What are wrong with my Tomato Seedlings??!!

Nathanf2013March 29, 2013

Can anyone tell me what are wrong with my babies? They were doing so good, they on under grow lights, sitting on a seedling heat mat. I water properly and have taken the utmost care of them to ensure they grow great but they are getting purple and droopy...the leaves looks like they are losing life....can anyone tell me what is causing this? I have noticed this once when it got cold and I didn't have the heater on but once they warmed up they sprung back to life. Are they dieing, is there any saving them??

This post was edited by Nathanf2013 on Fri, Mar 29, 13 at 20:56

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Nathanf2013

Here is another pic

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 8:55PM
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Nathanf2013

Another pic

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 8:57PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Not sure what you are growing them in, but it looks bone dry. They look like peat pot cells, with a peat based mix. Are you fertilizing them?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 9:47PM
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Nathanf2013

They are growing in Jiffy Seedling mix and those are cow pots...I just watered them in the pics......I have several more cells and they aren't doing this...I can't figure it out...I watered with a mix of FoxFarm's GrowBig and fish/sea weed emulsion...These were considered my better tomato plants!! I have them under a nice light setup, there are Hydrofarms Envirogrow commerical t5 lights...the other plants are under a cheap light setup and some are just sitting next to the south facing window..but they are all growing in the same soil..

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 9:54PM
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robeb_gw

Get them off of the heat mat.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 10:10PM
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Nathanf2013

Really you think it's the heat mat? I figured making the soil warming would help them...guess not

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 10:16PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

Maybe the fertilizers you added. All the research I have done says that seedlings should not recieve any ferts. Seems like cow pots are supposed to have plenty of ferts already in place, that's the whole point of them. Maybe flush with bottled water (no chlorine) to get the ferts out and see how they do.

And they don't really need the heat mats at this stage but I've never found that the heat mats caused a problem if left on after sprouting.

Good luck, I hope you can bring them back around. Sometimes being a farmer is fraught with anxiety.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 10:42PM
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Nathanf2013

Thanks for the information...hopefully they can bounce back...I just find it odd that I added the ferts to other tomatoes and only these are doing this

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 10:45PM
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robeb_gw

A quote from a very experienced tomato growing member of these forums:

Cool growing conditions, once germinated, is much better than warmth and a heat mat under germinated seedlings can quickly cook the tiny roots.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 11:01PM
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Lorri_DK(7b/8a)

Very weird! These are my thoughts...

I think if you planted all of your plants the same way and only the ones that got cold are doing this, then it has to have been the cold that caused it.

To contradic myself on that, purple veining is usually a defeciency. I think it was prob a good thing to through a "little" fertlizer at them to try to get them through this.

I don't want to sound bad, but they look pretty terrible right now. But, don't give up! I would continue to take care of them until they die.

I also second, removing the bottom heat. They look they they must have really been beautiful. Can you post some side by sides maybe of your other plants too. That may help.

This post was edited by Lorri_DK on Fri, Mar 29, 13 at 23:19

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 11:14PM
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Nathanf2013

I'll get some pics for some comaparison and all the plants were exposed to cooler weather...they have been inside in a room this whole time and it was about 55 or so in my house so it got cool but not too cold...I really wish I could figure out what happened..they were doing so great!!!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 11:28PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

When you stick your finger into the mix (to the knuckle) is the mix dry or wet? How does it compare to the mix in the happy seedlings' pots?

Are the outside of the cowpots wet or dry? How do they compare to the happy seedlings' cowpots?

Do you water from the top or from the bottom?

Since you say all the plants were exposed to cold weather, and since it apparently wasn't down in the 30s, I doubt that was the problem.

They look dry to me ... but I never could tell with Jiffy Mix.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 11:51PM
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Nathanf2013

Well it was in the 30's outside but it was only 50 degrees or so in the house....the soil is relatively moist and I say that because this Jiffy Mix is so dry...I don't like it...when I first watered it was so difficult to get the water to mix ....it would just accumulate on top...is the mix the problem? I've heard great things about it but i'm having second thoughts...the outside of the cow pots are dry and I have tried both watering from the top and the bottom but they dry out pretty fast.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 12:00AM
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Nathanf2013

Do they looked burned? I did use some fox farm grow big and fish/seaweed emulsion but diluted heavily

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 12:10AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Pop one out of its pot and see if it has any roots.

I used organic Jiffy seed starting mix one year and had terrible luck. I think you would be better off with small plastic pots and regular potting mix with some extra perlite added for drainage. Peat holds water and even though you think you treated them the same, the margin between the right amount and not enough or too much water is thin. It is just too hard to get the watering right if the mix is not good.

I wouldn't use the heat mat.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 12:23AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I wouldn't think it would be the fertilizer, but I don't have any experience with fertilizer burn -- or with the fertilizers you used.

50s inside shouldn't have caused that reaction.

I used Jiffy Mix last year; once was enough.

To me, the droopiness looks like they either got too dry or else the pots were sitting in water for several hours (roots need to breathe) and the roots were damaged (i.e. not enough root mass to support that much upper plant).

They might actually need fertilizer, but I don't think that would account for the droopiness.

