Rairdog
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How to Prevent Seed Shell From Staying on Sprouts?

I seem to be plagued this year with seed shell staying on the sprout and choking off plant. Any ideas how to prevent this.

tomc
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Re: How to Prevent Seed Shell From Staying on Sprouts?

A cup of warm water and a Q-tip will massage the coat off if you are gentle.
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applestar
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Re: How to Prevent Seed Shell From Staying on Sprouts?

Are they tomatoes and pepper seeds?
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rainbowgardener
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Re: How to Prevent Seed Shell From Staying on Sprouts?

A lot of times you just have to be patient. Even though it looks like it is being choked, the leaf can keep growing. Once the leaf is bigger and you have a seed coat still stuck on, you can remove it with a lot less chance of destroying the plant.
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applestar
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Re: How to Prevent Seed Shell From Staying on Sprouts?

In discussing tomatoes seedlings -- I like the term "helmet heads" because it's so much fun -- when they emerge trapped within the seed coat/husk/shell (I'll call it husk), I have heard several theories:

1) seeds were not sown deeply enough or were not tamped down for good soil contact in loose growing medium, because normally the seed husk is sloughed off as the sprout pulls the seed leaves out of the ground, (don't remember where I heard this -- I think here)
2) if you apply a dropper of diluted high N fertilizer, it will give the seedling the boost to grow the seed leaves out of the husk (Michael Johnson from UK)
3) putting a drop of spit on the helmet head will help to soften the husk (someone here said that)
4) I've also tried water, dilute AACT, UCG (used coffee grounds) water, and soaked alfalfa pellet water

In addition to those that grow full sized seed leaves while "holding hands" -- seed leaves connected by the seed husk -- but otherwise healthy seedlings, I currently have/had a few that remained helmet heads without the seed leaves ever emerging, some that damped off at the bottom of the husk, some that the husks eventually softened and came off but the seed leaves never grew more than about 1/4", some that have grown very slowly beyond the stubby seed leaves to grow true leaf/leaves.

Once the true leaf/leaves grow, some will grow on and are fine, others continue to grow but slowly.

But rarely some then develop deformed single true leaf without further growing point. I have also had abnormal seedlings in the past that grow what appears to be huge, thickened seed leaves, maybe a single deformed true leaf -- I have at least one that looks like this now. I have heard that sometimes this kind of deformed seedlings can stay that way for months without ever growing anything more.

Aside from the last mentioned deformed seedlings with fatal flaw, I think the key is for the seedlings to germinate and sprout with vigor.

IMHO I think what can contribute to helmet heads are:

1) older or imperfectly stored, less vigorous seeds
2) cooler soil temps
3) letting the growing medium become too dry or too wet
4) too low humidity when the seed husk is lifted from the soil mix, drying it out before the seed leaves can swell to open it
5) complete lack of nutrients, including neighbor seedlings robbing the slower emerging seedlings in community sowing
6) --this one is a working theory-- severe fungus gnat infestation resulted in gnat maggots eating away the root hairs of newly germinated seeds before it could sprout

I haven't tried this with consistency myself, but some people have reported success from soaking the seeds before sowing when sowing older seeds with lower germination rates. Up to 1/2 hour in dilute solution of chlorine bleach, non-chlorine bleach, or a chemical that I can't remember (acronym of TSP or something) have been mentioned. These have to be rinsed off thoroughly before sowing. Also (weak?) black tea and full strength chamomile tea....
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Rairdog
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Re: How to Prevent Seed Shell From Staying on Sprouts?

Thanks for the replies. It just seemed really bad this year. Peppers seem worse and stunted but it has been cooler than normal. Toms and fennel had folded hands but it didn't seem to bother them to much and most came out of it. I also had kale and broccoli that just stopped and never continued. Sage busted through with no problem.

I did a lot of different soils this year and some straight peat expanding tabs. The peppers seemed to be worse in the tabs but toms did fine. I used roughly 70% peat and 30% potting. I wanted to get a better draining mix to avoid algae and dampening off. It also is easier to wash off when transplanting to gravel growbeds in aquaponic system. I also used some old potting soil with perlite and those seems to damp off the most.

My well water PH is 8.4 plus so this year I used AP water which is around 7.6. I used Maxicop seaweed extract 1 oz per gallon to water seeds. It is 0-0-1 with trace elements that are supposed to be great for seed starting. All seeds were started in individual trays.

The only thing that make sense is the way peat doesn't compact as well and loosens when dry on top. I also have a bad habit of planting shallow and not compacting well. I did pre-soak some toms and peppers for a couple days but it didn't seem to make a difference overall.

tomc
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Re: How to Prevent Seed Shell From Staying on Sprouts?

I gently rub on my helmet heads with a wet Q-tips, then let them rest for a bit and return and do it again.

Often the seed coat will soften and slip off.

This is not rocket surgery...
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Fourspot
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Re: How to Prevent Seed Shell From Staying on Sprouts?

Previously I used a tweezer and tiny scissors to perform surgery on the helmet head. More often than not, I would kill the plant. Even when it was successful, the seedling grows so slowly and will be way behind the rest of the seedlings. It's hard to do, but just toss it. I sow twice as many seeds as I need. Get ~75% germination. Keep the biggest ones, and give away or compost the rest. Save yourself the aggravation.

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Re: How to Prevent Seed Shell From Staying on Sprouts?

If the seedlings couldn't get through their own caps, they probably were not meant to be.
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