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Name: Jerri Kuchenmeister
Minnesota (Zone 4b)
Vegetable Grower
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jkuchenmeister2013
Mar 9, 2013 9:44 AM CST
Hello, I am fairly new to gardening. Ive had a garden here and there throughout the years but with the purchase of our new home its time to get serious. Ive started some tomato and pepper seedlings and noticed a layer of what looks like mold growing any ideas on what I am doing wrong. I have them in little indoor greenhouses that zip up and I was thinking they need more air flow but thought Id get some answers first.
Name: Sandi
Austin, Tx (Zone 8b)
Texas Gardening
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Bubbles
Mar 9, 2013 11:34 AM CST
Hi Jerri! Try the link below and it will take you to the forum for growing edibles. There's lots of good information and helpful people over there. Welcome to ATP!

http://garden.org/forums/view/eateat/
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
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drdawg
Mar 9, 2013 11:35 AM CST
Moisture without air movement equals mold/mildew. Even without mold, vegetable plants need light, moisture and air movement to grow well. Ken
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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woofie
Mar 10, 2013 11:01 AM CST
Ken is right. Unzip that cover.....or take it off entirely! I've had much better luck with heat mats and domed trays than with those little mini greenhouses.
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Ginger
Fountain, Florida (Zone 8b)
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gingin
Mar 12, 2013 6:14 PM CST
Welcome! Welcome!
Each cloud has a silver lineing if only you look for it.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Mar 12, 2013 8:04 PM CST
High humidity is OK for a few days, while you are sprouting seeds and waiting for them to emerge from the soil. The humidity keeps the soil surface from drying out, which always tempts me to over-water. I think that SMART seed-starters get their sterile medium BARELY damp before putting it in small pots or trays. Like a wrung-out sponge. Damp, not wet. And soggy is much too wet.

However, as soon as any seedlings start to emerge, they want drier air and you have to remove humidity domes or plastic film.

>> a layer of what looks like mold growing

That does sound WAY too damp, if it really is mold.

Even a little mold at the soil surface is prone to attack very young stems. If a seedling with just a few leaves falls over like a cut tree, with a limp "broken neck" right at the soil surface, you probably have "damping off". There are many suggested prevention methods, some of which probably do help. (Cinnamon powder, watering with Chamomille tea instead of water, and misting or watering with 0.1% hydrogen peroxide instead of water). I doubt there is any cure.

The best prevention is to remove any conditions that favor damping off.

1.
Give them dry air, not humid air, AS SOON AS the seedling emerges (it is most vulnerable then). A small fan is a big help. Stagnant air seems to favor the damping -off fungi.

2.
I think the biggest factor is how damp the SURFACE of your soil mix is. The seeds and roots do need water, but the surface should dry off ASAP. Clever seed-starters learn how not to over-water. I keep hoping I will learn one of these years. Sometimes I lay a capillary mat like cotton flannel on the bottom of the tray and bottom water instead of watering from above.

The easy way to assure a quickly-dry soil surface is to spread a little coarse Perlite on top, which drains fast and dries quickly. I like a top layer of bark nuggets or shreds (as coarse as fit easily into the pot or cell). Or grit or crushed rock (like 3-4 mm grains). Some top-dress with "coarse" sand, but it has to be coarse enough and "sharp" enough not to hold water with capillary action. In my book, any sand that coarse isn't sand, it's grit!

2.5
P.S. This next one isn't really about damping off, it's about baby roots drowning.

Roots need to find air (oxygen) in their soil mix or they drown just like we do. If the mix is too fine (like pure milled peat moss), it will hold as much water as you give it - displacing the air and blocking the voids and tiny channels that air would otherwise have diffused through.

That's why most people add Perlite to c heap commercial mixes and I add relatively coarse bark. Coarser texture creates more air voids and lets water drain OUT so that air can diffuse IN. really pricy professional mixes have higher porosity than cheapo peaty mixes. (Or maybe you can learn to avoid ovewrwatering ... I haven't learned it yet.)

