Ask a Question forum: Fertilizer Weighing Plants Down

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ouranchimaru
Mar 25, 2016 10:07 PM CST
I recently bought Expert brand all-purpose fertilizer and thought maybe it would help my plants grow faster. My plants are not that strong yet, and I didn't think that having some fertilizer would be a big deal, until I got home today and saw that all of my small seedlings were dropping from the weight of the fertilizer, something that had not happened when I first put it in. AI'm worried and don't know what I should do. Please help!
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Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Mar 25, 2016 10:33 PM CST
Hi and welcome! Sad to say, it wasn't the fertilizer that flattened those little seedlings, it was all that water in there. Your babies died of a bad case of damping off - the stems simply rotted. (it's actually probably a fungal process, so don't use that soil again)

That being said, you also don't need to add any fertilizer to seedlings until they are a lot bigger - those first two tiny leaves are called "cotyledons" and aren't the first set of true leaves that look like the ones the plant will have when it grows up. So until your seedlings produce their first adult leaves they are living on the food that was in the seed capsule and don't need any help. If they hadn't died of too much water, they probably would have burned from all that fertilizer.

Start again with some fresh, loose seed starting mix, in a pot or container that drains well. Then keep the mix just damp, about as moist as a wrung-out sponge. So if you touch the surface of the soil it feels moist but not soggy. Spraying the soil, or watering with a very fine drizzle will help to not break the tender stems of your seedlings.

When those first leaves appear, then fertilize weakly, and just a little bit every week or so. Use about 1/2 strength of what it says on the package, with a soluble plant food - pelleted fert like what you have in the picture is for your plants once they are out in the garden.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Mar 26, 2016 12:20 PM CST
Is there a drainage hole in that pot. It looks like your seedlings are floating in a lake.

Believe EVERYTHING Elaine told you. She is spot on. There are a couple things I do differently (but there are a lot of 'right' ways. I might wait a bit on the fertilizer - there is usually a little bit in the seed starting mix.

I spray the surface of my seed pots with a fungicide after I have planted the seeds and I always water from the bottom to avoid disturbing the developing root systems.

Daisy
Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
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Horntoad
Mar 26, 2016 12:27 PM CST
I agree with everything said above.
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Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Mar 26, 2016 12:52 PM CST
I agree with you, Daisy. Better a bit late than too soon on the fertilizer. The baby plants will tell you when they need some, by the color of the leaves.

I also water from the bottom now, bought some seed starting kits from Burpee that have a dandy wicking 'mat' and they work like a charm. But I don't think our original poster is quite to the point of wanting to try that yet. They're not cheap.

I've never had problems with damping off, that I know of, so I don't use the fungicide or anything.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill

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