Diseased tomato seedlings or... ?

earthlark(3b)April 28, 2014

What do you guys think: disease or something else? My only guess from following disease keys would be late blight, but I'm not sure. If it's disease, there's not really any way to eradicate it as far as I've read, so it would be best to scrap them rather than possibly contaminate other tomatoes I put in the ground, right? (I started some new seeds a couple days ago, just in case.)

Seedlings are about a month old. As can be seen in the photos, tomatoes look leggy, but I think that's because all the lower leaves (not just the coyledons) have dropped. Stems seem sturdy enough. Tomatillos and peppers planted in the same tray have also lost their lower leaves. Some white mold on top of soil (as seen in photos), but I wouldn't think that it necessarily indicates a problem. (From what I've read, white is most often beneficial.)

As far as I know plants were kept under shop lights about 16 hours/day. I'm not exactly sure how much they've been watered/dried out as some friends were taking care of them during the last month.

I have two trays of tomatoes in this state. I'm hardening some of them off right now just to see what happens, but if it's disease, no hope, right?

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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

No disease.

Most likely dried out.
Also short of fertilizer.
And need lights much closer to the tops of the plants.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 11:53PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

They are struggling. Definitely reaching for light. What mix are they growing in?

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 12:17AM
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Thanks for the inputs!

It is quite possible that my friends let them dry out, and they are only now starting to recover a bit. I'll have to grill 'em a bit more. :) Well, my fault anyway for not attending to them myself.

Could be a fertilizer issue. I'll try adding some fish emulsion or something. They're growing in a mix of peat moss (3), perlite (2), compost w/cow manure (2), garden soil (1), and a bit of lime. Can't remember what garden soil was, but I think it was Vigoro w/some amendments.

The 4' T8 shop lights were actually with within an inch or touching plants (lights are not hot). This is the same setup as I have on all my other plants, which seem to be healthy. These 1-month old tomato seedlings are between 2 and 4" tall and have lost two sets of leaves, so I'm not sure if this would still be considered leggy (if they still had those leaves). Maybe, though...

In any case, I'll add a bit of liquid fertilizer, give them a little extra light, and keep then quaffing, and we'll see what comes of it. Thanks!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 2:49AM
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Don;t grow them sideways

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 7:59AM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

It's the new trend Tlhouser, everyone is doing it that way these days. Course, it's an expensive way to go, you need an anti-gravity machine bolted to your ceiling to keep them from bending upwards (I think you can buy them from NASA, but you'll need to have someone install a 220v outlet for it, or live without your clothes dryer for a few weeks).

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 9:10AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

They're growing in a mix of peat moss (3), perlite (2), compost w/cow manure (2), garden soil (1), and a bit of lime

That is a very unusual and highly problematic mixture for young seedlings. Are you using the same mixture for all your seedlings?

At that age plants should be 6" tall and have 2-4 sets of true leaves.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 9:19AM
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mmm, soiless mix is much preferred by new seedlings in my experience, something really light and fluffy. Best one I like is Promix.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 10:52AM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Many people try waaaaaaaaaaaay too hard with their seedlings. A simple seed starting mix is fine. A bit frustrating to watch. Just my mini-rant :-)

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 1:59PM
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gardener_mary(6 MA)

My two cents: Water them well, making sure to remove excess water after. Do NOT add any more fertilizer. Allow them some time to try to recover from the inconsistent care before you add any other stress.

Good Luck and Good Gardening

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 11:20PM
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ZachS, actually I used the anti-grav machine for a while, but got tired of drying my clothes on the line; they usually end up frozen here in MN. So instead, I've created a mini-star (easily done by initiating a small nuclear reaction inside a gazing ball) and set it below the plants to balance out the light of the sun. Probably too much heat, though...

Dave, yeah, I'm using that's basically mixture I'm using for everything, except more recent batches it's been peat moss (3), perlite (2), miracle-gro organic garden soil (3) + a bit of garden lime & Espoma garden-tone. I cover seeds in soil block divot with vermiculite because I read some positive studies on improved germination rates when seeds were therewith covered (no matter the soil type). Anyway, this is near the basic recipe that came with my soil blocker from Johnny's, similar to the one used by Elliot Coleman I believe. (Oh, also in recent batches, I've been throwing a very small amount of EM1 in, too, just to make sure the beneficial microorganisms outnumber the wicked ones.)

Why do you say highly problematic? Because it's not soiless and thus damping off diseases are more likely? Thus far, all the seedlings apart from the tomatoes appear fairly healthy: cabbages, morning glories, artichokes, potatoes (TPS), asparagus, peppers (pic), hyssop... But perhaps I've just been lucky so far.

lindalana and edweather, I'd use soiless to avoid disease, but I don't want to have to worry about having to fertilize at random times and I don't know how well soil blocks would hold together with a soiless mix. It Would be easier to buy a pre-mixed substrate, but I have more time than money at present and it's cheaper for me to just mix it myself (especially with the 2000~4000 seedlings I have). Plus it really only takes a few minutes. I get about 8 cu ft. (dry mix) for $27. Btw, I cover the seeds with vermiculite, so they have very little resistance pushing up.

2 cu ft perlite: $17
3 cu ft peat moss: $10
3 cu ft compost: free
garden lime: negligible
organic fert: $2

gardener_mary, thanks for the change. Perhaps I'll just water as you suggest and test a bit of fertilizer on a few of the seedlings in another tray. We'll see who looks happier after a week.

Cheers for the advice everyone!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 2:23AM
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