Drowned roots = dead seedlings. DrownING roots = sickly, slow-growing seedlings. Less air penetration means anoxic soil or hypoxia: anaerobic bacteria and fungi favored over the (usually more desirable) aerobic microbes. Everyone says that seeds need water to germinate ... actually they need plenty of oxygen and JUST ENOUGH water.

3.
Healthy vigorous seedlings that are growing as fast as possible for the first few days seem to get past their period of vulnerability before the damping off fungi c an establish themselves.. I THINK that is why bright lights seem to reduce the amount of damping off. Seedlings need full brightness as soon as they emerge. Someone claimed that seedlings need brighter light than adult plants!

Or maybe bright light bleaches the fungi, or heats and dries the soil surface. Or it encourages algae which suppress the fungi! Who knows?


4.
The soilless mix should be as clean as practical. We call it "sterile", but it isn't sterile as a nurse would use the term. If you do save any unused seed-start mix from year to year, at least cover the bag tightly and keep it dry. Dust or a dirty trowel carries in fungal spores. Keep it clean, as a nurse would define "clean". After all, it will be the swaddling clothes for your vulnerable new-born plants.

DAMP mix starts to ferment, usually anaerobically or with low O2 levels. First, that creates alcohols and acid (fermentation products) which are low-level root toxins. Then the "sterile" mix collects huge numbers of the worst microbes for seed-starting: anaerobic fermenting microbes.

Don't re-use used mix to start seeds! Use it as potting soil or to lighten a raised bed. For those purposes, it is like gold, whereas for seed starting, once-used mix is like putting a dirty diaper back on a baby.

Some brave souls start seeds in garden soil they have sterilized! For some reason seedlings have fewer problems with damping off when started outdoors. Indoors, soil or organic compost contain and also tend to attract flies and fungus and mold.

Others sterilize their seedling flats, pots and trays with Clorox or Hydrogen Peroxide.

Some recipes are:

Sterilize pots and trays with household "REGULAR" Clorox diluted 1:9 or 1:10. Start with REGULAR Clorox which is 5% - 10% Sodium hypochlorite. Never water with this!
Just use it to sterilize clean pots or trays, then rinse after sterilizing.
"Non-chlorine bleach" is something else that does not sterilize.

You can discourage fungus and add a little oxygen to soil by misting or watering with very dilute hydrogen peroxide. Start with household peroxide (3% H2O2).
1 ounce per quart (one ounce is 2 tablespoons) or
1/2 cup per gallon.
Other people suggest using it stronger - perhaps as much as 3 times stronger. YMMV.

Or buy a big jar of cinnamon powder, and dust the soil surface with that before sowing.

Or water with Chamomile tea.

But my suggestions are:
1. Soil surface is usually dry.
2. Soilless mix must DRAIN WELL and be clean
3. use bright lights and foster fast-growing seedlings
4. air is not too humid, preferably moving air after watering and a few other times per day.

(If you already have some food grade peroxide, it is around 35% instead of 3%, so use 1/10th as much! Like 2-6 teaspoons per gallon)

http://www.using-hydrogen-peroxide.com/gardening-with-hydrog...



Name: Jerri Kuchenmeister
Minnesota (Zone 4b)
Vegetable Grower
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jkuchenmeister2013
Mar 12, 2013 8:48 PM CST
Thank you all for the great advice. Ive unzipped and removed the cover, added a fan in short doses and moved some plants to more sunny locations that arent getting enough from the grow lights. Hopefully will see a difference in a few days.
Name: Jerri Kuchenmeister
Minnesota (Zone 4b)
Vegetable Grower
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jkuchenmeister2013
Mar 12, 2013 9:22 PM CST
Thumb of 2013-03-13/jkuchenmeister2013/aa61b6 Ive moved my seedlings that are out of domes upstairs.
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
The WITWIT Badge I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Dog Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters Container Gardener Seed Starter
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woofie
Mar 12, 2013 9:29 PM CST
Good luck! Let us know how things progress. Smiling
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Mar 12, 2013 9:44 PM CST
Cool! They do look like they're stretching towards the light.

