Seedling problems

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Mike5150

New Member
Hi there!
I was hoping that someone could help me out. I have a couple flats of heirloom tomatoes, cukes, and peppers that are not doing too well. Most of my tomato plants are turning yellow and I'm pretty sure they are dead or dying. I'm wondering if I'm doing something wrong, or if the pots I have them in are too small. Here's my setup, and maybe someone can figure out what's going on.
I have a small counter in my laundry room enclosed by 3 walls, and I build a plastic wrapped frame with a door). I use a space heater to keep the temperature at about 78 degrees.
The plants are all in 4" peat pots which are set in those black plastic flats that are about 12" x 24".
I tapped into the water line of my slop sink and set up a sprinkler timer and some drip irrigation to add water to the flats once a day so the peat pots are basically watered from the bottom. I have it set so the flats are filled about three quarters of an inch high with water in the morning, and by bed time the water in nearly gone.
For lighting I have 3 48" fluorescent light fixtures (6 bulbs) hanging from a wood frame attached to a pulley and I try to keep them about 2" above the leaves although the plants obviously grow at different rates and it's easier said then done. For the first 3-4 weeks the lights were on for 24 hours. Since the plants are growing so quickly I put the lights on a timer so they are on for about 18 hours a day and I think I'll be dropping it to 12 soon.
For soil I used your run of the mill seed starter mix, I think it was either Jiffy or Miracle-grow with the fertilizer pre-mixed in, but I recently started adding Miracle-gro tomato food once a week because I read that they may not be getting enough nutrients from the starter soil.
If anyone can help me save my plants I'd really appreciate it, or at least tell me what I'm doing wrong so I don't make the mistake again.

Thanks alot!
Mike
 

Jade

New Member
I would guess too much water Mike. Let them dry out in between waterings. Too much water will cause that Chlorosis (yellowing) that you are seeing in the leaves. Plants are better off too dry than too wet.
 

Mike5150

New Member
Oh really? Thanks a lot, I was thinking that was the last of my problems :) Do you think they will recover or should I start a few more seeds while there is a little time left? I think a few are dead, but the others look like they have a little life left in em.
 

Jade

New Member
It is hard to say without actually seeing your setup what is going on, but it is better to water first thing in the morning and then let they dry out the rest of the day. I would try to keep your temp. closer to 70 degrees. 78 is really warm unless you are germinating, and then it is still warm. If they are looking dead and the soil feels damp, don't water them at all. If the soil feels dry then water.
You could start some more seeds, I don't know where you are located, so I wouldn't want to guess your last frost date.
 

Jade

New Member
By the looks of it they are toooooooooooo wet. Just my opinion, but too much water leaches the nutrients right out of the soil. Let them dry out and see what happens.
 

Jade

New Member
I am in south central PA and our last frost date is about April 30, so I am guessing yours is mid May. Climates are changing, when I lived here ten years ago our last frost date was May 15. Let me do a little google and see what they are saying your last frost date is. Hmm, now how can it be that our last frost date is 5/5 and yours is 4/25? That makes no sense. I usually go by the full moon, but I am no expert. Our full moon is the 28th.
 

sunflower3

Member
I have to agree to much water it washes away the nutrients from the soil. you can try and use a little miracle grow to give them back what they have lost, but follow the directions on the container, I use it once in a while on mine just to be sure they are getting what they need. Compost would do the samething if you have some just place it on top of the dirt in the pots, but let them plants dry out to much water will kill them.
 

Blueaussi

New Member
Wait, wait! Don't add fertilizer! You'll stress you already stressed plants. They need to dry out some and get over that stress. You're fertilizing too much already if you're fertilizing once a week. And toss out the Miracle Grow and get something with less nitrogen, your plants already look leggy.
 

RonsGarden

Super Moderator
Staff member
Welcome to our forum Mike!
They are geting way to much water and not enough nitrogen.
Let the soil surface dry before watering! Once you get the watering under control you can start using fertilizer (at half strength) every other week!
 
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Randy

Super Moderator
Staff member
I had some of those flats that held water too and even though the soil mix looked dry on top, there was standing water (more or less) in the soil under the surface. I punched holes in those flats so they will drain and they work much better. I use the plastic 4" pots myself but the peat pots should also work just fine. My flats will drain excess water onto the floor of the greenhouse, but that doesn't hurt anything. If I were inside the house I would be inclined to use a second tray under a flat to catch the excess water.
 

Crabbergirl

Super Moderator
Staff member
Hi Mike,
I am a little late here but welcome!
I think we all agree on the water. This can also cause your plants to suffer from viruses and molds, yes even inside. Also , does your heater have a fan. Movement of air in controled enviornmet is essentail to growth. Have you ever been in a commercial green house? There is always an air circulation system ;)
 

Mike5150

New Member
Wow! Sounds like I'm messing everything up :) I'll definitely chalk this year up to a learning experience, and thank you guys so much for helping me out!

So right now here's where I stand. I'm working on drying out my plants, I think they should be fairly dry by morning time, but I'll wait until early evening when i get home from work to water them again, and I'll use less water then I usually do. I will also stop using fertilizer (only did it twice so far, so hopefully not too much harm done) and I think it's early enough to just start over with my tomatoes which are in the worst shape. I'll toss the dead and nearly dead ones, and start with fresh seeds and soil. I won't use any fertilizer because the seed soil already contains some (Do you have a suggestion on a good veggie fertilizer to use instead of Miracle-gro once I transfer them outside?) My cukes are doing really well, so I'll leave them be, and my peppers always seem to grow pretty slowly compared to the Tomatoes and cukes which is still the case this year. Maybe the lack of water will help them out also. Is there anything else I should do to get back on track?

Thanks again everyone! You're giving me new hope...I was getting pretty frustrated up until this point.
 
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Mike5150

New Member
My heater does have a fan, and I have that pointed towards a nearby wall so the air can bounce off it before circulating...I originally thought that the heater blowing directly on the plants was my problem.
 

Blueaussi

New Member
Peppers definitely grow slower that tomatoes.

I would look at the NPK ratio on fertilizers in the stores and get one that had a lower N number than the other two. I prefer organic fertilizers, and love Espoma's Tomato Tone and some of Peaceful Valley fertilizers. Peppers are more sensitive to high nitrogen than tomatoes, and you have to be careful or you'll get lots and lots of vegetative growth instead of fruit production.
 

Mike5150

New Member
you have to be careful or you'll get lots and lots of vegetative growth instead of fruit production.
lol, that sounds familiar! Last year I built 10" tall raised garden beds for my garden, and filled them with an equal mix of sand, topsoil, and compost. This year I was planning on getting a small load of compost to mix in and top off the garden beds with. Should I skip the compost for the area that the peppers grow? I had nice healthy plants all summer, but hardly any peppers, I wound up getting different seeds because I thought it was just the way the plants were.
 

Blueaussi

New Member
It depends of what the compost is made. If it's a manure compost, I'd cut it back to about a quarter this late in the season. I usually till in a bunch of horse manure in January so it has time to work and break down a bit before I put in my plants.

You might work a little seaweed fertilizer in to balance the nitrogen, too.
 


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