Help diagnose my seedlings

BenlanzerJanuary 23, 2014

I have a bunch of hot peppers that Germinated. They are all Capsicum chinense. They are four in a half weeks old, have about two sets of true leaves, and grown under a 600w hps bulb 24 hours a day (until next week which is the fifth week and I'll lower to 16 hours a day). I have the light about 14 inches from the plants, but the plants stay at 80-85 degrees. I use a well draining soil that is a 5-10-5 so I soak pretty thoroughly about every other day until a little water comes out the holes in the bottom. I thought everything was going great until I turned off the light. The leaves were very pale almost white on some plants, the cotys were falling off on some plants too, and some of the leaves were almost touching the soil. I took a few plants out and ran water over the roots and they were white, so I don't think it's root rot. I don't know if it's a nitrogen deficiency because my soil has a 5-10-5, but then again I water them a lot draining the nutrients, or maybe they are getting too much light, or the light was too close. Please help, I don't want my first season to end so shortly :/

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judo_and_peppers(Tampa FL)

for one you are over watering. and that soil doesn't look like it's very well draining. water when it's dry.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 2:26AM
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don555(3a)

I've never used HPS, but a 600 W bulb just 14" from the plants sounds much too close to me.

Second point, plants produce sugars during the day and move them to the roots at night (or maybe I have that backwards?). Point is, a long light period is good (maybe 16-18 hours... I use 16 on my plants), but they need rest time too to do their nighttime stuff, so I think you should not be going 24/7 with the lights.

Here's some 2-month old C. chinense plants that were grown under 40W fluoros. They were clipped once to encourage branching, with side branches now forming:

Here they are before clipping. Not sure how old at this point, maybe 6 weeks?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 2:34AM
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Benlanzer

That much growth after 6 weeks! I'm definitely doing something wrong. I raised and turned off the light for tonight, and won't water as often. Do you think I need to fertilize?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 2:41AM
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don555(3a)

I'm a big fan of fertilizer, particularly for highly organic soils (like virtually all commercial potting soils). Bacteria want to break down dead organic matter, and they need lots of nitrogen to grow more bacteria, so all the nitrogen in the soil can quickly get locked-up by the bacteria. Eventually it will get released again when the easily digested organic matter is consumed and the bacteria die, but in the meantime it's easy for plants to suffer from nitrogen deficiency. And your plants definitely look pale. I would add a balanced fertilizer, or even a high-nitrogen fertilizer to put some dark-green color back into those plants and get them growing.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 2:53AM
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Benlanzer

Thank you so much for all the helpful information. That's what I suspected, but I was really really hoping it wasn't root rot. I'll head to the store and pick up some fertilizer and try it on my plants tomorrow. Hopefully it's not too late for them. Mine are almost five weeks growth and look nothing like yours. Any helpful hints to great growth like that would be fantastic! This is my first year, and I'm learning the hard way.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 2:59AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I second: OVER WATERING and UNDER FERTILIZING.

The temperatures are TOO high too, I think. 65 to 70F should be enough.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 7:09AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Agreed! Over watering, under fertilizing.

Josh

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 11:37AM
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Benlanzer

Thanks everyone! I'm going to run to the store now to get some fertilizer and Epson salt. Hopefully in a few days, everything will be back to normal

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 12:02PM
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Benlanzer

Thanks everyone! I'm going to run to the store now to get some fertilizer and Epson salt. Hopefully in a few days, everything will be back to normal

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 12:05PM
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morugaman

Hey Ben, I would hold off on any extra stuff right now. Let nature do its thing but run that light less and raise it a bit. Like Don said, " they need they're resting time as well. From the little experience I have had, I think if you adjust everything and not over-water them, they will grow out of whatever is going on with them. Good luck Ben! Remember, "that too much tender loving care is either going to stress you out, or your going to stress the plants out" :p haha

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 12:33PM
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Benlanzer

Thanks for the advice moruga man! The only reason I was going to give a little bit of fertilizer is because I watered so frequently before. I think I may have flushed out the nutrients.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 12:38PM
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thepodpiper

If overwatering is the case which it certainly may be add some hydrogen peroxide to the water next time. Put the plant between 2 fingers and turn it upside down, drop the plant out of the pot. What color are the roots?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 4:50PM
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Benlanzer

The roots were white, even with the more severely looking plants. I used a fertilizer today that I could use on the leaves and I'm going to let the soil completely dry out. Hopefully that will do it.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 5:08PM
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thepodpiper

