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My seedlings keep dying!!

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2006
by Brian Hy on March 12, 2006 02:01 AM
I don't get it... My seedlings start fine and then die in a couple of weeks. I am mostly trying to start peppers but have a bunch of other stuff too.
I have a cabinet that I made into a seed starting area. I have two cool florescent lights about 3-6 inches above them that are on for about 15 hrs a day. I have a heater in the bottom to bring the soil up to about 80-85 degrees on top and 70-75 on the bottom. I water with rain water and a 10-52-10 mix to help them start and I use Supersoil for soil. I usually wait to water them till the top gets a little hard but is still wet on the bottom. I have them in the seed starter trays so I just add the water to the bottom and it soaks up.

More on the problem. Lets say my tomatoes, they came up and were doing just fine. I then go in one day and one of 4 is limp and starting to fall over. Then a few days later another... then another. The last one is going limp right now. I also had a pepper that I finally got to grow, and it just died. All about 2-3 weeks from popping up. I have some new peppers that I just started and I don't want it to happen to them, please help!!!
by obywan59 on March 12, 2006 04:07 AM
Does it look like the stems are rotting at the base? If so, it is caused by the "damping off" fungus. Try watering young seedlings with chamomile tea till they become well established. I mix up 4 cups at a time pouring 4 cups boiling water over 4 tea bags and let it cool to room temperature before watering.

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Terry

May the force be with you
by 'Sparagus on March 12, 2006 04:07 AM
Hi! Im no expert but just heard about this on the radio. One thing that comes to mind is turning off the heat as soon as the first seedling emerges. The other tip which it sounds like you already follow, is to water when they get a little dry.

I was surprised to hear the advice to turn off the bottom heat as soon as you get a sprout. But it's worth a try!

Good luck!!!
by DeepCreekLake on March 12, 2006 05:13 AM
I would not fertilize you seedlings until they get there first set of "True" leaves. True leaves are not the first leafs you see from the seedling, those are really for getting the seedling up out of the ground. The first ture leaves, will be after those. I generally use potting soil that has slow release ferilzer so that it dosnt burn or overfeed. Dont let you soil dry out, usally withering is a sign of water stress. I have plants that I started back in Dec, as an experiment- they are huge and still thriving. Also cut the heat off once your seeds sprout up pretty well, and fairly tall.
by johnCT on March 12, 2006 05:20 AM
quote:
Originally posted by Brian Hy:
I water with rain water and a 10-52-10 mix to help them start and I use Supersoil for soil.
ACK!!!! [shocked]

You're not fertilizing two week old seedlings are you? Otherwise it sounds like damping off. Were you using clean trays and fresh mix? Did you have the trays covered?

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John - Zone 6
by markr on March 12, 2006 06:11 AM
brian
i would say its damping off also.
the only time i had that problem was when i used rain water!
now i always use tap water for my seedlings, i hold back with the rain water until they get bigger.
also i never feed my seedlings till a week or so after ive transplanted them.
Mark.

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Mark
by Longy on March 12, 2006 06:21 AM
With damping off, the plants tend to rot off at ground level and fall over. It seems like these are actually wilting while they are still standing. Can you clarify this please Brian.
If it is damping off, it's a fungal problem and can be overcome by adding some condies crystals to water until the water is just slightly pink, then spray the surface with a misting spray.
I only ever feed seedlings with a half strength mix of fish emulsion fertiliser and i start them in a sand/coir/worm casting mix.

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The secret is the soil.
by tkhooper on March 12, 2006 07:01 AM
The light is also too high. The florescents should be kept no more than 2 inches above the seedlings. Otherwise they are going to stretch and get thin stems that can cause them to fall over also.

