JLudin
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Tomato plants dying after potting up

I just can't seem to get this down. I've had some major trouble just starting seeds. I have that down very well now, no problems there. Now my problem is keeping the plants alive after I transplant them to bigger pots.

I have 5 tomatoes and 1 hungarian wax pepper that I potted up after they had 3-4 true leaves. A week and a half after I did, they are all drooping and not a single plant grew any taller. I used miracle grow moisture control potting soil in 4" plastic pots. They were growing vigorously in the starter tray, but they are all dying now. I have a shop light about 3" above them, leaving it on for about 16-18 hours a day. This is the SECOND time now that this has happened. The first time I figured I just transplanted too early. I potted up as soon as their first true leaves appeared. I let the surface of the soil dry out before watering again.

So...what the heck am I doing wrong? I'm about ready to give up on this whole thing and put the axe on the garden/seed starting for the year and buy plants. Like I said, they start off fantastic in the starter tray, getting their first true leaves within 2 weeks. I'm afraid to transplant ANYTHING now.

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Kisal
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What procedure/steps do you follow when you transplant?
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JLudin
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Kisal wrote:What procedure/steps do you follow when you transplant?
I had the tomatoes and the pepper plant all get their 4th true leaves around the same time. I then put the potting soil in the container, SLIGHTLY wetted the soil so I could make a small hole in the center to drop the plant in, gently scooped out the plants with a spoon, gently pulled apart by their seed leaves (which easily came apart), then planted in 3" pots up to the bottom of their leaves. I then watered and put under plant lights about 3".

JLudin
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Another thing I should mention is I had them in bigger pots for a little over a week. I just added Miracle Gro fertilizer into a spray bottle and fertilized for the first time. I lightly misted the soil and plants. Could this have an effect? Are they shocked or did I just kill them? Is it too early to fertilize? My biggest plant had about 6 true leaves and was about 4" tall.

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applestar
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It takes about a week for the up potted plants to re-establish their roots then they takenoff. I would water from below to be sure they have plenty of moisture where it counts, but be careful about letting the surface "dry" -- you don't want it to get too dry, especially with a peat heavy mix brcaue then the dry peat will start sucking water away from the delicate root hairs. the potting mix should not shrink and pull away from the sides of the container.

The MG you gave -- I hope it was diluted to something like 1/4 of the recommended rate. If you used potting soil for the up pot mixture, it may already have fertilizer mixed in.

I start watering from above after the soil settles and the surface can take the water being poured in.

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Kisal
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They're probably okay. Plants are often tougher than we think they are. :)

My guess is that they might be a little shocked. The fertilizer might have made things a little worse, but I doubt you've killed them. Fertilizer for seedlings should be very weak, about 1/4 the strength recommended on the label.

You could very lightly mist them with plain water now and then, to increase the humidity. Don't make the soil too wet, though. If they're looking wilted, it's an indication that their roots aren't absorbing water from the soil. The delicate little roots will rot if the soil is too wet.
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Thanks for the tips! The amount of fertilizer could definitely be the problem. I probably actually had a little bit MORE than the recommended dosage. I just dumped out 3/4 of the spray bottle and added plain tap water to dilute. I just checked in on the tomato and pepper plants too, and all of the true leaves are definitely shriveling up. I've seen the same thing happen with the first set of up-potted plants. I strongly believe they are not going to make it.

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GardenRN
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Don't give up! It sounds like there is just one thing that is making a bit tough on your plants. If you used new soil when you potted up I'm sure they don't even need fertilizer. It sounds like you're doing a good job overall and following the general rules better than most of us that preach them. :wink: Keep trying and don't be discouraged if they droop a bit that first week after transplanting. They do have to adjust. I think if you just take out that fertilizing part, at least until they are well established after being potted up, and dilute, dilute, dilute, you should be just fine. Best of luck!!
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JLudin
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Haha, well thanks for the vote of confidence! This just worries me since I AM following all the rules of what I am supposed to do (except for the fertilizing part) and I'm still failing. I did these exact same steps the first time around and still had my tomatoes completely die off on me. Now what worries me is transplanting them into the ground. I know practice makes perfect, but I'd rather still succeed than to learn from my mistakes lol!

What worries me is that they have been potted in the bigger pots for over a week now (about 9 days total). When they were still in their original seed tray cells, they were exploding. I'd come home for a stretch there and they would seem to almost have a new true leaf every day and growing another 1/4 inch. After transplanting, they completely stopped growing (which I know is to be expected due to shock), and start to die off. One of them has their seed leaves completely brown and dead now and its true leaves are completely shriveled up. Even the stem is thin and leggy now when it used to be nice and stout. Guess it's also worth mentioning that I have a fan on them 24 hours a day on setting "2" to strengthen the stems and also to wisk moisture away to avoid damping off disease.

It's nice to have a forum like this where I can come to and know I'll get a straight and honest answer. Thanks everyone!

