with the other peppers and broccoli I didn't want to keep the lid on the sprouted ones. Maybe I could put some plastic over just those pots?

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  quiltbea on 3/21/2011, 12:56 pm

Blackrose,
Thanks on the info on strawberries. I want to start a few alpines from seeds to add to my small bed of them this year. I wouldn't have realized otherwise.

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  herbarium on 3/21/2011, 1:19 pm

It is best to use a seed starting mix, straight vermiculite, or compressed peat disks or if you want an Aerogarden. I use the compressed disks and my Aerogarden to start seeds.
The mix must be loose and sterile. If you use potting soil, potting mix, or garden soil of any kind it may be too heavy or not sterile. Damping off can be caused by non sterile soil, too damp of soil, and/or lack of circulation.
I always use plastic - either the plastic greenhouse that comes with the compressed peat kits or a container that lettuce mix came in. As soon as the first seedling has emerged remove the plastic.

Once the plant has its first four leaves it is time to transplant to a larger container.

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  sarahmcdon on 3/21/2011, 1:22 pm

I do have a compressed pellet greenhouse type thing, I may just start my tomatoes over again. I still have plenty of time and actually started them way too early anyway Embarassed

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  dizzygardener on 3/21/2011, 5:03 pm

I mixed some cinnamon into my potting soil. After that I watered/misted my seedlings with a diluted green tea and chamomile mixture. I haven't had any dampening off issues. You might try that.

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  herbarium on 3/21/2011, 5:27 pm

Dizzygardener,
Good idea! Liquid kelp can help also.

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  Smartchick on 3/21/2011, 5:33 pm

Well, at least I know what my issue is now also (dampening off). My happy little seedlings started dying and when I pulled them out - no side roots. It's good to have a name and solution to the issue. Guess I will try again with the cinnamon and chamomile and see what happens. After all, they're only seeds and if I fail, the local garden center will get my usual business (this is my first year trying to grow seedlings). Wink

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  sarahmcdon on 3/21/2011, 6:25 pm

I may try that too, thanks everyone Smile

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  Patty from Yorktown on 3/21/2011, 8:07 pm

Hi,
An other thing to try is a fan. I use the peat disks, shop lights and my summer fan on low a bit away from the seeds. A breeze seems to help. Keep the seeds as close to the lights as you can, about 1-1.5 inches. Hope this helps.
Patty from Yorktown

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  Furbalsmom on 3/22/2011, 1:41 am

SarahMcDon

We are really glad you joined us.

Sorry to hear about your poor seedlings. I hope you try again and are successful.
My first tray of seedlings in peat pellets did not do well for peppers, tomatillos and spinach. Eggplant and broccoli did fine as well as artichokes started directly in Mel's Mix in 3 inch pots.
I started a second tray of peat pellets and had so so results. I really think I kept my peat pellets too moist wet.
Since then I have started all of my seeds in moistened vermiculite, then as the seed leaves opened, I transplant the little spouts into cells with Mel's Mix. These are doing great. I have several varieties of tomatoes, more eggplant varietes, several varieties of sweet and hot peppers, cauliflower, spinach and I just started my herbs. This method works well for me.

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Hardening Off

Post  The Cynergist on 3/22/2011, 1:55 am

Wow that's too bad about your seedlings. I kinda have the opposite problem with mine. I started some broccoli March 9 in some egg cartons and I've had to put them in bigger pots already. I'm thinking I'm gonna have broccoli before I even get them in the ground. lol

What I'd like to know is what does it mean to harden off the seedlings before putting them in the ground? This is my first time starting anything in the house, and I've never heard of hardening off before. Does anyone know what it means?

Thanks

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  Furbalsmom on 3/22/2011, 2:12 am

Hi Cynergist

You want to hardening off seedlings that have been grown indoors by taking them outside for a short time each day and gradually increase the time they stay outside until they get used to the new environment they will evenitually live in. Usually you want this to be a gradual process over about 7 days or more. You normally would not leave them out overnight if the temperature was too low.

EXAMPLE
Day one take them out for an hour, but don't leave them in direct sunlight
Day two take them out for 2 - 3 hours, again no direct dunlight
Day three leave them 4 or 5 hours and let them get some sun, but not the whole time.
Day four leave them 6 to 8 hours and give them a bit more direct sun
Day five leave them 8 - 10 hours
Day six, leave them outside all night
Day seven leave out all night again
Day eight you can transplant into your SFG.

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Thanks

Post  The Cynergist on 3/22/2011, 2:44 am

Wow thanks for the info. I had no clue what hardening off meant, and I was envisioning I'd have to physically do something to the plants, like maybe dipping them in something. . . lol

So I gather I'd start this process about 8 days before I'm actually going to plant them outside?

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  boffer on 3/22/2011, 2:56 am

You disappeared last year, The Cynergist! Welcome back! You're lucky...I think Furbalsmom gave you the most detailed process of 'hardening off' that I've ever seen. Try it...you might like it!

Happy gardening!

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Thanks Boffer

Post  The Cynergist on 3/22/2011, 3:09 am

@boffer wrote:You disappeared last year, The Cynergist! Welcome back! You're lucky...I think Furbalsmom gave you the most detailed process of 'hardening off' that I've ever seen. Try it...you might like it!

Happy gardening!

Thanks for the welcome Boffer. I did disappear last year; there was a lot going on. I couldn't even keep up with the garden blog as much as I would have liked. But hopefully I'll be a little more organized this year. I certainly will be taking Furbalsmom's advice with regard to the hardening off.

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

Post  Glendale-gardener on 3/22/2011, 9:08 pm

@The Cynergist wrote: like maybe dipping them in something. . . lol


I would imagine there are quite a few things you could dip them in that would harden them up, of course, then they wouldn't grow, but... Laughing

Thanks for the detailed info btw! I know what it is but I've never done it, I usually only do tomatoes and I guess I've gotten lucky. But I have way too many little babies this year to risk luck!

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Re: My seedling starts are doing HORRIBLE!! What am I doing wrong?

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