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by Brian Hy on March 12, 2006 10:56 AM
Thank you all so much for your fast response. I don't think it is damping off, the stem is still just strong, the leaves wilt around it while it is still standing tall. The reson that I was using rain water is because the site I got my seeds from says to not use tap water because of the clorine and other sh.. stuff in it. They say to use distilled water but I thought that rain would be pure too, no? It also said that because the peppers can take up to 100 days to sprout that you should use this mixture so the seeds will start faster. In rereading it, it did say to stop using it once the seeds start to come up. I do not have it covered because of the threat of damping, I just look at them daily. The plants aren't getting to tall, infact they might be to short, the true leaves were on the ground when it was doing fine. I will try to upload pics if I can. Do you think it's the water? I was thinking of Fish stuff, the site did say to use that too. Well, thanks for all the help. I need all I can get... All I know is, "If you plant it, it will usually grow". [thinker]
by njoynit on March 12, 2006 11:09 AM
and maybe this will help a lil.....

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/ornamentals/seedlings/seedlings.html

I've just started some tomato seeds thats sprouted over the last few days.They sit in my kitchen window(east lighting)Humidity is always high in the kitchen.I doubt my soil temp was very high.being its been in the 80s out I'd guess my soils in the 70s.As to pepper seeds.I've always sown direct into a pot and keept in sunny spot in yard till sprouted then moved to bright shade.I've never been able to get um started indoors so am no help there.I know they never took me 100 days to sprout.I'd guess more 2-3 weeks.(and being I soweed them friday....I'll count this time)

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by Longy on March 12, 2006 03:59 PM
OK, so the stems are strong, this rules out damping off. There's nothing wrong with rainwater, unless you are in a high air pollution area or an acid rain area. I'm thinking fertilizer burn or soil temperature. The wilting is what happens to plants that are getting way too much N. Though the fert you're using is extremely high in P, so that's not necessarily the problem. The symptoms would be different. (Thinking out loud here)
My other suggestion is the temperature of the soil and i just did a conversion to celsius (which i use) and it's pretty damn hot. Like, it's the temperature of the air at midday in summer. Way too hot for the root system i reckon. Yeah, i'm sold on it. Turn off or turn down the heat and i'm certain your problems will end. BTW, a temp of 15 deg Celsius (60 F)is plenty to germinate the most warmth loving of seeds, like corn and pumpkin, so i don't reckon you need to have the temp set so high to get that germination rate. Maybe get it down to about max 70 deg F.

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The secret is the soil.
by tkhooper on March 12, 2006 04:15 PM
My peppers were slower to germinate because my apartment is around 70*F so the soil temp is lower than that but they do germinate and grow to adulthood. I just put them in regular potting soil in a planter and keep the soil moist. Nothing fancy at all and they do fine. It seems like the more care I lavish on a seedling the less chance it has of surviving lol.

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by peppereater on March 13, 2006 12:48 AM
What kind of pepper takes 100 days to germinate? I think you've been sold a bill of goods. I'd go with a standard potting mix or a custom one like Longy's, homemade. And get the heat way down, and don't worry about fertilizing seedlings. And rig a way to move your lights...flourescents won't burn even if they're touching, get them as close as possible.

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Dave
Even my growlights are getting restless!
by Rosepetal on March 28, 2006 10:49 AM
I did peppers too and mine are finely peeking thro' after 9 days, I was prepared for this, my instructions said at least 7 - 14 days.

I also used flor. lights but keep the seeds cover with newspaper until they sprout thro'. Using the lights more for heat the first few days.

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For this "New Year" help me to be kinder and more loving to all around me, I pray.
by Ironside on March 28, 2006 01:46 PM
Sounds like you are baking those seedlings. I put my seeds on a seed starting mat, and set the temperature to 75F. Once the seeds have germinated, I remove them from the heat mat, and put them under the grow light. Keep the seedlings about 2 inches from your light. Plants need to be cool at night, no lower then 65F. Never fertilize your seedlings until you get the first set of true leaves(second set of leaves). Once they get their first set of true leaves, then fertilize at 1/4 strength fertilizer. Air circulation is very important at this time also.
by ChristinaC on March 29, 2006 03:12 AM
quote:
Sounds like you are baking those seedlings
I couldn't agree more! Seeds only need that heat to germinate...once they've sprouted, they prefer cooler temps.
I am one that does not save any money with heating bills in the winter...I'm always freezing so that heat is cranked! But the room where I keep my seedlings, I have the vents closed, the window cracked and a fan circulating air at all times.

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