Advice on a few road blocks I've hit

Littleton, CO(Zone 5a)

Last year I took my first plunge into indoor seed starting. Pretty easy thing, 12 tomato seedlings and I had no problems. They all lived and were planted and had little baby tomatoes for my mother-in-law. Good stuff.

This year I already have 35+ varieties of seeds going (some 200+ plants) and a few more I’ll start in a few weeks. Things went pretty well at first most of them germinated within about 2 days, which sort of alarmed me because my timeline was counting on a few weeks for germination! However, about 4 different varieties didn’t come up at all and from what I can tell, there shouldn’t have been anything fancy required. I went ahead and moved them to flats with some other new seedlings I was starting and left them covered, but the seeds started molding from the humidity. Question: in an effort to prevent this in the future, should I not be covering my seed containers? Maybe there are other tips to control this? Specific varieties were: Oregon Checkerbloom, 2 types of blanket flower, Penstemon, Agastache (well I sort of expected problems with these), and Salvia. All the seeds I harvested last year except the Salvia I bought this year and I threw some more seeds in those plugs to see if I have better luck.

Now, most of the little seedlings are doing great. They looked a little yellow to me after 2 weeks, so I added a half dose of Fish Emulsion Fertilizer to the next watering. (OH my GOSH that stuff STINKS! Hehe Next time I will not do that in the house.) However, the Globe Flower and some of my Ageratum (Floss Flower) seedlings have leaves that are wilting? I had the flats outside during the nice weather and the sun was on them a little before I moved them back to the shade, did they get sunburned? They seemed fine until some time the next day. Or could it be too much water? Shock? I put them in the garage that night, it was probably around 40F in there? Those are the only things I can guess. Would any of those make them do that? I attached pictures.

Is there any reason I can’t put my flats outside on nice days (+40F temps) and bring them in at night? I’m starting to run out of space under the lights and in a few weeks I wanted to start a few vegetables and herbs. All the reading I’ve done says they’re very fragile and have to stay inside, but seriously, plants have been growing outside forever. What do you all think?

Last thing for now. I went out on a limb and bought a few live plants via mail order that arrived today. They all looked super great at first glance, small, but lots of new growth and the pots were still plenty moist when they arrived. At closer glance, I noticed they had “water spots” on the leaves. At first I left it at that, but then realized the same white powder was on the main stem and several other stems of one of the mints. I’m thinking Powdery Mildew? Closer inspection showed smaller amounts on 3 of 4 of the mints and 1 of the 2 Sweet Woodruffs. 4 other plants in the shipment seemed fine. I did some quick research and found one suggestion to spray a baking soda mixture on the leaves, stems and soil of the plant and place them in warm sun. Being short on “warm sun” I loosely placed plastic bags over the plants and put them under grow lights. (I know, the bags will hold in moisture and encourage the mildew, but I didn’t want the spores getting airborn and spreading to all the other plants under my grow lights.) Any other suggestions?

So in summary:
Am I doing something wrong with seedlings that is causing them not to germinate and just mold? How can I prevent this?

Any ideas on why a few varieties of my seedlings are wilting and languishing?

Can I put 3 week old seedlings outside in the shade for light and bring them in at night in order to conserve space?

Any suggestions on what to do with my shipped plants that I think have powdery mildew?

Here's a picture of the Ageratum with wilting leaves

Thumbnail by kTalia
Littleton, CO(Zone 5a)

And the Globe Flower which REALLY seem unhappy.

Thumbnail by kTalia
Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

First of all you need to go to bed because your seedlings are sensitive to overtired people ^_^ Just kiddin. Some seeds take longer to germinate than others. I don't use lids because of mold and damping off but it does mean you have to mist alot to keep the soil surface moist. Re: you wilting seedlings, are you bottom watering? Also you might want to dilute your fertilizer to 1/2 strength until the seedling has 6-8 true leaves. Seedlings will burn if exposed to full sun that they're not used to. They can go outside as soon as its warm enough but part shade to start and gradually move them into more sun. Try spraying your mildew with milk (1 partmilk: 9 parts water). I'd definitely put the mildewed plants outside during the day if its warm enough.

