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Messed up my tomato seedlings.....

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Messed up my tomato seedlings.....

Post  chrisf on 5/10/2011, 12:53 pm

About 6-7 weeks ago, we started some seeds.
Did 3 varieties of tomatoes, and 3 varieties of peppers

We used one of those "seed starter" kits from the big box store. Little compartments that sit in a tray, holes in the bottom of the compartments to draw water from the tray below.
Peat pellets or some sort of starting pellets were included, we hydrated those according to directions.
Since it was a small amount of seedlings, we used a 150 watt grow bulb with a large reflector to light the seedlings.
All the plants germinated well, and grew good for a while. We were giving the seedlings 8 hours of light a day on a timer.
Seems that in the past week, all the tomato plants have fallen over. They never grew a whole lot of leaves to speak of. I thought maybe as they grew they needed more light so I got the lamp as close as I could and gave them 10 hours a day of light. Kept them well hydrated. The pepper plants have not really grown a lot, but they have stayed healthy, I think once they get into the ground they will do fine.

Now the tomato seedlings are pretty much dying. They have all fallen over, and some of them have kind of rotted away at the stem.

We started the seedlings in our basement, which is not all that warm, but I am thinking if they did ok 7 weeks ago when it was colder, and they still germinated, then it shouldn't be a temperature problem.

We have never started seeds before, but last year we got a diseased tomato plant from one of the big box stores and it destroyed our tomato harvest. So this year we want to grow our own clean plants.

Not really sure what I did wrong, but now I need to get some new ones started ASAP! I have seem some people use the bottom of 2L pop bottles, can I just put some MM in those with a tomato seed and put it under the grow light?
I feel like if I use that method ill need to invest in a bigger grow light setup, or keep them outside or something as my 150W bulb wont cover that many plants.
We are only looking to yield 8 or 9 tomato plants to transplant to the garden, we buy our canning tomatoes from an organic farm in the late summer. Our garden plants are for eatin!

chrisf

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Re: Messed up my tomato seedlings.....

Post  killjug on 5/10/2011, 1:11 pm

It sounds like you started with your light to far from the plants. This will make them thin and leggy. Have up potted them into larger pots? If you don't do this the root become bound and the plant will be stunted. The seedlings falling over and rooting in call damping off. It is a fungel infection that unually occurs when the medium is kept to wet. I had zero success with the peat pellets for toms and peppers last year but used some miricle grow seed starting mix with my peppers this year and it worked great. This year my toms starts did not make it while hardening off and I bought mine at a farmers market.

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Re: Messed up my tomato seedlings.....

Post  chrisf on 5/10/2011, 1:18 pm

@killjug wrote:It sounds like you started with your light to far from the plants. This will make them thin and leggy. Have up potted them into larger pots? If you don't do this the root become bound and the plant will be stunted. The seedlings falling over and rooting in call damping off. It is a fungel infection that unually occurs when the medium is kept to wet. I had zero success with the peat pellets for toms and peppers last year but used some miricle grow seed starting mix with my peppers this year and it worked great. This year my toms starts did not make it while hardening off and I bought mine at a farmers market.

I guess we might have neglected to move them to larger pots. The stems are too thin, so you might be right about the light.
We are trying to keep it all natural so I have been avoiding miracle grow products as everything I see from them has chemicals in it.

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Re: Messed up my tomato seedlings.....

Post  killjug on 5/10/2011, 1:23 pm

I think Burppe has a strait coco fiber seed starting medium you can use. Or just start in new MM or straight vermiculite the seeds do not need anything to germinate and you can use organic plant foods to help them along until you up pot them into MM.

killjug

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Re: Messed up my tomato seedlings.....

Post  chrisf on 5/10/2011, 1:26 pm

@killjug wrote:I think Burppe has a strait coco fiber seed starting medium you can use. Or just start in new MM or straight vermiculite the seeds do not need anything to germinate and you can use organic plant foods to help them along until you up pot them into MM.

Thanks. Is it better then to start in larger containers if I have the medium to spare? I have plenty of 2L pop bottles I can cut up in the recycle bin. And I am looking to mix some MM today anyways.
I used Neptune's Harvest last year so maybe ill give them a boost with some of that.

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Re: Messed up my tomato seedlings.....

Post  Patty from Yorktown on 5/10/2011, 1:32 pm

Hi,
I agree with the dampening off diagnoses and perhaps not enough light. I am sure you are asking what to do differently, I can help a bit with that. Once your tomatoes have sprouted and are large enough to move around you need to "pot them up." They should get buried to just under neath the leaves. Tomatoes will grow roots anywhere along the stem. You might do this more than once and certainly when you plant them in the garden for the summer. I think your tomatoes are hungry. Feed them a little 1/4 or 1/2 strength fertilizer, water them first. To help with dampening off disease point a fan in the general direction of your plants and give them a light breeze. They will dry out faster this way, but it seems to help. Ask away with more questions.

Patty in Yorktown

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Re: Messed up my tomato seedlings.....

Post  chrisf on 5/10/2011, 1:38 pm

@Patty from Yorktown wrote:Hi,
I agree with the dampening off diagnoses and perhaps not enough light. I am sure you are asking what to do differently, I can help a bit with that. Once your tomatoes have sprouted and are large enough to move around you need to "pot them up." They should get buried to just under neath the leaves. Tomatoes will grow roots anywhere along the stem. You might do this more than once and certainly when you plant them in the garden for the summer. I think your tomatoes are hungry. Feed them a little 1/4 or 1/2 strength fertilizer, water them first. To help with dampening off disease point a fan in the general direction of your plants and give them a light breeze. They will dry out faster this way, but it seems to help. Ask away with more questions.

