Wednesday, May 4, 2011


More like Epic Fail.  Most of my tomato seedlings that seemed so happy and healthy after germination have slowly withered away to something pathetic and sickly.  Some have yellowing leaves.  Others have leaves that just shriveled up and died.  There are also some with leaves that have some darker spots, like they are diseased.  But none of them really grew after about 3-4 weeks.  I'm not really sure what killed them.  Maybe they didn't like the Jiffy peat pots that they got transplanted into after about 3 weeks.  Or maybe we watered too much.  Or too little.  Or maybe our soil mix was bad.  Or maybe our grow light wasn't good enough.  Or maybe they caught some horrible fungal or bacterial disease.

There are just too many variables here and I honestly don't know what caused most of my seedlings to die, or at least get very close to dying.  I did notice that some of the pots had a few roots showing through the bottom hole, but when I peeled off the peat pot, it didn't look like the seedlings were rootbound at all.

As a last, desperate measure, I picked out most of the better looking ones (still not all that much better than the one pictured above) and transplanted them into the garden last weekend.  I don't have high hopes for their survival because they are all still too small and the outdoor weather is still too rainy and cold.   Still, I'm hoping that natural sunlight and raised beds can work some miracles here.

If not, then I'll just have to go buy (gasp!) some transplants from the store later this month.

Ugh, if there is such a thing as mass seedling failure induced depression, I think I have it.  It's really sad to see all these dying seedlings.  It makes me especially sad to think about how so many of these seedlings were from seeds shared by other generous garden bloggers - I had such high hopes for these seeds to grow into healthy vegetable plants!


~Holly~ said...

Sorry about your seedling loss Minji! I hope the ines you rescued to the garden make it.

Annie's Granny said...

Sometimes I think the stress of growing ones own seedlings just isn't worth it. I've had pretty good luck, but certainly more than my share of failures. I stress out over every single one I grow. I'm really considering only starting peppers, brassicas and a few flowers next year. I've had good luck with the first two, and so-so luck with the latter, but if just a few of the flower seeds make it, that's fine with big loss. It's the tomatoes that stress me out the worst.

The Idiot Gardener said...

Take a tip from someone who has killed more seedlings than most; relax. It's over. There's nothing you can do but start again!

I put my tomato seedlings in fibre pots (Gardman ones; never use Jiffy because they're crap) and as soon as they germinate I put them out under cover. I stand them in a tray and keep it filled with water to about half the height of the pot. That's it, and they do well.

Tomato seedlings I can deal with, late blight screws me over!

Tiny Gardener said...

I am so sorry about your tomatoes! The tomatoes on my end are looking like hell, and I fear we are in the same boat. I really don't want to buy seedlings, but may be forced into it.

Sherri B. said...

It is always so depressing when we have a failure like this. This type of thing has been happening to me for several years now, not with starting my own, but transplants acting the same way once they get to a certain size. Almost the exact same thing you describe..we have tried different soil, location, etc..Hopefully they will do better in your raised beds.

Dan Owen said...

So sorry about that. Was the potting mix sterile? The only time I've had a problem like that was due to the use of outside soil. Since then, I always start my seeds with packaged potting mixes. The other possibility would be sun scald which can happen if a seedling receives to much direct sunlight too soon. In any case, it's still early in the year and you have plenty of time to start new ones or failing that, you can always get starts from the local nursery!

Robin said...

Oh my Minji! It is probably a combination of things. I never ever use those peat pots. It is too dificult to control the moisture with them. I hate to say it, but it looks like you will have to purchase some plants this year.

ValHalla said...

Bummer. This was my first year starting seeds indoors--I was intimidated, and I think it is much harder than direct seeding. I didn't try tomatoes though--I much prefer buying those from the farmers' market. Getting the timing right is just too difficult.

RandomGardener said...

Sorry about your tomatoes! If it is any consolation, the weather this year has been erratic, so not really your fault. I usually got good results from seeding indoors, but this year I am not so sure. Still a month to go, and 2 of the peppers are kaput! Tomatoes are hanging in there, but I will not hesistate to buy from local nursery, if they don't make it.

xoxoxo said...

Oh how sad! I recently had a nightmare that I kept planting seedlings and they kept dying! How bizarre is that!

Daphne said...

I planted 27 seeds of sweet peppers and got just a few plants. I'm a little bummed out by it, but I can always get some at the garden center. At least the chilis mostly germinated. Those are hard to buy. Usually they just have jalapenos.

thyme2garden said...

Holly - thank you for your kind words, but I'm afraid even those rescued ones are on their way out.

Granny - it would be so easy to do away with the stress of trying to grow some of these harder-to-grow seedlings, but you know how stubborn I am; I really want to grow my own. But if I can prove to myself that I can grow them successfully just once, maybe I'll smarten up and enjoy my winter/spring before heading to the local garden store in late spring. :-)

TIG - logically I agree with you; they are just plants... Emotionally, though, I'm sad and angry! Ugh. I'm glad you found a way that works for you. I'm surprised that you can keep those fibre pots half in water. I thought that might be too much water for them?

Tiny Gardener - Aw, I'm sorry to hear about yours, too.

Sherri - Yikes, so even store bought transplants can mysteriously die on you?

thyme2garden said...

Dan Owen - you might be onto something here! The seeds were started in sterile mix (I think) - peat pellets or vermiculite/peat moss mix - and all the seeds germinated and grew fairly well for the first three weeks. And when I potted them into the Jiffy pots, I used the soil from outside (new special soil that we got last fall for the new raised beds). I thought since these were already seedlings and not seeds, I would be okay using outside soil. Maybe I was totally wrong??

thyme2garden said...

Robin - I thought the peat pots were the neatest things, especially the part where I could just plant them right in the soil. Then I started reading about how you shouldn't because they don't degrade as well/fast as they should and may restrict your transplants from growing bigger. That plus the difficulty of controlling moisture equals means I learned my lesson this year and paid a price for it!

ValHalla - this was my first year with a large-scale (for me anyway) operation of seed starting indoors. I'm definitely not off to a good start!

RandomGardener - I hear you about the erratic weather. We got so much rain in April that I'm surprised my direct sown veggies haven't given up and drowned yet.

thyme2garden said...

xoxoxo - Ha, I thought I was the only weird one having dreams about gardening! I also have those nightmares about seedlings and plants dying, but sometimes I also have some good dreams about harvesting something like a tomato and having a brand new one just pop up miraculously in its place. My very own veggie fantasy! :-)

Daphne - I also noticed last year that the garden centers don't have a huge varieties of peppers like they usually do tomatoes.

meemsnyc said...

Ugh, that is so depressing! The same thing happened to our chinese yard beans. Almost all the plants wilted away and died. I only have 2 left and I'm praying that they survive.

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

Wow! Never seen such a color on a tomato seedling. It sure can be frustrating to learn all this stuff. I wrote a post on my method of starting tropical plants, which you are welcome to read.

And those peat pots--I don't like to use them anymore because they dry out too quickly, which increases the watering, and therefore decreases the soil temperature, which tropical plants don't like.

Aubade said...

I tried to grow tomatoes from seed for the 1st time this year and had the same problem! They germinated nicely, then just never grew much more than 1 - 2 inches tall. Then the leaves turned yellow/purplish, curled up and/or fell off.

Some other gardeners suggested I should have fertilized them. So I tried that and within one week, a few had visibly grown quite a bit, so I think that was the problem.

It is probably too late to save them this year though, so like you I will probably have to buy seedlings. Darn!

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