Ask a Question forum: Seed starting over-crowding help, please.

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Name: Tori
Dallas, GA (Zone 7b)
Region: Georgia Bee Lover Beekeeper Organic Gardener
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GardenGoober
Mar 7, 2015 4:48 PM CST
Let me start out by saying I'm a newbie - not only to this forum - but to seed starting as well. In my enthusiasm and eagerness to get my seeds started early, I neglected to read how many seeds go into each little peat pod. I am now officially a Seed Slum Lord causing my seeds to live in over-crowed and possibly unhealthy conditions! ='(

When I read that you are supposed to put 2-3 seeds per pod (or whatever they're called), I about fell out. I put closer to 1/4 tsp of seeds in each pod... for a total of 144 over-crowded pods!!!! =| In an effort to salvage my reputation among the seed families, I acquired some upscale accommodations in order to re-house them to more suitable living conditions. =] I purchased two of the 18 pot seed starters.

Help! Am I on the right track? Will the babies survive if I transplant them now? What a goober! I fear I'm either going to lose them all or end up having to build a greenhouse!

These are cabbage, collards, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and kale that are exploding.
Thumb of 2015-03-07/GADirtDobber/fade7c

The sprouts in the background are cherry tomatoes.
Thumb of 2015-03-07/GADirtDobber/c1fdae

Upscale accommodations. =)
Thumb of 2015-03-07/GADirtDobber/de0556

"Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
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CarolineScott
Mar 7, 2015 5:13 PM CST
Welcome!
Your seedlings will probably be fine when they are transplanted to larger cells.
We all had to learn by doing and making mistakes!
You will have a nice garden soon.
Name: Celia
West Valley City, Utah (Zone 7a)
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Zencat
Mar 7, 2015 5:17 PM CST
Overcrowding depleats their food supply quickly. You can use a pr of tweezers to pluck out and discard the weaker plants and save the more robust ones. Unless you have room and are inclined to keep them all, that's the route I would go. Otherwise, you may lose them all.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Mar 7, 2015 5:23 PM CST
Tori, Welcome to ATP !!

LOL, we have all made many mistakes with our gardening efforts... unless you really want gazillions of plants, in which case you can likely take the whole plug out and gently separate those little seedlings to plant separately, I'd suggest using some small scissors to cut off all but 2 or 3 seedlings per plug. Then let those grow a bit more and transplant them to individual cells or small pots. (By using scissors you don't risk damaging the roots of the seedlings that you are leaving in place.)

I hope you have a wonderful gardening season ! Smiling
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Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Mar 7, 2015 5:24 PM CST
Welcome Welcome! to ATP and my sympathies on your slum lord status. Hilarious! We've all been where you're at.

Thinning is the hardest thing to do when you first start out with seedlings. Here's what I'd do:

First get your upscale accommodations all ready to receive the baby plants. Fill it up and get the medium moistened thoroughly.

Sit yourself down at a table with good light, a small jug of water, and some paper towels. I use my kitchen counter for this job because you're going to get it a little messy, probably. You can put down newspaper to work on, but I always forget to do that. Let's say you're going to try to transplant 3 cells of each kind of veggie - you have 6 kinds, right? (you didn't tell us what else is in the 144 pack that hasn't come up yet.) At some point you need to figure out how many plants of each you really want, and thin down to that many.

Find a small, thin tool something like a bamboo skewer you'd use for shish kebabs, a metal nail file or a plastic disposable knife with a very thin blade (there's an article about using a palette knife for this job, but I'd be afraid of cutting the tiny stems of the plants.) Once the medium is nice and moist, it will 'hold' if you make a hole in it ready to receive a baby transplant. Make two narrow, deep holes at least an inch apart, more like an open slit in the medium of each cell.

A dinner fork will work well for extracting one cell worth of seedlings at a time. Slip it down the side of the cell, and gently lift out the whole cell, seedlings, medium and all, and lay this on a damp paper towel or newspaper. Work quickly to choose the six strongest seedlings - you don't want them to dry out. Tease them away from their buddies, and delicately thread the roots down into the holes in the new cells so you have two plants to a cell. Place them so the soil is at the same level as they were before. Yes, later you're going to have to choose to take out the weaker one, but this is 'insurance' in case only one survives the transplanting. Push the holes in the medium closed around the roots with your finger or the thin tool.

Once you've done this with all six types of plant, the remainder in the crowded slum you should probably just thin to one or two plants per cell, and see how they fare. You can cut off the crowd with a tiny scissors, or pull them out, holding your finger against the ones you're going to keep. Tease them out carefully and slowly to not tear any roots, this surely takes patience and dexterity. Maybe a small tweezers?

