Why am I such a murderer?

taxtaxAugust 10, 2011

These are not exactly all tomato plants, but a huge assortment. For some reason, when ever I grow any kind of seed inside either a very small pot, or something like this, they grow about 2 inches tall and just fall over and die.

I'm not sure where do I go wrong here? I used to suspect it was lack of water, but that doesn't seem to change anything.


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Jprice1021(7a South NJ)

IMO, they look leggy. They need direct sunlight or put a shop light no more than 6 inches over top of your seedlings from now on.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 10:36PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

OP's link:

Definitely too leggy. What Jprice1021 said about lighting: except I'd say "no more than 3 or 4 inches above the tops of the seedlings." 16 hours of light a day. The light needs to be there before the seeds sprout, or they'll stretch too much before you know it. [It's not fatal at that point -- but it's not good. Ask me how I know this.]

And possibly damping off? Quoting from the FAQ:

Damping Off
Characterized by lack of germination (pre-emergent) or causes narrowing of the newly emerged stems at the soil line and the tiny seedlings then flop over and die (post-emergent). Various fungi are responsible for the condition and they are found in high concentrations in any mix with real soil. That's why it's best to use the artificial seed starting mixes mentioned in step #2. Also, it's very important to be sure that plastic domes or baggies on your containers are not airtight. If these precautions are observed, it is unlikely that you will experience damping off.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 11:31PM
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Let there be light! Are you keeping those poor babies in a closet???? I have never had correct light set up. I use sunlight when not too hot, or cover with clothes basket and create partial shade, or use inside desk light, careful not to burn them. Yes, I have left them in the dark too long myself...... they may still make it. Good luck, Linda

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 12:53AM
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No I didn't have them in a closet, though for a while I did have them on a porch with a roof, but I thought the lux's from the ambient sun-light would be good enough. I then later moved them into direct sunlight but that didn't seem to save them.

I have noticed areas of the stems got very, very narrow, and I'm wondering if that means it really is a problem of just damping off. I also put a pot I planted in direct light of a kitchen window, and seems the same thing, they grow fine for 2 inches tall or more, and just fall over dead.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 8:30AM
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damping off.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 8:42AM
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Thanks guys, I did more research on this damping off (never heard of it before), and it is sounding EXACTLY like what is happening.

And I had bought this special potting soil thinking I was actually being careful and doing the best for my plants, when I guess I bought litres full of fungus the whole time.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 10:40AM
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I always use sterile seed starting mix or those little peat disks to start my seeds. Once they get bigger I plant them in soiless potting mix. Every once in a while one will flop over, but rare. Also worth knowing, tom seedlings are VERY sensitive to ferts. Much less is much better. Dilute! Linda

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 11:14AM
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air circulation! get a fan on them as soon as they pop there little heads up.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 11:22AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Besides helping prevent damping off, the fan will strengthen their stems.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 6:05PM
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Be sure to also check your growing medium. if the right amount of fresh air and sunlight are not helping, change your growing medium! It may be contaminated.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 1:43PM
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As soon as my seedlings emerge from the soil I put them in full, direct sunlight. Potting soil with a lot of peat should be able to keep the moisture in the soil that you won't need to water them until the next day or so. If I don't then my seedlings being to look like yours.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 10:37PM
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I put new seedling out in sunlight also but not sure that would be a good idea this time of year in most of the country. LInda

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 11:30PM
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I don't think it's a good time for the rest of the country to grow tomatoes at this time of the year. Only areas that don't frost should be planting at this time.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 11:34PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Well, some of us have delusions that we're going to grow tomatoes indoors over the winter....

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 12:37AM
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Oh, I never thought of that until now. Does that work?
I don't even have heating in my house. If it gets especially cold I have to sit in front of the oven.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 10:45AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

This is my first try. The tomatoes will be in the basement, under the fluorescent lights I use for seedlings (with some grow lights added). The basement isn't that cold -- it's a walk-out basement with sun on the longer east wall. The plants will be atop an old workbench and away from the cement floor. If it isn't warm enough to set fruit, I'll add a couple of incandescent bulbs to raise the temperature in that area.

If fruit still doesn't set, I can bring two or three of the smaller plants upstairs. Unfortunately, this house has tiny windows: the most useful are on the east side; none on the south and only one possibility on the west. There's nowhere upstairs to add fluorescents easily.


awsumth, if it's cold enough to sit in front of the oven, you might want to buy a portable space heater and a good extension cord. There are some very efficient, inexpensive ones available, which are small enough not to take up much room in your storage area the rest of the year. Then you could have a warm spot wherever you are in the house. Just be sure to keep it away from anything flammable, and never leave it on when you're not there.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 11:54AM
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zzackey(8b GA)

We had a pepper plant inside and it stayed alive. Our house isn't cold and it had a bright window. I think you would need a well heated greenhouse to achieve what you want to do.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 4:59PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

zackey, I've had no problems growing seedlings under fluorescents in the basement -- not simply starting them, but growing them to 8" height. These tomatoes will have additional fluorescents (grow lights) and if needed, some incandescents for local heat. Other people grow tomatoes (for fruit) in basements, so I think I have some chance it will work.

Perhaps you will feel better knowing that the other end of the basement is in the same heating zone as the newer part of the upstairs; it's not enough to keep the entire basement as warm as the upstairs, but it does make a difference.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 9:53PM
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It is always a good time for all of us to start seed. Where is the loss? I understand your view, better yet the fact you bring up. But if everyone north of the Mason/Dixon line were to plant a transplant right now, I would bet there would be some tomatoes. Broad statement, but there is nothing wrong with planting something against all odds and watching it die...and learning from it through documentation. Better yet, watching that strong one out of the bunch that just refuses to fail.

Take care,

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 11:16PM
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