Patrol_4x4
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Starting from seeds in tropical areas

Hi all!!

I am a newbie and for some reason I can't stop making mistakes!

Well, the thing is that I am starting some plants from seed and don't want to end up killing them as I did with my first tomato sprouts. I have tomato seedlings, pepper, chillies, cucumber, rockmelon and mint. all of them in trays. I also have a cherry tomato plant that I bought in a nursery. My questions here:

1. Does the type of soil affect the seedlings? Now I have them all in a mix soil that I bought, but when I transplant them in their final position the soil is going to be different because I live in a national park and can't change the local soil with non local products. The soil in my garden looks pretty good because the previous family living here were very good gardeners and I've heard they had many things planted. anyway, our soil is the type of clay, I had the first seedlings there and they ended up dying, maybe for some issue with the watering and the soil.

2.Is too much sun or to much heat bad for the seedlings? We're about to get into the dry season, nice hot weather, cooling a bit down in the evenings and noooooo rain. looks like too much soon dries the soil very quickly and therefore the plant is thirsty for the rest of the day. Oh! I don't use artificial light, I just put the tray right at a sunny spot. Am I burning my little seedlings alive???

3.BUGSSSSS!! Now that it looks like my seedlings are getting over my mistreat, bugs are eating them. Caterpillars, insects I can't see... I have made a homemade insecticide with garlic and onion until I go to the nursery and get something proper. What do you think??

4. When should I start with fertilizer?

Too many issues and questions.... Sorry... I'm not a very good gardener...

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applestar
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Cucumber and melon seeds are best sown directly in the ground where they are to grow. You do need to keep the soil moist. One way is to dig a moat all around to deep water. another is to put a drip hole in a jug and fill that with water and set it next to where the seeds are planted or hang it over them.

If you can keep the soil moist, I think your peppers and tomatoes could probably be sown directly in the ground too, but if the bug issue is severe, then the better option maybe to put the seed starting tray inside a screened enclosure of some sort.

I'm pretty sure mint prefers cooler temps to germinate. Can you get a cutting or a division. It will be much easier to grow. They root very easiy.

For the most part, if drying out too quickly in the sun is the issue in shallow planting trays, you are better off starting the seedlings in dappled light like under a tree. But seedlings started in less light and protected area need to be slowly acclimated to stronger light and air movements. A little more direct sun each day until they can withstand full 6 hours or more full sun.

Enrich your clay garden soil by adding compost made from local materials and mulching with organic matter -- leaves, cut grass and non-seeding pulled and cut weeds. In fall, pile with fallen leaves, etc.

Oh! For the bug issues -- I typically don't use insecticides. Try to identify what the pests are. I rely on my Garden Patrol -- beneficial predatory insects and predatory animals (birds, moles, toads, etc.). You can plant flowers that attract beneficial insects -- tiny wasps and flies that eat and prey on tiny pests like aphids as well as all kinds of caterpillars, larger wasps that feed caterpillars to their young. There are predatory and prey soil organisms too. Baby birds are insectivorous so encourage nesting birds, and station bird feeders and ponds. If you have the right environment, encourage insect eating bats to nest in the area.

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lorax
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Location: Ecuador, USDA Zone 13, at 10,000' of altitude

Jabiru, North Territory?

Patrol_4x4
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lorax wrote:Jabiru, North Territory?
Yep, northern territory :)

Patrol_4x4
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Posts: 49
Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2012 6:21 am
Location: Jabiru

I read somewhere that if I am not sure when to water the seedlings I have to check the soil surface and only water them when it is dry. like this, I won't overwater them, but then I am scared that they dry...
Planting flowers seems like a great idea. We have birds and bats that come to our garden during the evening but unfortunately they only eat our papayas.... Hahahaha, shame they are too high and we cannot pick them up!
We want to plant the tomatoes in a small terrace next to our banana plants, but it seems like the banana root system has penetrated into the terrace. I don't know if this is going to be bad for the tomatoes as banana plants are water suckers.
It looks like I am doing better with the bug problem since I changed the trays from where I had them originally and I have killed the caterpillars and all tiny spiders that I see.

Patrol_4x4
Full Member
Posts: 49
Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2012 6:21 am
Location: Jabiru

I read somewhere that if I am not sure when to water the seedlings I have to check the soil surface and only water them when it is dry. like this, I won't overwater them, but then I am scared that they dry...
Planting flowers seems like a great idea. We have birds and bats that come to our garden during the evening but unfortunately they only eat our papayas.... Hahahaha, shame they are too high and we cannot pick them up!
We want to plant the tomatoes in a small terrace next to our banana plants, but it seems like the banana root system has penetrated into the terrace. I don't know if this is going to be bad for the tomatoes as banana plants are water suckers.
It looks like I am doing better with the bug problem since I changed the trays from where I had them originally and I have killed the caterpillars and all tiny spiders that I see.

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lorax
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Joined: Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:48 pm
Location: Ecuador, USDA Zone 13, at 10,000' of altitude

Tomatoes + bananas = disaster, in my experience. They're both hungry for the same set of nutrients, and since the bananas are bigger and have more extensive and robust root systems, they always win. Always.

If you want the tomatoes in that area, the best bet is probably to grow them in containers (big buckets, troughs, whatever you've got on hand that's 5 gallons or larger) - that way you're outside of the "no modifications of local soil" requirement (you're not adding that soil to the environment; it's staying in the buckets to keep the 'maters happy.)

You'll also run up against the tropical challenges of growing tomatoes. If you're trying beefsteak varieties this summer, if my experiences are anything to go by, you're doomed. They set flowers in the heat, but they won't set fruit until you're on your way into winter. You'll have a better chance in the summer heat with cherry types, which are more resistant (since they're closest to the native species, which are heat adapted).

In answer to your first questions:

1. Absolutely. However, if your garden soil is good you shouldn't have any issues at all. If you can't change the local soil ecosystems, maybe try going out into your forest and collecting leaf litter, and adding that to your garden - that way you're using what's already there, and it will also enrich and loosen the soil structure. With clay soils, this is particularly important, since they're prone to binding roots and smothering plants. (Lessons learned gardening in the upper Amazon, which is leaf mulch on top of horrid red clay.)

2. Not necessarily, but seedlings need to be hardened off to the heat and sunlight. If they've been started indoors or in a shaded area of the garden, it's important to step them out into the heat and sunlight, rather than tossing them directly into full sun. Easing them into it will allow them to adapt; trial by fire ends with crispy plantlets.

3. The best defence against bugs is a good offence. Garlic and onion is a good start; another excellent organic pesticide is tobacco water (just steep a ciggie in some water for a couple of days).

4. Once the plants are hardened off and ready to go into the ground, and keep the dose low. However, your bananas will benefit from daily feeding (yes, you heard me correctly - think of them as large, fairly hungry cats and you've got the right idea;) the size of your bunch of fruit is determined by how happy and healthy the corms are, and you get healthy corms with regular feeding.

And no worries about asking questions. It's how we all started out!

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