Water everyone with a very gentle flow from a small container onto the medium. OR a spray from a spray bottle can work, but might make the separated seedlings too heavy, you don't want them to 'flop' or the tiny stems might break. Direct the spray below the leaves to just wet the medium. Keep them in the shade until they look like they're recovering then gradually ease them back into good light.

I've done this a LOT lately at our school garden - try telling kindergartners to spread out their seeds! So we dig up the clumps, get the kids to make holes in the soil with their fingers and hand them a tiny seedling to plant. (we do the separating of the crowded clumps) You'll be surprised how many seedlings make it through all this rough treatment! Yours will do even better.

It will help them a lot if you can keep the humidity fairly high around the new transplants for a day or two. So keep them on the cool side and away from heat vents and drafts. Maybe spread damp towels or placemats around them on a counter at night?
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
[Last edited by dyzzypyxxy - Mar 7, 2015 5:29 PM (+)]
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Name: Tori
Dallas, GA (Zone 7b)
Region: Georgia Bee Lover Beekeeper Organic Gardener
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GardenGoober
Mar 7, 2015 5:52 PM CST
CarolineScott said: Welcome!
Your seedlings will probably be fine when they are transplanted to larger cells.
We all had to learn by doing and making mistakes!
You will have a nice garden soon.


:thankyou: Caroline. =)
"Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates
[Last edited by GardenGoober - Mar 7, 2015 6:09 PM (+)]
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Name: Tori
Dallas, GA (Zone 7b)
Region: Georgia Bee Lover Beekeeper Organic Gardener
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GardenGoober
Mar 7, 2015 5:54 PM CST
Zencat said:Overcrowding depleats their food supply quickly. You can use a pr of tweezers to pluck out and discard the weaker plants and save the more robust ones. Unless you have room and are inclined to keep them all, that's the route I would go. Otherwise, you may lose them all.


Thank you Celia.
"Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates
Name: Tori
Dallas, GA (Zone 7b)
Region: Georgia Bee Lover Beekeeper Organic Gardener
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GardenGoober
Mar 7, 2015 5:56 PM CST
Weedwhacker said:Tori, Welcome to ATP !!

LOL, we have all made many mistakes with our gardening efforts... unless you really want gazillions of plants, in which case you can likely take the whole plug out and gently separate those little seedlings to plant separately, I'd suggest using some small scissors to cut off all but 2 or 3 seedlings per plug. Then let those grow a bit more and transplant them to individual cells or small pots. (By using scissors you don't risk damaging the roots of the seedlings that you are leaving in place.)

I hope you have a wonderful gardening season ! Smiling


Thank you for the advice and welcome Sandy. =) I hope you have a wonderful growing season as well. Thumbs up
"Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates
Name: Tori
Dallas, GA (Zone 7b)
Region: Georgia Bee Lover Beekeeper Organic Gardener
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GardenGoober
Mar 7, 2015 6:08 PM CST
dyzzypyxxy said:Welcome Welcome! to ATP and my sympathies on your slum lord status. Hilarious! We've all been where you're at. ...Maybe spread damp towels or placemats around them on a counter at night?


Wow! Thank you, Elaine, for the detailed instructions. Just what I need. I have all the necessary tools to accomplish this delicate operation. Sheesh! This is one lesson I won't soon forget! lol.

So, they should NOT go back under the grow lights then until they have come out of recovery?! Gotcha.

As for the other seeds, I also have Peppers (Poblano, Banana, Bell and Serrano), Leeks, Green Beans, Brandywine Tomatoes, Red Onions, Yellow Onions, Giant Noble Spinach and Bloomdale Spinach, Lavendar, Hyssop, Chamomile, Catnip, Oregano, Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce, and Paris Island Lettuce. These are just the ones that I've started early but they are not busting out at the seems ... yet. Blinking

Thanks for the welcome too! Kindergarten teacher? Bless you!! I tip my hat to you.

Okay, time for surgery. Wish me luck!
"Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates
Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
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jvdubb
Mar 7, 2015 6:13 PM CST
Welcome! and good luck!
Name: Celia
West Valley City, Utah (Zone 7a)
Pour vivre parmi les fleurs
Irises Garden Photography I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Butterflies Birds
Cat Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters Hummingbirder Plant Identifier
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Zencat
Mar 7, 2015 7:54 PM CST
I agree with everything that was said. nodding
Name: Arlene
Grantville, GA (Zone 8a)
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abhege
Mar 7, 2015 8:23 PM CST
Welcome! Don't feel bad, I am an experienced gardener and sometimes I still do that!

Your seedlings will be fine. They do take a lot more handling than you might expect. Keep us posted on how they do!

