Leaves on starts turning brown, some yellow

Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)April 9, 2013

This is my second go at starting seeds. Last year was a failure. I'm hoping to make it through this year.

I have T5 lights, first had them about 3" above the tallest leaves. Then I noticed some browning and drying out of leaves and moved the lights to about 6" from the tallest leaves.

I see yellow leaves, which usually indicates over watering (as read on this site), however, I'm assuming the drying out/dying of the leaves is a result of too little water or too much heat.

Any suggestions? I have fertilized them once with a diluted Aged Old Grow liquid. What kind of fertilizer do you recommend, I know liquid, but what kind if I want organic. I have only found Aged Old Grow in the stores for a liquid base.

Green-mold/bacteria. I read that the green stuff growing on the soil is not harmful to the plants as long as it doesn't take over. I do wait until the top soil dries out before watering, however, once I might have waited too long and the soil was bone dry. Could it be that they are slowly dying from that one instance?

Oh, seed starting mix was Fox Farm. I'm reading on this site that people add compost when transplanting. Which is better, compost or liquid fertilizer?

Thanks so much!

(I guess I can only add one photo?)

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Your lights are too high. They should be an inch or less above the plants. They yellowing is because the soil is too wet. The mixture that you are using must hold on to too much water or else you are watering too often.

Try letting them really dry out. When they are just dry on top there may be lots of moisture below. Stick your finger into the soil near the edge and see if you can feel moisture before you water. Don't worry about your plants drying out. A plant will recover faster from a wilt from lack of water than they will ever do from too much water.

It is natural for plants to dry between watering. Look at the plants outside. They get water when it rains and none between rains and yet they survive. It also makes better roots because they grow in search of water.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 6:24AM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

Thanks dowlinggram. Actually, you can see in the picture that the smaller seedlings dried up. Today, they are mostly dead. I had just watered in this picture. I generally bottom water every 2 days and dump out the excess after 30 mins. This mix always looks wet, but it does dry out.

The plants that are yellow are in the center of the lights. The other plants' leaves are browning up. It's hard to know if my lights were the cause, or if I let the plants dry out too much.

Can anyone tell me what the next steps should be? I don't want to lose my starts. Since I only have one light, I feel I have to snip away plants instead of transplanting out. I'm hoping to keep these starts in their current container for another 2 weeks or so.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 2:58PM
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Every 2 days is too often to water containers of that size. When you bottom water your soil gets saturated and it takes at least a week to dry out in a container that size in a room temperature room with no sun to dry it out. If those 2 small ones died take the soil out and feel it. My guess is it will be sopping wet. Besides you do not go by the number of days for watering you go by the feel of the soil. I put my finger in the soil or wait until the soil pulls away from the sides a little or the weight of the containers. When it's wet it is heavier than when it's dry. If you have spare pots that size put some soil in it then bottom water it and feel how much heavier it is

What you should do is let the soil really dry out now to the point that it is as light as that pot with no moisture and then water and repeat this until they start to green up. Then you can water them a bit more but only a bit

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 5:29PM
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gjcore(zone 5 Aurora Co)

If you have a fan it'll help dry out your containers. I have one T5 Sun Blaze grow lamp. It certainly puts out more heat than T8s or T12s but as long as they don't touch the lights I haven't had a problem with being too hot. I try to get the bulbs somewhere from 1 to 3 inches off.

Unless you're planning on pricking out some of those plants it might be the time to choose the healthiest one and cut the lesser ones down.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 8:27PM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

While your watering could be an issue they also could be nitrogen deficient. Especially because it isn't with all your seedlings. Feed them a full dose of fertilizer then wait for them to dry out. I'd bet you see amazing results. Plus when watering with fertilizer try not to get any on the leaves.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 10:28PM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I have yellow leaves, but I test the soil to see how dry it is before watering.

I have waited too long and have found all the plants wilted in the morning on 2 occasions.

It's been a month and they are not doing well- not growing, probably dying, etc. I have given them fertilizer twice, however, since I'm bottom watering, not all of it is absorbed and I dump it out with the rest of the water. Do I need to double the fertilizer amount?

I think it's too dry here to have DOD. Could it be my seed starting soil, Fox Farm? I used the same one last year.

How can I save them? It's very frustrating.

My pepper plants are now wilting. Leaves falling off. But, i feel I have a choice of wet soil or dry soil. I've even killed my lettuce that never bounced back after they got too dry.

At a loss.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 6:15PM
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Hi there. I'm not an expert as I've only been starting tomatoes from seed for 3 years.

My best guess is your plants are too crowded and rootbound. Try giving them their own space in larger containers, water less, and see if it helps. You could possibly be adding too much fertilizer also.

Best of luck and report back with your results :)

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 1:57AM
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runswithscissors(MT 4/5)

Gosh Lesuko, I feel for you, as I had this exact same problem this spring already. I'm not sure if we have the same reasons, but we sure have/had the same results...unfortunately I lost every plant that showed the signs you have. You may have to start over from scratch like I did. For me - problem number 1 was too much heat. I learned on these forums that after the seedling sprouts, they like to grow in a much cooler environment. Also, add air. A little desk fan running 24/7 in the corner made a big difference for me too. The soil was also a problem for me but I can only guess as to the cause based on what happened AFTER I quit using it. I thought I had primo stuff...(I made it myself afterall!)...but as I was taught here, it was just not porous enough, held water, and sort of compacted inside the cell-pots. Also, it had no nutrients in it, which some say is okay for the first few weeks of plant life, but in my mix the combo spelled death. (But it's soooo black, and it has the perfect ingredients, and it looks so ideal, I lamented.) Well, maybe so, but the proof was in the pudding, and I had a high mortality rate. Same as you, I also had a fungus growing on the soil. So, I switched to a pre-mix formulation that my local feed store carries. 2nd batch faired much better. Now the water....I too, felt that DOD didn't seem right since I have hardly any humidity, and I'm still not convinced that it was a factor or that I was overwatering. Until, I dumped the dirt out in my hand after the plant finally croaked. It was moist, but not wet. Crumbly, soft, fluffy, [smelled moldy] which maybe the one indicator of a obvious moisture problem. Indeed, I had to listen to folks on these forums that know better than I, and I made a crucial adjustment. I stopped watering just because the top looked dry or felt dryish to the finger test. Instead, to satisfy my need to see nice black, moist dirt on top, I bought a pump sprayer and misted the tops, leaving the watering alone until it really WAS needed. To that mist I added foliar feeding fertilizer, and man, what a difference. Within two weeks, yellowing stopped and green started to take over. I really can't claim any credit, because before these forums helped me, my poor plantlets looked just like yours!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 1:12PM
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