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Growing from seed frustrations

Posted by presidiogarden 10 (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 20, 12 at 18:32

I have not had much luck in the past getting responses to my posts, but I think I'll give it a shot anyway, since you guys seem to know what you're talking about. I am having a lot of frustration with some seedlings I recently planted, including: Swiss chard, lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, flowers, watermelon, kale, etc. After two weeks, most of the seedlings have sprouted, however, I can never get them to grow past a certain point. They get to be about 2 inches high and then start becoming very lanky. Eventually they will dry out and die, even know the soil is plenty moist. Also, it appears that there is some sort of critter that is digging into my seeds. Perhaps a rat or squirrel? I am getting very frustrated in the process and would appreciate any feedback from somebody who is more of a gardening connoisseur can provide. I am using an organic potting soil that has ingredients including for bark, worm castings, Pete Moss, and mushroom compost.


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RE: Growing from seed frustrations

  • Posted by morz8 Z8 Wa coast (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 20, 12 at 20:29

You are container gardening? How much direct sun is on the areas where you have your containers this early in the season....I ask because my full sun in summer deck (two states north of you) is still in shade this early, and it's cool in my Z8b, too cool for tomatoes, melons certainly. Checking current San Francisco weather if that is in fact where you are is showing me cloudy, showers, low 60's or upper 50's for your highs....

Are you mixing your own potting medium or is this a commercial blend? How heavy is it, or is it freely draining if it seems 'plenty moist' while your seedlings appear to be 'drying' - could be a sign of too wet.

Amounts of mushroom compost need to be considered carefully, its rich in nutrients but also high in salts that can be damaging to seedlings in amounts too large - and the lime that had been added for growing the mushrooms previously can make for an alkaline ph - again, if mixed in too high a ratio with ground bark and peat.

Something digging into you pots could be rat, squirrel, birds, any number of things. All I can tell you there is to protect with lengths of chicken wire - frustrating, I know. I don't often find seed pots or pots 'raided', but added to. Mine will often sprout sunflowers, gifts left by chipmunks that will stash seed from neighboring feeders :)


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RE: Growing from seed frustrations

I am having a lot of frustration with some seedlings I recently planted, including: Swiss chard, lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, flowers, watermelon, kale, etc. After two weeks, most of the seedlings have sprouted, however, I can never get them to grow past a certain point.

I need some clarification please. You say "seedings" but then say "seedlings I planted" and "seedlings have sprouted". Seeds sprout but seedlings are transplanted.

So are these large containers that you direct seeded or are you talking about things you transplanted? Swiss chard, lettuce, herbs, and flowers can be direct seeded of course but not tomatoes or peppers - they are transplants. Are they seedlings you are growing indoors or outside?

So could you provide some more details about exactly what you are doing please. Indoors or outdoors? Containers or in ground? If containers - what soil mix? "Lanky" is normally due to not enough light if indoors or sun if outdoors.

Thanks.

Dave


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RE: Growing from seed frustrations

Thank you for your reply,

I have a north facing garden that is currently not getting a lot of light. Every day, however, the sun is moving more and more northward, so I suspect that in a couple of weeks, my garden will have plentiful light. I am growing all of these plants from seed, not Seedlings or transplants, so sorry for the confusion there. The plans are to eventually be transported into raised container beds and terra-cotta pots. It has been pretty stormy here for the past week, however, today's a very sunny day, and I moved my seed starting trays into the sunlight, so now they are getting about three or four hours of sun a day.


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RE: Growing from seed frustrations

So if I understand correctly you are growing seedlings in seed starting trays and using the outdoors to do it. No supplemental lighting inside and only a few hours of sun a day for them.

If so then that lack of sufficient light is the primary cause of your problems. Seedlings that are not provided with many hours of intensive light exposure - if artificial then 16-18 hours is recommended and if sun light only then 10-12 hours minimum - will quickly turn leggy (what you called lanky) with long narrow stems that cannot support the head development and have very compromised circulation systems.

Those seedlings are prone to all sorts of survival issues.

If you read through the FAQs here you'll find that for best success a supplemental light system is strongly recommended and most use multiple 4' shop lights containing 2 T12 or T8 bulbs each and you'll find many pics here of the various light set ups used. The lights are suspended no more than 1-2 inches above the plants and left on anywhere from 16 to 24 hours a day. That is the requirement for the most successful seedlings. Sure many try to grow a few plants in a south facing window but quickly discover that even then their seedlings are weak and prone to problems. Those that are into growing lots of seedlings expand into the metal halide or high pressure sodium lighting set ups.

This time of year, and with the weather you describe, the sun range and intensity is quite low even if you were getting 6-8 hours. So given the current growing conditions you have described of just a few hours of sun a day it would be pretty impossible to successfully grow survivable seedlings. They would be prone to all the problems you describe.

Other than the light issue you don't mention the soil mix you are using and that can be another source of problems.

Hope this is of some help.

Dave

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


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RE: Growing from seed frustrations

That is very helpful, thank you. One of the reasons I am interested in growing my own food starting from seed is for survival technique. If there were ever a large disaster, being able to start seeds indoors through grow lights would not be an option, unless you have some sort of off the grid electricity system to provide enough power.

I did include the components used in my potting soil in my first post.


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RE: Growing from seed frustrations

If there were ever a large disaster, being able to start seeds indoors through grow lights would not be an option

You are absolutely right. In that situation we'd have to substantially increase our sun exposure to the max by any methods necessary and do much more direct seeding.

I did include the components used in my potting soil in my first post.

Sorry but what I was getting at was what is the brand name if this is a bagged mix or is this a made-up mix of your own? There are potential issues associated with each of those ingredients when it comes to both germination and growing on - depending on the amounts of each.

Dave


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