sammyyummy
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Exasperating Seedling Progress -

Hi.
Ive taken up garden recently.
I started sowing easy annuals (zinnias, marigolds, cosmos) and despite my best efforts, I quite do not know what has happened.

My seeds germinated quite well simulating green house (place them in sterile cups, good drainage, backyard soil then covered them). After sprouting, I place them in direct sunlight, weaning them gradually (summers here are hot, about above 80s, Zone 11). Some of plants grew, then suddenly tipped over with tapered ends on ground surface which I figured was the damping off.

So with the other seedlings, I made sure they were in well aerated areas, watered evenly, waiting for the surface to dry out before watering again 1-2 days later. Also used (chamomile tea, and cinnamon powder on surface).

But the results have been...exasperating. Some have become spindly (despite abundance of direct sun), some have brown leaves or become discolored to yellow-white or mottled white) and some looked mummified (wilted brown dry).

I examined them. No aphids etc. Though in a few, I saw fine gossamers . Probably spider mites so I became vigilant about these - washing the leaves gently, separating the afflicted ones from the non afflicted. Etc.

Regardless, they and the non-affected seem to be turning brown and not thriving well.

I used balanced fertilizers 10-10-10 on them once a week, twice already in some; no fertilizers for others.

The results again are the same: stunted growth, spindly like vines, brown leaves or discolored ones, mottled white in others; while some have literally wilted brown dry.

See pics below. Please shed some light. I do not know what went wrong, what i did wrong and how i could salvage or improve next time.

Thanks


[img]https://i1148.photobucket.com/albums/o568/sammyyummy1/02062012179.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i1148.photobucket.com/albums/o568/sammyyummy1/02062012178.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i1148.photobucket.com/albums/o568/sammyyummy1/02062012177.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i1148.photobucket.com/albums/o568/sammyyummy1/02062012176.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i1148.photobucket.com/albums/o568/sammyyummy1/02062012175.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i1148.photobucket.com/albums/o568/sammyyummy1/02062012170.jpg[/img]
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rainbowgardener
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You are right:

ome of plants grew, then suddenly tipped over with tapered ends on ground surface which I figured was the damping off.

sounds like damping off.

Spindly and leggy would often be not enough light (especially for indoor started) but you said plenty of sun. And if anything they are over fertilized.

I'm thinking what went wrong is where you said you planted them in "backyard soil." Backyard soil does not work in containers. In your pictures the soil looks hard compacted, and dry. What you want for seedlings/ containers is potting soil, very light, loose, fluffy, and well draining. And we don't know how rich your soil is -- just pouring on fertilizer does not make up for bad soil, because good soil is about a lot more than NPK.

At this point I would give up on these and start over with potting soil. In zone 11 you still have plenty of time to do zinnias, cosmos, marigolds and other things.
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sammyyummy
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Hi. Thank you for all your inputs.
I followed your advice and made do of a sterile soiless starter mix.
The results however are confusing.

In the 2nd pic, the stem seems pinched on ground level; the 1st pic shows the top most portion of the stem (leaves as well) 'pinched off'

[img]https://i1148.photobucket.com/albums/o568/sammyyummy1/10062012190.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i1148.photobucket.com/albums/o568/sammyyummy1/10062012187.jpg[/img]

What happened and what am I doing wrong?

The seedlings had sufficient sunshine (direct) in a well aerated areas. Watered as needed.
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rainbowgardener
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Especially the bottom picture of those two is a classic picture of damping off.

Why your seedling would be damping off, if they are in air and sunshine and not over watered is a different question, definitely not usual. Your containers do have plenty of drainage holes, right? (I'm not condescending, I killed a bunch of plants myself until it finally occurred to me that the large container I had purchased had no drainage holes.)

I find I have more luck watering seedlings from the bottom. Put all the containers in a tray, and pour a little water in the tray, only enough that it just touches the bottom of the containers, so the soil can wick up what it needs.
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luvthesnapper
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Still looks like damping. If I were new to starting seeds, I would suck it up, and buy some Pro-Mix BX. Make sure they are getting sunlight, and that air is circulating. If you can't open windows, place a fan nearby, to keep the air moving. Dust the surface of the soil with cinnamon, after your seedlings are up, especially around the base. Make sure those pots have plenty of holes.

sammyyummy
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Thanks. I'm quite confused with my soilless starter mix results. After germination, the seedlings had direct sunlight, they were placed in a well aerated area that I often had to check if they have dried out. I allow soil to dry out before watering. Watered once a day. Yet the results are as above. I experimented on one using a diluted h2o2 -water mix but again, they pinched out and tipped over. What am I doing wrong still?
For those who asked, the backyard soil I used prior to the soilless mix with sad results (see first post above) is heavy clay. I've noticed that germination and growing seems faster and more robust but again, the seedlings dampened off. I've realized that after watering they seem to compact tightly like a brick. Could my seedlings (first post pics) tipped over, discolored due to this compactness? Since using soilless mix did nothing for me, can I amend the clay with gravel?

