Lots of trouble with seed starting

AndFreedomForApril 19, 2014

Hello All!

I'm a new gardener and am having a lot of issues starting my vegetable plants from seed. I've planted about 50 little pots so far, and they've all either not sprouted at all, or sprouted to about two inches only to topple over and die. I've tried lots of different things:

1) I started out with homemade toilet paper roll planters, but they developed some kind of mold and often did not sprout. I gave them up thinking they may have had some kind of bacteria/fungus on them and that they were too deep for the seeds to get light.

2) Then I switched over to a home depot-purchased seed starting kit with the little pods you have to hydrate. I got much more success with sprouting but then, one by one they started withering away.

3) I thought maybe this was "dampening off" so I sprinkled some cinnamon on them last night. Bad idea. Today I've watched the wither away before my eyes. There's a pic of sprouts that were doing more or less well yesterday... now sadly on their way out.

A couple of things:

- they're getting great light for about 7 hours a day.
- I have them on a sill that is just over a radiator. It's not scalding but it is nice and warm. I thought this would be good since I've heard that people use heating pads? Perhaps combined with the sun it's *too* warm?
-I've tried to not over water. I haven't given them much more water than when I hydrated the pods.
-I try to aerate for a few minutes every couple of days - is that not enough?

I'm hoping someone can help me here! I have a feeling growing from seed is shot for this year but at least I'll know for next year!

Thanks so much for reading!

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Sounds to me like they're not getting enough light. When seeds sprout and don't get enough light you get long stringy stems they don't do well. Just my two cents.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 2:45PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Not nerly enough light, far too warm once germinated (heat is for germination only, and "aerate for a few minutes every couple of days" - do you mean you left the cover on after they germinated? That is a major problem. The cover is only used until germination and then must be removed.

I suggest you browse over to the Growing from Seed forum here and read all the FAQs there for a good start. Lots of helpful discussions to as many have the same problems you are having.


Here is a link that might be useful: Growing from Seed forum

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 3:59PM
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Yes, I've been keeping the lid on. That must be what it is! Thanks so much!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 5:41PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

"they're getting great light"

What kind of light? Florescent?

Lights should be very close to the plants.

Give them 14 hours of light.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 7:18PM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

Often what we percieve as "really good" light is anything but. Windowsills seem like a great spot for seedlings because to us they are very bright. In reality, it is not very bright at all. Even under "daylight" or similarly labeled flourescent bulbs it is akin to growing seedlings in the deepest darkest shade in your garden but its still better then windowsills. Window light in my experience almost always results in weak, spindly, leggy, unhealthy plants. I cant figure out why this meathod continues to be touted as an effective way to grow seedlings. For less then 30$ you can get started with a light setup (one 2-bulb shop light fixute that is 4' long and a pack of bulbs costs as little as 25$)
Second problem is the warm conditions of the room. Warmth encourages growth. Good right? Not if the plant doesnt have enough light to support and "feed" that extra growth. One again, weak leggy seedlings is usually the result.

The final blow is the dome. The dome is for pre-emergence only and is far from a requirement for that even. I use domes from time to time and as soon as the first sprout is visible, the dome, and the heat mat, are gone. The high heat and humidity inside that system is a haven for dangerous microbes not to mention can easially cook you seedlings.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 11:50AM
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The soil and white outer layer also look dry. Maybe they aren't in a moist or watered enough environment and that's why they look dry or wilted?

As you said, you only watered when the pods were hydrated. The dome should normally keep the moisture and humidity, but since it looks like something didn't keep that level of humidity (including their location near the sill and radiator), then you can water a little more also.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 5:36PM
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centexan254 zone 8 Temple, Tx

I gave up on the peat pods last year. Never had anything that survived. I am sure there was a large amount of user error on my part so I am not going to bash them.

My best results have come from using coir. (The Jiffy brick.) The one that is a hard brick like thing in the store. You take it home. Take it out of the plastic, put into a container. Add warm water it will swell up. Note it will just nearly fill up an 8 quart wash pail when it expands.

I fill the hydrated coir into starting pots, Poke a hole to the needed depth with the sharp end of a pencil. Place the seeds in the hole. Use my finger tip to knock the sides of the hole in loosely. Then into a mini greenhouse in the closet. I then keep an eye on them by checking twice a day till I see something sprout. As soon as I see even one coming up I move it to the area with light. Any that did not sprout will do so as long as you do not let the coir dry out.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 9:05PM
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