I have a floor lamp with three swiveling cone-shaped reflectors on a pole. I found the brightest CFL bulbs I could, and set the pole as close to my trays as I could, then aimed the lights at the trays.

Then I found a clamp-on light fixture, and aimed another CFL at the trays. Next time I go to a Habitat for Humanity "Restore", I'm going to look for more fixtures I can squeeze in there.

The brightest CFL bulbs I could find were advertised as 'equivalent" to 100 Watt incandescent bulbs in light output. These are pear-shaped screw-base (mogul base) bulbs, not the 4-foot linear tubes called "shop lights".

P.S. I've read that most seedlings will grow stockier (shorter and bushier) if they have cool air, especially at night.
Name: Franklin Troiso
Rutland, MA (Zone 5b)
Life is to short to eat rice cakes
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herbie43
Mar 12, 2013 10:28 PM CST
tomatoes germinate best with the soil at 80 degrees but the grow best at 60 degrees. i used to grow my tomato plants in my unheated basement and i always put the grow lights on for 16 hous a day.

visit [url=www.cookfromtheheart.com]www.cookfromtheheart.com[/url]
frank
Name: Arlene
Grantville, GA (Zone 8a)
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abhege
Mar 13, 2013 6:20 AM CST
I've already put my tomatoes out in the unheated greenhouse. Well, had to put heater out there a few nights when it dips into the 30s. but otherwise, they're out in the cool nights. It does make them stockier. And that way I don't overwater them since they're not in my face all day! Hilarious!

Every year I say I'm not going to overwater, and every year I still do! And I've been doing seeds for a lot of years. Shrug!
Name: Jerri Kuchenmeister
Minnesota (Zone 4b)
Vegetable Grower
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jkuchenmeister2013
Mar 13, 2013 12:19 PM CST
Its still too cold here in Minnesota to put my seedlings in the garage or outside so I have them by my south facing window in my livingroom and another mini greenhouse downstairs for my just seeded or just coming up seedlings. I try not to water them too much but I can totally see how one would/ or could because your always looking at them and seeing the soil dry up Hilarious!
[Last edited by jkuchenmeister2013 - Mar 13, 2013 12:21 PM (+)]
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Name: Arlene
Grantville, GA (Zone 8a)
Greenhouse Region: Georgia Garden Sages Organic Gardener Beekeeper Vegetable Grower
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abhege
Mar 13, 2013 2:22 PM CST
I agree Resist!!! Hilarious!
Name: Jerri Kuchenmeister
Minnesota (Zone 4b)
Vegetable Grower
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jkuchenmeister2013
Mar 13, 2013 2:38 PM CST
I have a couple of Roma plants that I am especially proud of...Cant wait to see what comes of them this summer.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Mar 13, 2013 3:09 PM CST
I make my soil mix drain so fast that any excess water runs right out the bottom and into the tray. Then I use a turkey baster.

Lately I've put cotton flannel in the bottom of the trays, so I can bottom-water without filling my bathtub tub drain with mud (I clogged it one year). But bottom-watering makes me worry about "building up salts", so I still flush from the top sometimes.

And I top-dress with bark chunks that are SUPPOSED to dry out quickly. Whether or not the "mulch" keeps the real surface from drying out, it does keep me from seeing the dry surface, so I don't over-water water or mist AS MUCH.

Is it ever possible to garden as a hobby? Or is it always an obsession?

Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Mar 13, 2013 3:36 PM CST
An obsessive hobby! nodding Ken
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Arlene
Grantville, GA (Zone 8a)
Greenhouse Region: Georgia Garden Sages Organic Gardener Beekeeper Vegetable Grower
Seed Starter Cut Flowers Composter Keeper of Poultry Keeps Goats Avid Green Pages Reviewer
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abhege
Mar 13, 2013 9:57 PM CST
I agree

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