I did something recently with my plants that's probably outside the boundaries of normal and acceptable. But it's working beautifully, it probably saved my plants, and I felt others here with "troubled plants" might benefit from it. However, I'm new to this forum, new to planting from seeds (other than corn, beans, radishes, etc), and new to container gardening. So I PM'd one of the forum moderators and asked, "Am I gonna gett killed for posting my goofy process to the forum?" His reply was something along the lines of, "State the possible downsides and your disclaimers, and go for it. And yes, expect to be clobbered over the head by some who defer to conventional gardening methods." Well, I have a hard head, so here I go.
I have 30-some-odd plants started from seeds (tomatoes/ peppers) in sterilized potting soil. Initially they broke ground and took off like crazy. Then things started going downhill. Plenty of light (grow lights, sun when possible); I water from the the bottom (everything is in peat-pots, I set them in a pan of water for 10 minutes or so); they're in a furnace room where the temp hangs around 70-degrees...everything is right as far as I know. I started them with Vigoro Plant Food a few times a week, and stopped that. I had sprinkled some with coffee grounds, and stopped that. Nothing worked. They gradually looked poorer and poorer every day. I'm an engineer, and eventually that kicked in...all that was left was the soil; I felt it was too compact, too dense, and maybe missing who-knows-what. So off I go to Walmart and return with a bag of organic garden soil, a bag of compost, and a bag of peat moss. I created my own kooky mixture of 1/3 soil, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 compost, which makes a nice, loose mixture that should offer plenty of nutrient. I Bit my lip and replanted everything: No plant food, no coffee grounds; just a very light bottom soaking of plain old water; I wanted those roots to go hunting for water! The following morning, I was sure I had made a dreadful mistake...everything looked like it was hungover from a big drunk! But they were doomed anyway, so I waited. The second morning blew me away! Every single plant had perked up significantly and was reaching for that light! That was 5 or 6 days ago, and the picture below shows you how they seem to enjoy the new surroundings. These plants--in less than a week--are as hearty and healthy as any I've seen.
Now for the disclaimers: We all know that transplanting is a risk under the best of conditions, and this was something I did purely out of desperation and common sense, not from a position of vast gardening experience. But it worked better than I had ever hoped for, so if your plants are failing and you can't seem to bring them back, maybe it's worth a try. But keep in mind...My only claim here is that it worked for me.
Okay, that's the crux of my goofy project: Equal parts of peat moss, garden soil, and compost. Technically, it probably shouldn't work (especially transplanting early plants)...but it did work and these plants are running away with themselves now. Can some of you old hands at this tell me why this goofy process is working so well? I have to assume it's the "loose" soil mixture, or maybe the previous soil was dead wrong; I'm new at this so I'm guessing. Some of you are probably gonna beat me up for posting this, and that's okay; I can handle it. But please just remember that it's working.