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poor germination, leggy direct sown seedlings

Posted by dlup 4a MN (My Page) on
Tue, May 31, 11 at 20:27

Hi all,

Looking for advice, similar experiences this year, and sympathy! We have had a cold, cloudy, and wet "spring" in the Twin Cities this year...I know, I know, who hasn't in the Midwest and elsewhere too. Alas.

First off, we have had poor germination of direct sown cool season crops, including peas, beets, arugula, spinach, kale, chard, collards, and cabbage. We planted first on Some of these we had a few come up, some we had none; some squares we replanted part or all of once, some we have now replanted some or all of twice as of today. Anybody in either the upper Midwest or in similar zones have this same experience this year? Any thoughts as to what would cause this? Seems like lots of water and not much sun must be a factor.

Second, many of the seedlings that made it from the first seeding or the second are growing slowly and are very leggy and floppy with very thin stalks where they emerge from the ground. This is true of collards, cabbage, leaf lettuces, those romaines that germinated, and beets. Notably, seedlings of warm season crops that we planted from seedlings purchased at the Minneapolis farmers market (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants) and bigger, more deeply planted crops we direct sowed (peas, bush beans) seem to not have this problem. This makes me think the problem could be moisture in the top inch of so of our beds.

It seems to me that the top layer of our beds both this year and last year had a lot of bits of stick and wood chip from the compost added at the beginning or end of the season. Normally I obsessively screen my compost, which would get some of this stuff out, but I did not last fall, and perhaps not everything that went in was fully composted. The coarser bits seem to accumulate on the surface, perhaps because of winnowing by the abundant worms. The result is that the beds seem to have this layer of loose, less soil-like material at the surface, and I suspect that this dries out more quickly than the mix below.

I have not really been using the watering system I have as it seems that we have been getting at least some rain every other day or so for most of the "spring", but perhaps the surface layer dries so quickly that small seedlings cannot manage and thus are leggy? Or could it be that they are leggy because the mix is just fine and their roots have access to good enough soil but that the regular rains are too much for them?

What say y'all?


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: poor germination, leggy direct sown seedlings

Did you try a dose of blood meal or some other nitrogen source? I am thinking it is shallow rooting due to all the rain along with the less composted material on the top, it could be leaching nitrogen, so the nitrogen going down beside the roots might stimulate the roots and strengthen the plants.

Here is a link that might be useful: Description of Blood meal use

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