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Kisal
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Perhaps you could wait a little longer before moving them to larger containers. I like to make the determination of when it's time to transplant by checking how well developed the root system is. If the roots don't fill the cell, then I wait. I realize other members like to do multiple transplants, ostensibly to increase the size of the final root system, but if doing that is killing your plants, maybe it might be good to slow down a bit and give the plants a little more time to mature before moving them. Just a thought. [img]https://bestsmileys.com/clueless/4.gif[/img]
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JLudin
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Kisal wrote:Perhaps you could wait a little longer before moving them to larger containers. I like to make the determination of when it's time to transplant by checking how well developed the root system is. If the roots don't fill the cell, then I wait. I realize other members like to do multiple transplants, ostensibly to increase the size of the final root system, but if doing that is killing your plants, maybe it might be good to slow down a bit and give the plants a little more time to mature before moving them. Just a thought. [img]https://bestsmileys.com/clueless/4.gif[/img]
Kisal, thanks for the advice! I am going to do this with the next transplants. The root system definitely did not fill the cell, but it was relatively lengthy. The biggest plant was starting to branch out quite a bit though. This time I will wait a while, perhaps till they reach 8"-10" height. I just hope the stems won't be too weak if I let them do so.

Tomatoes are not the only plants I'm worried about though. As I mentioned, a Hungarian wax pepper also died off and a few jalapenos the first go around also died off.

Practice definitely makes perfect, but it's definitely making me go gray!!!

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Tell us what kind of potting soil you used.

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Kisal
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:lol: Well, I'm already gray, so definitely BT, DT. Certainly, I've lost my share of plants through the years. ;)

I find that my seedlings have a much better survival rate if there is actually a little root ball when I remove them from the cell. In other words, there should be enough roots to hold onto some of the soil, during the transfer to the new container. It lessens the shock to the plant. If there are just a few long threads of roots, survival is iffy.

The only time I transplant seedlings with such immature roots these days is when I've sown the seed in a flat, rather than in individual pots or cells. (I do that sometimes when I get lazy, even though I know I'll likely lose many of the plants. :roll: ) When the seedlings are all just kind of willy-nilly in a flat, you have to get them moved into individual containers before their root systems become snarled into one big matted mess.
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DoubleDogFarm
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Straight answer. I believe you fried them with the spray bottle. Much to young and tender at the seedling stage for foliar feeding.


Eric

JLudin
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applestar wrote:Tell us what kind of potting soil you used.
I had mentioned earlier that I used the Miracle Gro moisture control mix. It was the BIG bag......not that makes any difference lol.

Dang the fertilizer. Everything is pointing toward that. I was expecting the plants to go through the shock with the transplant, and after 9 days of no change, I just figured a little shot of fertilizer would get them rearing again. Whoops!

Well hey, at least I believe I narrowed down the problem. Still doesn't explain why they failed the first time I transplanted, but I believe I swapped them too early then.

Not giving up. I'm definitely learning from my mistakes. I will not use any more fertilizer until they have reached near maturity.

Thanks again everyone! All the tips and advice are greatly appreciated!

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applestar
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Yep. MG brand soil in any formulation will contain fertilizer already.

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alaskagold
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I would just stop using MG all together.

The "moisture control" has killed a few of my house plants and has this weird white crap (the only word I can think of) fuzzy stuff, that is growing on the top. I finally said no more and went and got some ProChoice and will never use MG again, on any plants.

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I finally said no more and went and got some ProChoice and will never use MG again, on any plants.
Raise you right hand and repeat after me, "I ______ have learn a valuable lesson and will never use MG :twisted: again." :wink: :D


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I accidentally got the MG Moisture Control for one of my bags this year. I do not like it. It is even more peat-heavy than the regular MG potting soil. Means it holds too much water, stays too wet and then finally drys out and sucks water away from the roots and is difficult to re-wet. Nasty stuff to try to work with.
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It is even more peat-heavy than the regular MG potting soil. Means it holds too much water, stays too wet and then finally drys out and sucks water away from the roots and is difficult to re-wet. Nasty stuff to try to work with.
Are you trying to say that peat is the moisture control? I believe a wetting agent is in the mix. Surfactants.

This is another one of those topics, like soap / detergent that most likely will never be agreed upon.

Eric

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applestar
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I don't buy MG stuff either, but I think the moisture control contains those polymers that swell up with water.

If I'm not mistaken, it's the same stuff that are in disposable diapers and menstrual napkins. A while ago, the disposable diapers was found to cause breathing problems when they were ripped apart either accidentally or when rumbunxious toddlers got hold of them. So I wonder if it's any less harmful loose in the potting mix.

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:shock:

JLudin
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Just now getting back here, was tied up all day. Very interesting stuff on the MG mix. Good to know! So what would one recommend in place of the moisture control mix? This really sucks because I bought the BIG bag and would hate to see money go down the proverbial drain.

Also thought I'd update on the whole fertilizing ordeal. You guys were definitely right as I am now seeing white fertilizer burns on the true leaves. They are now officially down for the count :-(. All of the plants are now completely brown and keeled over. I don't think there is any recovery happening here. Very helpful to learn all of this information though considering I'm as new as they get to this stuff. The term practice makes perfect has never been as true as this process!

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I wonder if you could mix the MG with better mixes for repotting or something?

Don't feel bad. I lost 60% of my starts this year because they got too dry in a hoop house. They were soaked well on a Sunday but on Wed when i went to check on them, everything was toast and the soil was bone dry.

The wife wants me to move all of the starts out of the dining room (best south facing window) and into the hoop house as soon as possible.

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Comments like the one above make me slightly happy about the hubby not being home except on the weekends :lol: He can't complain about plant overload in the house when he's out in the truck and can't see it hehe.

To the OP, I never fertilize my seedlings. When I up pot I add worm castings to the mix if I have them, if I don't they're on their own until they hit the garden which is loaded with cow poo and compost. For one thing, I don't think they really need it and as you've discovered it can do more harm than good.
Live and learn though! Everyone has killed a few seedlings in their time trust me!
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