Patty in Yorktown

You folks are great! Ill start some more off tonite, i guess ill do the little cups again but be proactive with potting them up when they get bigger. The weather is getting nice out and I am really ready to get things planted outdoors!

chrisf

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Re: Messed up my tomato seedlings.....

Post  pattipan on 5/10/2011, 1:55 pm

This late in the season you may want to consider buying tomato plants at your local greenhouse or a garden center store like Lowes or Home Depot. Better to do that, than have no tomatoes at all!

Even without having seen your setup it sounds to me like you had everything you needed, but perhaps your plants were too far from the lights? That would make them leggy and more susceptible to damping off -- a result off too much water and not enough air circulation. Some people have had success with those peat pellets, but the one time I tried them I had the same results as you. Last year I had leggy tomato plants as a result of being too far from the lights, but I up-potted them and they recovered just fine. They grew lots of tomatoes anyway!

This year I had better success, even with nothing but two small grow-lites (read: cheap). I sprouted my seeds in moist vermiculite (as on page 122 of Mel's ANSFG book) on top my freezer. As soon as they had their first leaves I planted the seedlings deep in 9-packs filled with Mel's Mix with extra vermiculite mixed in to keep the soil loose for the roots. I used an old chopstick to make a deep hole. I kept them closer to the lights too. We suspended our lights from a utility shelf and raised the plants closer to the lights with boards. As for watering I only water them enough to keep the soil moist -- never soggy.

When the seedlings got about two or three true leaves I up-potted them to 3" pots and cottage cheese cartons with holes cut in the bottom, again planting them deep to make stronger plants and roots. They are outside now sufficiently hardened off and ready to be planted next week.

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Re: Messed up my tomato seedlings.....

Post  Furbalsmom on 5/10/2011, 3:11 pm

Pattipan said:This year I had better success, even with nothing but two small grow-lites (read: cheap). I sprouted my seeds in moist vermiculite (as on page 122 of Mel's ANSFG book) on top my freezer. As soon as they had their first leaves I planted the seedlings deep in 9-packs filled with Mel's Mix with extra vermiculite mixed in to keep the soil loose for the roots. I used an old chopstick to make a deep hole. I kept them closer to the lights too. We suspended our lights from a utility shelf and raised the plants closer to the lights with boards. As for watering I only water them enough to keep the soil moist -- never soggy.

When the seedlings got about two or three true leaves I up-potted them to 3" pots and cottage cheese cartons with holes cut in the bottom, again planting them deep to make stronger plants and roots. They are outside now sufficiently hardened off and ready to be planted next week.

Chrisf, this is very similar to what I did. The vermiculite is a good way to start the seeds, but they must be uppotted as soon as they have two seed leaves. I put mine into cell packs filled with MM. Then uppot again to a 3 inch pot filled with MM when they have several true leaves. Have a fan on in the room with the seedlings, they really need air circulation and keep the tops of the seedlings 2 to 3 inches below the light bulb.

Much better results than when I tried the peat pellets.

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Re: Messed up my tomato seedlings.....

Post  quiltbea on 5/10/2011, 3:28 pm

If you are going to start seeds this late in the season, be sure to get a very early variety, like Glacier, something that matures in 59-65 days. That will be from the day you transplant them outdoors and there's little time for them to germinate now and grow.

Another problem is the lighting. They need 15-16 hrs of light a day after they germinate. The lights should only be an inch or two above the tops of the plants at all times. Further away and they start stretching and getting too leggy.

I am one who transplants my little guys into 2-litre soda bottles cut about 5-6" deep. I like a good root system on my toms. I hammer 5 drainage holes thru the bottom (one in each lobe of the bottle) with screwdriver and hammer, then cut with scissors a slit from the hole halfway up the sides of the bottle from each of the 5 drainage holes. This makes it an air-pruning pot. The air stops the roots from growing in a circle and strangling the roots so it makes for a very healthy young plant.
(
These are newly-tranplanted plants from their 2" soil blocks.

Even if you are going to start only 8-10 plants a year (and I'd double the seeds started in case you lose several), you might want to invest in a lighting set-up. You can buy a double shop light and 2 daylight bulbs for around $27 from Lowe's and Home Depot. A cheap investment if you're going to start seeds every year

Good luck.

edited to add: That 150-W bulb can't have been too good for the seedlings. Probably too hot yet with too little needed light rays for the little guys.

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Re: Messed up my tomato seedlings.....

Post  chrisf on 5/11/2011, 6:37 am

I guess the light I am using is turning out to be a big problem. I just figured more watts, more light!
Ill look at grabbing a 24" two-bulb fixture today. Daylight bulbs are OK? I dont need to get "plant" lights? That would be ok with me, the daylight bulbs are cheaper!

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Re: Messed up my tomato seedlings.....

Post  SFG in Chicago on 5/11/2011, 7:39 am

I agree with everyone else that said damping off. You say you kept them well hydrated, that is a common mistake. You should not water them until they start to dry out. You want moist, not wet.

It's a bit late for starting tomato seeds now, you might be better off buying plants this year and trying seeds again next spring.

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Re: Messed up my tomato seedlings.....

Post  quiltbea on 5/11/2011, 12:41 pm

chrisf.....I use daylight bulbs in my shop sets. My plants grow beautifully.


here are some broccoli seedlings under daylight bulbs earlier this year.

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Re: Messed up my tomato seedlings.....

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