stems rotting in Ebb&Flo

rlabbeNovember 12, 2011

I'm not sure that my subject title is entirely correct, as I'm not sure that "rot" is a precise term for what is happening.

However, I'm having quite a few of my herbs, and even a tomato plant or two, rotting off at the bottom. I'm starting my plants in root riot plugs (like the oasis plugs), and transferring them, plugs and all to 4" pots with hydroton to fill the remaining space once roots show and I have true leaves. The plants are thriving. However, I end up with brown streaks down by the plug. Over time, several plants have entirely rotted to the point that the entire plant disconnects from the root system. This has happened to basil, sage, a tomato plant or two, and I can see similar stuff happening to my cilantro. This is happening to large plants, not seedlings (12" basil, 15" tomato plant, etc).

I'm not sure if this is a disease/fungus or moisture issue, as the plugs stay very moist after the ebb&flow cycle (3 15minute cycles a day). I worry that the plant stems are staying too wet and they just eventually rot. OTOH, the roots look fine.

All plants are in one big system, so if this is a disease obviously there is the possibility of everything being contaiminated. However, most plants are doing fine - I've lost maybe 5-6 plants out of 50 or so. A couple more are showing early signs (brown streaks at the base).

I've been treating with a sulphur/water mix by spraying the basis occasionally. However, with no control, I cannot say if this is helping or not.

So, the questions:

* does this sound like disease, or a moisture problem? How would I determine this?

* Is it a bad idea to put the plugs in an ebb&flow system? Would I be better off cloning plants in an aero system, then transplanting into hydrogen as the only medium?

* Is 15 minutes excessive for ebb&flow? I only need 3-5 minutes to fill the table with my pump. Are they drinking/feeding the entire 15 minute cycle?

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I would say that this is an air problem. The roots aren't getting enough because of the two different systems you joined together. It's like trying to grow dirt roots in water or water roots in air.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 2:55PM
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Without pictures it's really hard tell what is going on, but the "root riot plugs" hold a lot of moisture, and can cause stem rot. The grow rocks will loose moisture much faster, and that's just like a sponge at the stem. That basically amounts to something like wearing a dry shirt (where the roots would be) with a wet turtle neck sweeter around your neck/stem when the moisture is needed at the root system (not the neck/stem). Also, the water level should be about 2 inches below the top of the growing medium. If it's higher it can also easily contribute to, or cause stem rot (as well as other problems).

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 6:03AM
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Homehydro, that is my thinking. However, what is the alternative? Just about every source I see says start seeds in plugs, then move the plugs into Hydroton or whatever medium. I'm no fan of rockwool, which does allow you to stay with the same medium (rockwool plug inserted into rockwool strips).

Do other plugs, like Oasis, hold less water? I'm not married to the root riot plugs, it's just what I can get easily locally. However, the Oasis look like they hold even more water than root riots.

My water level may be a little high. I'm growing in 4" tall pots, and the water level is about 3" high.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 10:06AM
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Personally I don't like using grow rocks anymore, they are just to much of a pain in the butt to clean and get ready for reuse (for the amount of growing medium I use). But you can start seeds in just about anything. I personalty like using coco chips/coco fiber. Both for starting seeds, and growing the plants to maturity. But if I'm not mistaken the root riot plugs are very similar to the jiffy starter plugs, and it would be easy to simply (but carefully) wash 80%-90% of it from the roots before transplanting. Just like you would do to wash potting soil from the roots of soil started plants before transplanting into a hydro system.

But in my opinion the root riot are way overpriced. I can get a 72 cell starter tray for about $3, and $10-$12 worth of coco fiber would be enough for over 5,000 starter plants using those starter trays. But I usually just take something like a small butter, whip cream, or sour cream container (I cleaned out), and make holes in the bottom of it for drainage. Then fill it with the coco chips/fiber and start seeds that way, hand watering them until they get big enough to transplant. The coco fiber will give your roots/plants 10 times better aeration and drainage than the peat moss based starter plugs (like the root riot or jiffy plugs) do.

Also for the plants you have growing now, it sounds like you should play with the water level. Dropping it some, so your root riot plugs don't get so waterlogged, but still allowing the plants root ball to get moisture. also for now, you may even take your fingers, and pull out some of the root riot material from around the plant stems to reduce that ring of moisture around the stems.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 5:16AM
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Root riots are not peat, or anything like the jiffy plugs. They are a sponge like material, and are designed to be transplanted directly into a hydroponics system.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2011 at 10:40AM
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I know they are made for use in hydroponics and not technically peat moss. But like jiffy plugs the root riots are made of a organic material (not a synthetic material), and expand like a sponge when water is applied (just like the jiffy plugs). My point wasn't trying to say they were exactly the same materials, just that they both have very similar property's. Especially the way they both suck up and hold water. If you cant carefully break it up and wash it from the roots, as I mentioned I would use something else to transplant into grow rocks.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2011 at 4:04PM
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