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Sudden seedling death - watermelon, cucumber

Posted by mrs.growop 6A, S.Ontario (My Page) on
Wed, Apr 25, 07 at 16:21

Hi All!

I'm new the forums and to gardening (although I've discovered somewhat of a 'green-thumb', must be genetic).

I have started a number of veggies from seed. Currently, I have tons of healthy, sturdy plants ready for the outdoors in a couple weeks. I am growing under lights with great success. Except I have observed the sudden wilting and subsequent death of 3 watermelon seedlings (Early Starter, Sweet...) and 1 cucumber seedling. The watermelons were just starting to sprout their first set of true leaves but the cucumber was working on its second.

Overwatering, and lack of air flow I suspect were the culprits. My circulating fan broke down and I was slow to replace it. I noticed some grey-ish, powdery/fuzzy mold growing along the rims of the compostable (peat?) pots that they were growing in. So far, the recycled plastic juice/water bottles have been the best to use, especially for larger plants like tomatoes, zucchini, dahlias.

I have since sprayed everything with a mild 9:1 bleach solution and have gotten the air circulating again. Also, let everyong dry out a bit.

One watermelon seedling, while still wilted, seems to be growing taller but the others are goners. I also think that a couple basil seedlings may be on the brink.

Any suggestions to stop the sudden deaths? Have I treated the situation reasonably?

Are there some special tricks to starting watermelon and cucumbers?

Thanks All!! Happy Growing!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Sudden seedling death - watermelon, cucumber

You are doing right a bit late. Your problem seeds like to be wrapped in wet paper toweling and soaked for about four hours. From this point forward they like to be dry. My guess is that your potting soil was to wet. Ideally they like to be planted in just damp seedling potting medium. Dry damp is another way to say it. They will do best germinating in about 80 degree temperature. I use a camping cooler sitting on a house type heating pad to achieve 80 degrees. When germinated this way they should emerge in three to five days. Within four more days you will have the first true leaf. Set them under lights for another four days after which they are ready to depot and plant in your garden. If your soil is cold and wet damping off may still happen. To avoid this in a cold spring start use a temporary plastic cold frame to help them get going.

I have observed that fifty degree soil temperature is about the minimum required for a good start in a temporary cold frame. Timing is important. They do not like to be pot bound. The roots should just be touching the bottom of your planting pot. If I feel I may need a couple more days I would plant the seedling in a gallon sized paper ice cream container. Your problem kids are very vigerous. They do not like to be slowed down or stopped by the seedling pot or cold weather.

Key phrases are: Soak them four hours, pot them in damp dry soil, germinate in 80 degree temperature, do not water the pot, place under lighting and move to the garden in no more than five or six days following the emergence of the first true leaf.

With your two problem childs I would start over to be assured of healthy seedlings. You have time to do this and may even be going into the soil when it is in better condition to grow your plants.

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