Gardener123
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Starting from seeds... is it just me?

The last few years I have tried starting plants from seeds... Generally speaking, I get plenty of plants to start growing, but just about the time that it comes to transplant them, they die, or they end up not producing.

I start them in in red solo cups, with starting soil, and use a grow light.... I only have one grow light, but really need another one, as I tend to have to move the light back and forth every 12 hours.

I live near Philadelphia, so planting time is usually in mid to late May. My soil is terrible, so I made raised beds.

Most of the plants I am speaking about are 4" - 6" high when I am ready to move to the garden. I'm mostly talking pepper and tomato plants, but also some types of squash, usually.

I'm not really a great gardener by any means... in fact, I would call my self a very uneducated gardener... but that is why I am here, right? ;)

tomc
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Your seedlings sound too leggy, probably from low light levels.

And an absence of breeze. Turn a fan on in the room.

When its time to start to harden your seedlings off protect them from breeze and afternoon sun.
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Happy Days
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I've gone through that so you are not alone. :cry: It could be damping-off which is fairly common. I will say that watering new seedlings with a diluted solution of chamomile tea is one of the easiest and best ways I've found to solve that problem ... if it is damping-off.

Here is one "recipe". Brew some weak chamomile tea, cool, and dilute until it is a light color. The solution will be good for about a week. Spray/mist seedlings and soil surface regularly until they are planted out. You can also water/drench the planting medium with the weak chamomile tea before you plant.

Gardener123
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what is damping off?

Gardener123
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tomc wrote:Your seedlings sound too leggy, probably from low light levels.

And an absence of breeze. Turn a fan on in the room.

When its time to start to harden your seedlings off protect them from breeze and afternoon sun.
This year I bought 4 of those silver medical blankets to reflect the light, and I plan to grow them on a shelving unit.... and add another light. I hope that is enough.

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hendi_alex
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Here are some basic steps to consider:
1. Provide bottom heat for germination. That can be as simple as a light bulb under a tray, sitting the tray over a heat vent, or using a heat mat of some kind.

2. Provide a tent or cover during germination. That holds moisture, retains heat, and allows for quicker germination.

3. Give as much light as possible and place any supplemental light within 2-4 inches of the plants. Use supplemental light to extend the day giving 12-14 hours of light per day.

4. Set plants outside when ever possible, any time that it is sunny and over 60 degrees or so. If the plants have not been outside before, limit direct sunlight to no more than 2-3 hours or place plants so that light is slightly filtered. Gradually increase the exposure time each day.

5. Up pot the plants when needed. For mine, they move from 2.5 inch pots up to 4 inch pots when the plants get about six inches tall. Sometimes I go straight to 1 gallon nursery pots. At each up potting, the tomato stems get set a little deeper.

5. Harden the plants when moving them outside for the first time. Give only morning sun or filtered light and block from direct breeze. Gradually move the plants to full sun and full breeze.

6. Especially when inside, don't over water or over fertilize. I bottom water and after a few weeks either add a little slow release fertilizer or add water soluble fertilizer when watering.

7. Don't jump the gun by planting in the garden too early. Make sure that the soil temperature is well up into the 60's or warmer. Plants can easily go into shock with prolonged soil temperatures that are in the 50's or colder.
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rainbowgardener
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You've gotten a lot of good tips, but a little bit we are guessing without more info.

When you say: I get plenty of plants to start growing, but just about the time that it comes to transplant them, they die, or they end up not producing.

Does that mean they die before they are transplanted into the ground or after, when they are in the ground?

If before, that is likely hardening off issue. That is when I lose the most plants, getting impatient with hardening off. Plants that have been grown indoors are very tender, not used to direct sun, wind, cold, etc. They have to be hardened to it a little bit at a time, starting with a few hours in a protected location.

If they die after they are in the ground, that is a soil issue, very possibly what hendy said, soil too cold for them. If they survive, but don't produce that could be a soil fertility issue or an issue of adequate root development.

