Very odd......seedlings damping off this year.

edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)March 26, 2012

Not sure what it is. I use a Jiffy mix, which seems to be the best sterile mix out there, but this year the seedlings are damping off. I'm not doing anything different, and this is the first time I've had the problem using Jiffy mix. The only thing that I can think of is that it's something in the air this year, or possibly when I pre-mix the mix with water it kind of compresses like concrete in the cells. I'm going to try sterilizing the cells, and letting the loose mix absorb water from the bottom up before trying a re-plant. Any comments or suggestions are welcome. Thanks.

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rnewste(8b NorCal)


In order to eliminate the "variable", I would replant one-quarter of the new seedlings in a different starter mix. Then, you will have a comparison as to which produces the best yield. If you start 100% of them again in your Jiffy Mix - you will never know if this was the root cause.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 2:21PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Yes, I forgot to mention that I'm going to try a different bag, from a different store, for some of the re-plant. Thanks. Ed

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 2:32PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

The three genera and species that can cause damping off are not found in the air. They're found in the soil, in potting mixes, less so in Soilless mixes such as Jiffy Mix, but can be found in some soilless mixes as well.

If it were me I'd get another brand name seed starting mix such as Farfard or Pro-Mix or the like and if you want to use a control then plant a few of the same seeds in your current Jiffy Mix.

And those fungi that cause damping off are also encouraged to grow if there's little air circultion around the seed starting pans or if Domes are used, which can be lethal in more than one way. Or if the mix is kept too wet along with the variables I just mentioned.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 3:04PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

I saw at Home Depot last week that they had some little bales of Pro-Mix. I think they were less than 1 cf. Would this work? I've never had trouble with Jiffy in the past, and it seems the most recommended. I switched from MG to Jiffy a few years ago. Funny you should mention domes. I usually use a dome (but didn't this year,) to keep in the moisture, and help maintain the temperature from a heating pad. So, I'll try a different mix, and report back. Thanks.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 4:02PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

The large bales of Pro-mix are not usually used for seed starting; they have a finer grade used for starting seed. I use the bales and mix the contents as half Pro-mix and half bagged composted cow manure, both of which Agway delivers, God bless them, and use it for some of my container growing.

I used to use Jiffy Mix as well but I remember reading a few years back that they'd changed the composition of it, and in the meantime I was sowing my seeds in professional 20 row inserts and then taking them to my farmer friend Charlie and putting them in the seed greenhouse.

He had 28 greenhouses and my spot after I transplanted was greenhouse #17 in front of the large exaust fan. LOL

And it was at Charlie's that I discovered Fafard and just kept with it.

These days a friend of mine in Raleigh, Craig LeHoullier, raises all my plants for me and ships them to me and three others do all the seed production for me.

And that b'c in Dec of 2004 I fell and severed all four quads in the right leg and from that time on I've had to use a walker.

So no more growing many hundreds of plants and varieties each year for me but I do use gro-bags and continers here at home and Freda does all the gardening for me these days.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 5:52PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Carolyn, thanks for the input. Oh well, I just shelled out $2.30 +tax for .5cf of Pro-Mix for veggies. Will use it somewhere. Not sure if I can get my hands on Fafard or Pro-Mix seed starting mix unless I can find some place online that ships it fast and cheap. I'm pretty familiar with all the stores around here and all I see for seed starting mix is basically Jiffy. I'm almost positive it's the batch of mix that's the problem. It might have been left over from last year because I bought it over a month ago, and I notice that the packaging I'm seeing now in the store is different.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 9:42PM
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I, too, have had some problems this year with Jiffy, in my case, the plugs that swell up when watered. I currently have a test comparison going with Miracle Grow Seed Starting Mix. It may be that there are a few "manufacturing lots" of Jiffy that have this problem. I will keep this thread updated with my results.

I had a very good year with Jiffy in 2011. I am very unhappy with the results this year. I think Jiffy is quickly falling off my list. I've never had a problem with MG Seed Starting Mix.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 9:45AM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Interesting that you had a problem also. Definitely suggest trying something else. Funny, I used to use only MG seed starting mix, and switched to Jiffy also. I might be in luck with the Pro-Mix I bought. Checked a little of it, and it seems very fine and suitable for seed starting. I'm definitely going to try it.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 12:26PM
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I use the regular Organic Pro-Mix for seed starting. It works just fine and I don't have to worry about potting up right away since it does have some nutrients in it.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 12:32PM
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growsy(8b GA)

I have had the same issue with Jiffy Mix this year. I haven't lost even half of my seedlings, but enough to bother me. I'm sorry to hear it's happening to other people, but glad to know it isn't something I'm doing wrong (other than picking the wrong seed starting mix)!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 4:03PM
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DWD2(10a, Sunset 17)

You might also consider whether your seeds are the source of your problem. These are 3 links that provide a bit of information and lead to more.

I will say that I find the North Carolina State horticulture sites excellent sources of growing information. When you have a problem or question, those sites are a GREAT place to start.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 5:55PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

3) the use of fungicide-treated seed with high germination (see Agricultural Chemicals Manual; specify treated seed before purchasing),


Above is the only comment I saw that pertained to seed from the NCSU site and I agree that most of their links are very good.

But the site is for professional growers and doesn't distinguish between the genera and species that cause damping off with flowers as opposed to certain vegetables and those fungi are different.

I can't see home growers using any of the products mentioned as an anti-fungal for seeds,nor requesting that treated seeds be sent, which is common for squash and other cucurbits but not tomatoes, but Benomyl is not all that resticted and could be used at the first sign of damping off with tomato seedlings.

The majority of the other products are not available to the home grower and one has to have a pesticide license to get them and some are banned in certain states.

What I seldom see written is that tomato seedlings can come up and show no evidence of damping off but then at 4-6 inches do, keel over and die.

I never knew that until I saw a picture and description of it in one of my tomato pathology books.


Here is a link that might be useful: damping off

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 6:37PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

FWIW the seeds I'm using are the same I've been using for years except for a new tomato this year. I restarted every thing in Pro-Mix. The Pro-Mix is a little more water retentive than regular seed starting mix, but it should work well.....I hope. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 9:53PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

My rant....please don't respond, just frustrated and venting. I tried 3 different seed starting mixes, dome, no dome, and perfect soil temperature. Seedlings germinate and look great, and then die....sometimes damping off, and sometimes just keeling over. I've been doing this for about 10 years, and the only other time that I had a damping off problem, I switched mixes and that cured it. I came home this morning and 2 more were keeled over. The ONLY thing that I did different this year is that I started 4 grapefruit seedlings in early March. These seedlings are near the others. I can't believe that the g'fruit plants are killing the others.
I have gotten a few seedlings to survive, but my hopes are low. Sometimes it takes a while for them to die. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason. I'm going to try it one more time with a new batch, and then call it quits for this year. I should stop now, but will try once more. At least I won't have to worry about it anymore, and that's why there are nurseries. I know that disease isn't supposed to be air borne, but that's all I can come up with...just something in the air this year. Not meant to be!!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 1:05PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

I'm pretty sure that I figured it out. I was over fertilizing them! Both my re-plants in Pro-Mix/peat, and MG Seed Starting Mix are doing well. NO extra fertilizer. I was killing them with too much MG liquid. I'm not against fertilizing seedlings, but one must strictly stick to 1/8 to 1/4 strength. I was probably using full least.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 10:11AM
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