reviving wilted seedlings - why is potting up working?

gardningscomplicated(southeast michigan - 5b or 6?)May 16, 2010

My seedlings got too much sun the past couple days, and some of them were seriously wilted. They've been outside a lot. But it's been cloudy most of the time, and they had just spent the day inside, so the full sun was just too much for some of them. And I thought they were dead for sure. But three of these undead seedlings were about 6 weeks old, and were some of my practice plants. So I decided to pot them up from their 1 1/2 inch soil blocks to 3 inch blocks. They look perfectly healthy now, and I can't tell them apart from the other ones. So I tried potting up 9 of my smaller undead seedlings last night, and 6 look great today. 2 are still wilty, but improving. And only the crispiest one looks like it won't make it. But I potted that one up thinking it would take a miracle for it to survive. I just wanted to see what the limits were. So I have a couple questions.

1) What is it about potting them up that's working? Did they just need water? They're pretty saturated now with the new blocks. Watering the smaller blocks didn't seem to work as well. But I only watered them lightly, because I didn't want to overwater. Or did they need some nutrients that may have been depleted from the smaller blocks? I overwatered them when I started. And I read something digdirt posted about nutrients getting washed out with overwatering. So I thought that could be part of the problem. My soil mix has some compost and a small amount of azomite, greensand, rock phosphate, and cottonseed meal. I still have a lot of undead seedlings to revive, so I'm wondering if there's a quicker way than potting up.

2) Will the undead be less productive? I'm going to use them anyway, but I'm just wondering if I should expect less. Or will they need any kind of special attention?

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taz6122(N.W. AR.6b)

Roots grow too! They need room to spread out. It could have been a water issue. Bigger pots= more water.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 5:30PM
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gardningscomplicated(southeast michigan - 5b or 6?)

taz - Yeah, it's easy to forget that top growth is only about half of what's going on. Maybe healthy roots are enough to keep them going, while the tops are recovering. I have a couple that were just stems, and now they're starting to grow tiny leaves out the top. I just gave them all a good watering, and I'm going to set them outside in the shade for a while, so they'll have a little time in the sun today. Then I'm going to pot up some more tonight.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 6:20PM
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Bets(z6A S ID)

Hi GC,

Six weeks old in a 1 1/2" soil block? Yeah they were seriously deprived, especially when they went out into the sun. Six weeks is old enough to plant into the garden and they should have had more room a lot earlier.

Wilted tomatoes will sometimes revive more quickly if you mist the leaves. (Ever have a tray that you "discovered" was not on something level?)

Good luck with the revivals!

Betsy

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 7:17PM
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gardningscomplicated(southeast michigan - 5b or 6?)

betsy - I figured I was late potting up the older ones, and I was getting ready to pot them up anyway. Those were from my first failed attempt at starting this year, and I was just considering them practice plants. But they're doing really well now, so they'll be the first to get planted in my new garden. But the smaller ones seemed ok in the smaller blocks, so I wasn't sure space was an issue yet. I did mist them a few times, and gave them a light watering yesterday. And they seem to be responding better to the more thorough watering I gave them today. I made my trays out of cardboard, and they're all pretty warped. And none of them are level. So I have to pick up the trays and swish the water around a bit when I'm watering. This is my first year trying soil blocks, and watering from the bottom, and there's a lot of room for improving for next year. But overall it seems to be working out well. Much better than last year.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 7:59PM
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gardningscomplicated(southeast michigan - 5b or 6?)

I should probably add that I lined my cardboard trays with trash bags. Otherwise they'd be mush by now:)

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 8:02PM
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Bets(z6A S ID)

LOL! on the mush. I was just wondering about that when I saw the post about garbage bags. As long as it works for you, that is what counts!

Personally I have not tried soil blocking (it does look intriguing) but I really thing you do need to move them into larger blocks or into pots much sooner than you are. It is generally recommended that the first potting up take place shortly after the plants have their first true leaves. Yes, that will stress them, but by doing so you get the advantage of a plant that is "adapted to adapting" and they will take adverse conditions in the garden that much better.

Good luck!

Betsy

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 10:25AM
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