Damping off is a fungus disease. It usually only affects baby seedlings. Once the seedling is 4-6" tall, it probably isn't so vulnerable to damping off. But seedlings that get damped off, get pinched in stems near the base and fall over, lie flat on the soil.

How did your plants that died look? Did they get wilty? Did they fall over? Did they show yellowing or browning or other color change? etc.

4-6" seedlings aren't necessarily leggy. If they are that height and spindly, with thin stems that look like they can't really support the plant very well, they are leggy and haven't been getting enough light. If they are 4-6" tall, stocky, bushy, firmly upright, they are fine.

If you give us more info, we can help you pinpoint what has gone wrong, so that you can have better success this time.
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LA47
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I didn't know this until I joined this forum but you said "starting soil". Do you mean "seed starting soil"? If so, after the first set of true leaves, did you fertilize them? I hope some of the more experienced gardeners will give you better advise on this.
I just double checked myself and it is in basic seed starting post. It is tagged and is really worth reading.
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Gardener123
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RG, I meant they die right after transplant.... I have always tried to give them some hardening time at least the final 2 weeks before transplant. They would wilt and die after transplant.... like I said, in late May.... I do not know what the exact soil temp was.

This all said, plant that I bought from other sources grew like crazy! I had a tomato plant get 6 foot tall and put out a whole lot of tomatoes. Most were good at 4' high with decent yields. My beans were good, as were my eggplant.... all using the same soil.

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rainbowgardener
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OK, that makes it more mysterious. Healthy seedlings, well hardened off (2 weeks should be plenty), planted out in late May. I don't know where you are, but most places in this country, late May should be fine; I put tomato seedlings in the ground sometime around mid-April. Then your seedlings proceed to wilt and die in soil that then grows plants from other sources just fine.

You said you are growing these in red solo cups? I don't mean to ask dumb questions, but just to be sure we covered all the bases, you do take them OUT of the solo cups to plant them? Sometimes people try planting the peat pots thinking they will biodegrade and get results like yours because the roots get trapped in there. You are not damaging the roots in transplanting?

Are you doing anything different in how you plant your home-grown seedlings vs. how you plant the store bought ones? Wilt and die could be if the plant was sitting in too much water, the soil didn't drain.

Other than that, all I can say is this time watch carefully and at the first sign of wilting take a photo and post it here with as much detail as you can about what you did and what the conditions are and we will try to help solve your mystery.
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IndyGerdener
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I wonder if it is a transplant procedure problem. Possible root bound problems, or not planting deep enough.

When you transplant these plants do you spray the hole with water before actually placing the plant in the hole? I have found that if I don't put water in the hole first the shock of transplant is WAY worse. After I started soaking the hole and then putting the plant in, and watering again once the plant is planted, I have had very minor shock.

This goes for when I up pot stuff too. I use dixi cups to start and red solo cups as my first up pot once there are a few roots coming out of the drainage holes. I make sure I SOAK the dirt immediately after the transplant. I think it may make the soil easier for the root hairs to grab, and also not dry out the hairs on the main root ball.

Follow the praxxus55712 method of planting from the bottom up. He has a really good video about planting tomato plants.

Good luck, and welcome!

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rainbowgardener wrote: You said you are growing these in red solo cups? I don't mean to ask dumb questions, but just to be sure we covered all the bases, you do take them OUT of the solo cups to plant them? .
:D Of course I did take them out.... :shock:

But that does remind me of a question I had about why people start seeds in those tiny seed pots, then transplant them to a bigger space, and then finally into the garden... I would think that would be rough on the plants.

@ Indy

1. No, I never actually sprayed the whole, but I did wet down the area well after the transplant, as that is what I was taught by my dad, who went to farming school, though he was never a farmer...

2. I will look up that video and hopefully I can find it.

Thank you all for your time and help.

The worst part about all this is regardless of whether grown from seeds or whether store bought, gardening in this home is TERRIBLE as compared to where I used to live, which was about 10 miles away.... Back then, I just planted, weeded, and harvested, with no care at all given to the plants... Here I take a lot of care ( compared to before ) for far worse results.