Name: Tori
Dallas, GA (Zone 7b)
Region: Georgia Bee Lover Beekeeper Organic Gardener
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GardenGoober
Mar 7, 2015 8:42 PM CST
jvdubb said: Welcome! and good luck!


Thanks Jennifer! I'll need it. nodding
"Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates
Name: Tori
Dallas, GA (Zone 7b)
Region: Georgia Bee Lover Beekeeper Organic Gardener
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GardenGoober
Mar 7, 2015 8:47 PM CST
abhege said: Welcome! Don't feel bad, I am an experienced gardener and sometimes I still do that!

Your seedlings will be fine. They do take a lot more handling than you might expect. Keep us posted on how they do!



Thanks fellow-Georgian! Smiling That was quite the task. I didn't realize how difficult it would be to try to weed out some of the babies. Crying I hate to say it but I kept most of them and now I need to buy a few (lot) more trays of the larger pots. Rolling my eyes. Looks like I'll be feeding the entire neighborhood this year. nodding My neighbors are going to LOVE me!! My husband, not so much when I tell him to start building me a greenhouse! Hilarious!

I will definitely keep y'all posted on how they do. Thanks for everyone's support. Thumbs up Appreciate it!
"Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates
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 7, 2015 9:30 PM CST
Already you fit right in. Now to get you hooked on the Piggy Seed Swap later this year! Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing
Name: Celia
West Valley City, Utah (Zone 7a)
Pour vivre parmi les fleurs
Irises Garden Photography I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Butterflies Birds
Cat Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters Hummingbirder Plant Identifier
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Zencat
Mar 8, 2015 5:49 AM CST
Please post lots of pictures of your progress. We never get tired of watching the babies grow!
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
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gemini_sage
Mar 8, 2015 3:21 PM CST
Another tip is to handle tiny seedlings by a leaf, rather than the fragile stem- they recover from a torn leaf, but if you squeeze the tender stem with too much pressure it can kill the seedling. They're surprisingly resilient at this stage.
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Tori
Dallas, GA (Zone 7b)
Region: Georgia Bee Lover Beekeeper Organic Gardener
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GardenGoober
Mar 9, 2015 11:10 AM CST
abhege said:Already you fit right in. Now to get you hooked on the Piggy Seed Swap later this year! Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing


Hmmm... piggy seed swap? Sounds interesting. ;-)
"Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates
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 9, 2015 12:05 PM CST
And loads of fun!!! Good way to get some seeds you may want to try but just not willing to buy and have a lot of fun doing it.

Here's a link to last years sign up so you can get an idea what it's all about.

http://cubits.org/ellasgarden/thread/view/79909/
Name: Tori
Dallas, GA (Zone 7b)
Region: Georgia Bee Lover Beekeeper Organic Gardener
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GardenGoober
Mar 9, 2015 12:56 PM CST
*** UPDATED PHOTOS***

This is going to be very interesting. I've already maxed out my shelf/light space and I only have two of the "upgraded accommodation" trays. Blinking I'm definitely going to need more ... but then I have no shelf to put them on or another light. Ugh!

The transplanted babies are doing great. Didn't even notice any trauma. I kept them on a shelf away from the lights and they just started shooting up leaning towards any light they could find, so they've become quite leggy. I stuck them on the bottom rack under the lights. Didn't know what else to do with them. Suggestions?
Thumb of 2015-03-09/GardenGoober/7f25a1

Then there are my maters. The short ones in front are the Brandywine tomatoes that have just started busting through. The tall ones in the back are the cherry tomatoes that I need to transplant.
Thumb of 2015-03-09/GardenGoober/4a2fe9

The first green bean is breaking though. :hurray:
Thumb of 2015-03-09/GardenGoober/27d481

Next, we have the Jiffy tray with the first two rows on left housing Giant Noble Spinach, third row (except top cell) is Chamomile, next two rows are Bloomdale Spinach, and the next row with nothing going on is catnip.
Thumb of 2015-03-09/GardenGoober/6f892a

And finally, the right side of the Jiffy tray. Far right row and lower half of second row is Paris Island Lettuce, the top half of the second row, third row (to the left) and lower half of the fourth row is Black Seed Simpson lettuce. The top three cells of the fourth row with the itty bitty babies are oregano. Next row to left is Hyssop (Not exactly sure WHY I planted this. Don't even know what to do with it! LOL) Rolling my eyes. The next row is lavender which is doing as well as the catnip. Smiling
Thumb of 2015-03-09/GardenGoober/05d539

And that's where we stand as of today ... one week since I soaked the seeds! Smiling
"Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates

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