Sorry; that's the best I can do.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 12:34AM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

Put them in the sunlite thats where your oters are doing great

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 1:59AM
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ncrealestateguy

My guess is that they got too dry at some time and the lack of water increased the concentration of salts from the fertilizing and the roots are burnt. Pull one out and inspect the roots.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 7:23AM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

After reading all the posts, it's probably either the heat mat, the fertilizer, or the watering. Last year I was killing my seedlings and was totally confused. I was overfertilizing them. I thought I was diluting the liquid fertilizer enough, but I wasn't. It's usually human error of some kind. Definitely remove the heat pad. I'm very careful about soil temperatures, and I use a thermometer when germinating. The heat should be removed after germination. Stop the fertilizer or make sure you are using no more than 1/4 strength at the most, and hope for the best. Some might be too far gone, but some might make it.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 8:21AM
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Bets(z6A S ID)

That droopiness of leaves is typical of dehydration. I've done it many times. I also use Jiffy mix seed starter when I can't find the one I prefer (the name escapes me now) and I use cowpots exclusively for potting up with a standard growing medium, not soilless seed starting medium and have never had a problem with them in the many seasons I have used them.

Nearly all seed starting mixes are difficult to wet once they dry out. Put a good 2" of warm (not hot) water in the bottom of your tray and let it sit for at least 30 minutes or until the seed starter is wet, then drain the water or transfer the pots to a fresh tray. You'll see your seedlings perk up.

The ones you have next to the window are experiencing less evaporation because they are not on the heat mat. Get these off of it. There is no need for heat once the seeds have sprouted unless you will have temperatures below 50 for extended periods of time.

Your seedlings are large enough they should have been potted up with a soilless growing medium. It will more readily drain and take up water as needed than the seed starting mix. So once they are perky, take them out of the seed starter and pot them in a mix like Helenh suggested. (Although I don't add perlite to mine, it isn't a bad idea, I just don't take the time....)

Betsy

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 10:59AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Betsy, Jiffy mix IS a soilless medium. The problem with it is that it is milled into what is practically a powder. Terrible stuff. There are endless other options that will be more porous and coarse textured.

Next time, I hope that our OP will select coarser potting mix (avoid the 'seed starter'), and containers with drainage holes in the bottom. The plastic flats and plastic inserts work great for growing plants....and they can be re-used over and over again.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 11:43AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Just to second Betsy, the mix got so dry it became hydrophobic, meaning it would not take on water. The heating mat likely contributed by driving the water out through increased evaporation. The trays need to sit in water to really soak it up, pouring some on top will not work, it will just pass right through and you likely won't get enough in.

The purple is a normal response to cool temperatures, and likely you are only seeing it on the underside of the leaves. Which you can now see because they are drooping. Cheers!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 12:05PM
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Bets(z6A S ID)

rhizo_1,

Yes, Jiffy Seed Starter is a soilless seed starting medium. There are Jiffy soiless mixes that are not designed for seed starting, they are growing mediums. The fineness of the seed starter helps when seedlings are sprouting, so that it is not so heavy as to keep seedlings from to pushing through to the surface. A course texture is not needed (and personally, not desired) for seed starting.

What I was referring to is when potting up, one should use a soilless growing medium (potting mix), not dirt from the yard or a bagged "garden soil" because it tends to compact in a pot and then it drains poorly and the tomato's roots will drown or suffocate and the plant will die.

I suppose I didn't make that part clear. My apologies.

Betsy

This post was edited by bets on Sat, Mar 30, 13 at 14:58

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 2:54PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I hope they do perk up. If they are just dry, they might. If the roots are burnt or have rotted away, they look like they need water but that isn't the problem. I would rather use potting mix already charged with a little fertilizer and pH balanced. When a novice ( that is what I am) messes around with fertilizer, sometimes we use too much. I am inclined to think they got too wet rather than dry because that is my experience with seed starter mix.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 3:08PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I hope they do perk up. If they are just dry, they might. If the roots are burnt or have rotted away, they look like they need water but that isn't the problem. I would rather use potting mix already charged with a little fertilizer and pH balanced. When a novice ( that is what I am) messes around with fertilizer, sometimes we use too much. I am inclined to think they got too wet rather than dry because that is my experience with seed starter mix.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 3:09PM
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futfurd(z5 Kansas)

alot of mixes are nearly all peat which sheds water until it is soaked. pre-soak your peat until it is spongy.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 9:14PM
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Creek-side(5)

Personally, I think that people fuss too much over their plants. I start mine in unsterilized dirt from my garden with a little peat and pearlite mixed in. Other than the horse manure I spread in the fall, II never fertilize.Once they germinate, give them as much light as you can, forget about heat and fertilizer, and give them water, but not too much.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 10:48PM
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claydirt(5)

When I start plants inside, I've been mixing maybe 3 kinds of starting mix & soil together. That's in a bucket, with a half gallon of water beside me. If it's city water, let the chlorine evaporate out for a few days. I make sure the mix has absorbed a significant amount of water before going into the cells or pots. (It's shipped so dry. Probably to save on shipping costs/weight.) The fiber pots dry out way too fast. I vote for the plastic cells.

Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli are going good with this approach.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 7:21AM
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pasco(7)

Flush well with water and give them some ACT made with fresh worm castings. they should be back to near normal in 7 days...change to an easy nute regime as soon as possible.

Happy Easter

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 7:02PM
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Carpenter_creations

How are your Seedlings doing? Have you tried putting in individual pots and using potting soil?

Here is a link that might be useful: gardenweb

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 1:15PM
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Nathanf2013

Here is the latest pic of them transplanted into my raised garden bed...I transplanted them a little over a week ago. I think they look great! def. considering how they started off in the seedling trays (which they actually perked up after a good watering) I lost a couple.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 8:49AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Congratulations, Nathanf2013! They look good.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 11:05AM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

What's the white powdery looking stuff around the base of them?

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 11:13AM
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Nathanf2013

edweather - it is Sea-90 from Boogie Brew...Sea trace minerals, similar to azomite...

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 9:26PM
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