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hendi_alex
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When I move the plants from one pot to the next size, the plants barely even act as if they have been transplanted, other than a typical rapid jump in size within the next week after transplanting.

These plants were up potted from 2.5 inch pots to 4 inch pots yesterday. They stayed out in the sunshine all day today, and show no signs of slowing down. I'll post another photo in about a week.



Image

Image
Last edited by hendi_alex on Fri Feb 22, 2013 4:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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rainbowgardener
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I agree, my plants don't get set back by the transplanting at all. I start them very crowded in the little cells to conserve space on the heat mats. I start tons of things from seeds, most of which benefit from heat to germinate, and I don't want to run more than two heat mats, which are power hungry. So I start them very crowded. Once they are germinated and have true leaves, I transplant them off the heat mats to one per cell.

Keeping them in the cells for awhile, cuts down on damping off (all that extra soil around a little plant, tends to stay too wet) and conserves space under the lights. When they outgrow the cells they get transplanted to 3" pots. At that point they are sturdy little seedlings, not so vulnerable to damping off and hopefully won't have to stay under the lights too much longer, before going out to harden off.

I currently have 11 trays of seeds and seedlings under my lights, soon to be more...

It does seem like we have narrowed it down. It's not the seed starting because you produce healthy seedlings and it's not the soil, because other things grow in the same soil. So it has to be something about the transition and how you transplant things. I do always "puddle in" transplants, make sure the soil is very moist, before planting them.
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hendi_alex
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The bigger the transplants, the more careful one must be to not damage the roots during transplanting.
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IndyGerdener
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Growing from seed from the bottom up

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqEwTxywe98

Planting grown tomatoes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjQOnKdq_jE

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I watched both of those videos and liked them so much that I subscribed to his channel.... is he also part of this forum?

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Wow, I don't know where to begin. :?
If you do use the seed starting methods exactly as described in the first video, please come back and let us know the results.

As it is, I personally have not had success with just window light -- or more precisely window seedlings have been inferior. Peat pots can cause all kinds of problems when growing seedlings and after planting out, and what happens when compost is baked in the oven was covered already by rainbowgardener a whie back.

All in all, only part that I thought was somewhat usable was partly filling the seedling container with soil mix and adding more soil mix as the tomato seedling grows up, which is a method described by members here before too.

But with this method, the larger containers take up needlessly large amount of seed starting space. Tomato seeds germinate better with bottom heat, and depending on method used to supply heat, there is a limited seed starting area. So this would not be for me. Transplanting tomato seedlings is not difficult.

The bottom of the cup/container method may also create conditions for damping off and the height of the container may keep the light too far from the seedlings, though drink cups with white interior may compensate -- these were the containers used successfully by members who posted about this method if I remember correctly.

Also, after having researched a huge list of tomato varieties and their attributes, I tend to pay closer attention to individual varieties and look for ones that are worth growing.

...I don't know if he s a member of this forum. If he is, I hope he views what I wrote as constructive criticism. :wink:

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rainbowgardener
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Yes. I hadn't looked at this before, since the very old laptop I am currently using doesn't always do video very well. But after reading applestar's comments, I did look at it.

Please read our seed starting basics thread here

I agree with everything apple said... peat pots are usually seedling killers, seeds germinate much better on a heat mat (and sometimes won't germinate at all without it), and it is very difficult to get good seedlings with only window light. AND cooking your compost works, but it stinks up your house something fierce (I know this because I tried it one year, but I never repeated the experiment :) ).
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hendi_alex
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Unseasonably cold here the past couple of days, with highs in the low 40's. But one nice thing about S.C. weather, cold one day followed by very warm the next. My seedlings/transplants will be glad to get back out in the sunshine today, with highs near 70 degrees.
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Gardener123
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I must have missed the part about window light.... I won't be doing that since I have built a 3 shelf system with lights and emergency blankets... I did like the idea of planting leggy tomato plants on an angle. I also do have heating mats.

But see, I didn't just look at those 2 videos. I watched a whole lot o them, and the guy seems to get great results.

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