White is good,Brown is bad. No need for H2O2 at this time

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 7:55PM
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PunkRotten(9b)

Use a liquid fertilizer and use it at half strength.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 10:00PM
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Benlanzer

I used a fertilizer with the recommendation half teaspoon for 24oz. I think that's full strength, but I didn't saturate the soil, just poured a little next to each plant, and spritzed the plants three times throughout the day because the light dries it out quickly. I'm hoping when I wake up tomorrow, the peppers will look better. I never know how much water/fertilizer to put in the soil when I water. Any suggestions? And do I apply the fertilizer with every watering? With my 600w hps, I figure I should water/fertilize once every four days or so.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 10:21PM
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Benlanzer

It's just a light spritz too. How long will it take for the yellow to go away/the plant starts looking healthy again?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 10:39PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

The yellow might never go away.
Rather, new growth will come in green.

Josh

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 10:52AM
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PunkRotten(9b)

It is very easy to over water pepper starts. They do not lose water as fast as they do outside. Make sure the soil is almost dry before watering again. Wait for the top to look dry and even do a lift test. If they are still kind of heavy then they still got water. I usually wait for them to look thirsty before I give them a good soak again. Important things when starting plants; have good fluffy soil, adequate light and do not over water.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 2:09PM
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TFortune(7a North AL)

I actually went a little more dramatic last year and just let them get right to the point of wilting, or maybe even a little more and then watered them again... That's how i water them once they are in their final home, too, and i didn't have any problems with overwatering...

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 4:33PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I have found out that when the pepper seedlings are thirsty, the leaves(Mostly lower ones) start wilting, as if the plant is sick.

Another method to deal with it is to get a moisture indicator gauge.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 9:32PM
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Benlanzer

I ordered a few gauges with pH, light, and moisture. I just posted this yesterday, I haven't watered in about two days now, but I haven't noticed much if any growth so it's hard to tell if they are improving. They haven't wilted yet. The leaves are mostly pale yellow with a little green around the edges and some splotches around the leaves. Some of them are almost white in the middle. Others have curls in the leaves. Here's a picture of what a few of them look like today.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 10:04PM
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Benlanzer

Also, Should my plants be bigger than that in four weeks?

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 10:12PM
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jutsFL(9b (Orlando))

I am not the expert by any means, but I would believe that some 'dark time' would benefit your plants. Until this year I have always grown from pre-started plants, like the Burpee varieties and such. This is my first year from seed and the pic below is at exactly 22 days from seed in soil (for the oldest ones of the bunch in the pic)... There are young ones too, and I'm still germinating as well.

So your 1 month olds look roughly similar to my nearly 1 month olds.... I'd say you're growth is doing fine, besides the previous mentioned problems. (Sorry, still new to seedlings, so no really good advice)

I am not a strict organic though, and add a VERY weak dilution of MG tomato fertilizer to mine after they get the first true leaves.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 10:45PM
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Benlanzer

I have tomato fertilizer as well. The directions say to put half teaspoon to my 24 ounce spray bottle. I used the whole 24 ounces but on about 20 plants. That's not too much is it? Each plant is only getting about 1 Oz of fertilizer at regular strength.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 10:55PM
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Benlanzer

I think I figured it out. I made some adjustments. I think it's a combination of over watering and the 600w hps being too close. I think my light was bleaching the chlorophyll out of the leaves. I raised it from 18 inches to about three feet.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 11:05PM
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jutsFL(9b (Orlando))

The chinense do grow at a slower rate from what I have gathered, and mine have too. But hopefully yours do well with the light adjustment.

(The smaller ones in my pic w true leaves are chinense variety as well)

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 11:50PM
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don555(3a)

Benlanzer, not sure if I understand your fertilizing method. Are you applying a solution to the soil only, or are you also spraying it on the leaves? If spraying the leaves, I would suggest stopping that immediately and spraying them down with some fresh water. Fertilizer is essentially a salt, and when it is sprayed on the leaves and the water evaporates, you are leaving concentrated salts on the leaves, which can burn them (suck the moisture out of them).

In nature, rainwater does not contain fertilizer, plants get their nutrients almost entirely by uptake through the roots. Your roots sound healthy, so add fertilizer solution to the soil and let the plants take up nutrients that way.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 2:21AM
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Benlanzer

Thanks to some reading and all of your advice, my pepper plants are growing green again! I switched to pro mix bx and re potted everything. I would highly recommend pro mix by the way. The little guys in there just Germinated and are my chocolate Habaneros and Carolina reapers.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 10:51PM
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