Argh my supposed stress buster gardening has made me hapless. Please help!

Please please help.
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rainbowgardener
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Even though you still got damping off with the potting soil, I would not go back to the clay and gravel wouldn't help anything.

Damping off is a fungal disease. Did you use the same pots when you switched to potting soil? Did you clean them in between (with bleach or other disinfectant)? If not, it is possible you just transferred the fungus from the old soil to the new.

I have never had any trouble with damping off with seedlings outdoors, but I do have to be careful about it with all the seedlings I start indoors under lights. What has worked for me is to put cinnamon and chamomile in the water I water with. Basically make a mild tea/ infusion, let them steep for awhile. Then I use that infusion for bottom watering. Cinnamon and chamomile are both anti-fungals and help control the damping off fungus.

On the other hand, since it is well into June already, you could avoid the stress by going to a good nursery and buying some well started plants for transplanting. Starting from seed is not too hard ONCE you have some knowledge, experience, basic equipment, etc, but it is not always easy for the beginner. That's why the nurseries are full of plants for transplanting.
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cynthia_h
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I notice that there is no information about your climate or location provided.

I say this because I *have* had outdoor seedlings succumb to damping off. The S.F. Bay Area is a rabbit warren of different climate zones, but where I live is usually damp and overcast from the "marine layer" for several hours a day, several months of the year. Ambient humidity killed my seedlings.

Without knowing more, it's difficult to say why the damping-off fungus is still attacking your seedlings, but be sure, as stated above, to sanitize the pots/containers between batches of planting mix.

"Aerated" conditions--what are they, specifically? Does the air move sufficiently to make the seedlings work against air currents? This is how the seedlings build up thickness and strength. The first set of photos showed seedlings starved for light. Indoor light, even in a sunny window, isn't anywhere near as much as true sunlight. Depending on where you live, it may still be possible to grow from seed this year, but if your pocketbook can tolerate it, purchasing starts from an independent nursery (where you can ask questions and get reliable and informed answers) may be the way to go.

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applestar
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Looking at the pictures, I think they still need more light than what they are getting. I tend to prefer not to use soil less mixes but I don't want to confuse the issue. What you may think "sufficient sunshine" may in fact not be so.

Don't be discouraged though you made a good first try and are now seeking help from experienced gardeners and that's important. Gardening really is a lot of trial and error, and failed experiments can be frustrating, but successes are that much sweeter. :D

I don't know if I would classify zinnias, marigolds and cosmos as easy annuals for starting from seed in containers. Hmm... :?

sammyyummy
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Hi thank you
I also forgot to mention.

I belong to zone 11, generally nice sunshine throughout the day, temp especially during the summer is around 80s, upper 80s.

Recently, some of my seeds started sprouting and noticed white fuzz around the stem where they emerged. I wonder if this is a cause for alarm (warning sign of damping off etc)

[img]https://i1148.photobucket.com/albums/o568/sammyyummy1/12062012194.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i1148.photobucket.com/albums/o568/sammyyummy1/12062012193.jpg[/img][/img]
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rainbowgardener
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The white fuzzy would be some kind of mold, another sign that for some reason your soil is staying too wet. I don't know what you are doing, haven't even been able to get a clear understanding if these are indoors or outdoors, but you have too much moisture/ humidity going on.
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fishman1113
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The last photo is fungus or mold. Definitely to damp.

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SPierce
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i lost a few seedlings to dampening off this year, too! been a strange season. when you're waiting for them to first emerge and sprout, do you have them covered in any way, shape or form? if you do- i'd try to go without. i put a bag over my tomato pots after i planted the seeds, and after i took them out about half ended up dampening off. the other half i saved by burying their stems in dirt so the upper part of their stems grew roots too..

snorkel4u
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SPierce wrote:i lost a few seedlings to dampening off this year, too! been a strange season. when you're waiting for them to first emerge and sprout, do you have them covered in any way, shape or form? if you do- i'd try to go without. i put a bag over my tomato pots after i planted the seeds, and after i took them out about half ended up dampening off. the other half i saved by burying their stems in dirt so the upper part of their stems grew roots too..
Hi,
This is exactly what happened to my Zinnia and Balsam seeds. I planted my Zinnia and Balsam, and I saw 3 of 20 seeds germinated in 3 days time. I was so excited, little did I know, I should have allowed them to breath. But in anticipation of retaining moisture for the other seeds I didn't life the plastic up. Of course the 3 of them, turned brown and wet (excessive moisture/ water I guess) and died out. Now the entire tray has some or the other seeds sown in it. Lets see what comes out of it. The tray is still covered with the sheet. This time I have built some kind of walls on the tray edges so that there's some space above than the surface of the tray for the seedlings to grow. That way then won't hit the plastic sheet covering and start rotting.

Just one question - How important is to keep the seeding tray's covered? Is it a thumb rule for all kinds of seeds?

SPierce - The trick you mentioned to developed roots from the stem, does it work only for tomatoes or for other flowering plants as well?

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