Littleton, CO(Zone 5a)

Sleep, I know. I wish. I don't know what's going on. I haven't been able to sleep in about 2 weeks. Usually I have the opposite. I did finally fall asleep at 4am only to wake at 7am with the boys. The good news is wine helps, so hey, can't complain about that. lol

I was afraid the lids might be giving me problems with the seeds molding. I have a tray with holes inside a tray, so I do water from the bottom, but I have been spot misting the seeds. Thanks for the input. It's high 50's today so I put out the mildew plants (in the sun) and the largest flat of seedlings out. (the later in the shade). Thanks.

Reno, NV

I've started using Hydroden peroxide added to my water every now and then. It's supposed to discourage fugus and molds. So far this is the first year I haven't have a bunch of seedlings damp off. I'll see if I can find the thread on it. But I just put a couple of caps of the normal 3% stuff in my little watering can once in a while. I also used it on some compost pots that were moldy when I got them. Haven't had a problem after bakeing and useing the H2O2.

Dolores, CO(Zone 5b)

KTalia... I'm not much help with the seedlings because I'm still learning myself (so I appreciate your questions!), but I can commiserate with the occasional sleep issues... it seems lately like either I can't sleep, or I sleep so well that I don't want to get up! Is there some misalignment of planets or something? LOL... it is a good thing the wine helps...

Reno, NV

( Here's that post on H2O2.

I hear you both on the sleeping. But for me it just seems like I'm not ment to sleep much. And when I do want to sleep is never when the rest of the world will let me- ie at work;)

Aurora, CO(Zone 5b)

I also do the H2O2, but only when I notice a little white fungus. Green, I don't worry about, just cut back on watering. Keep the domes on until seedlings sprout. Then, leave a crack (I stick a pencil in one corner) until the little sprouts start getting close to the lid. You need to have good air flow in the room, either your house ventilation, or use a fan (I use both, and an oscilating fan). I'm assuming that your seed setup has lights? Those need to stay within 2" of the seedlings, or they will get stragly (sp?). I don't add any fertilizer whatsoever until a couple of weeks after the dome comes off, which is when I'm potting up. I don't put any seedling outside until after being potted, and even then, not until a week or two before ready to put into the ground.

Having said all that, I'm still starting all my warm season stuff (mainly veggies) inside. But, I am trying winter sowing this year. It seems really simple, less effort, need less room, and let ma nature do her thing. This will be my 4th year starting seeds inside, and I haven't lost too many, usually the more persnickity ones.

Littleton, CO(Zone 5a)

Ok, I like the info, a few clarifying questions.

Earlier I forgot to ask about the milk in regard to mildew. Is that supposed to kill the mildew or control it's spread? What I read on the Baking Soda was that it doesn't kill the mildew, just prevent it from being able to reproduce on the treated surfaces, thus eventually starving it out.

Good tip on the H20, I'll add it in the next watering cycle.

My growing room is my small laundry room. So it's very easy to control the temperature in there if I leave the door closed except when I run the dryer. Then I open the door because it gets to hot in there. I have some florescent lights on a pully system above the washer and dryer (thanks to my wonderful inventive husband) so I can keep the lights right on top of the plants. I have not been running any fans, but the laundry room has a ventilation fan I'll start running. It's like a bathroom fan, is that enough circulation?

So the various colonies of moss I'm growing are ok? What about the purple stuff?? I'm thinking purple must be bad. Thank goodness I only have 2 pots with that.

Today has been a very busy exciting day. I think I will have no problem sleeping. I took my oldest in to the Dr for and emergency playground accident. Fortunately he's ok other than hurting really bad. But at first I was really worried, it looked like he had a second head growing out of his forehead. Thank God boys are so resilient.

Dolores, CO(Zone 5b)

O, it is so scary when our kids get hurt... I know you know this, but watch him closely... concussions and all. Headaches after the event should be immediately checked, I had my share of concussions as a child!

Littleton, CO(Zone 5a)

Actually, I really didn't know, but the Dr gave me a list of symptoms to watch for. I need to wake him up in about an hour.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Concussions are not good. Thankfully kidlings have hard heads. The goose eggs always look very scary though. The milk treatment prevents it from occuring and controls spread but doesn't kill it. I did find the mildew disappeared with sun and good air circulation but if that doesn't work, a fungicide should get rid of it. I always have the luvly emerald green moss that I just stir up with a toothpick if it gets too thick. Doesn't hurt anything. I kill the with white fuzzy moss with hydrogene peroxide too. I've never had purple.

Santa Fe, NM

I hope your son is fine today! I haven't given any advice on seedlings because I'm so awful with them. I'm sure you are doing better than I would.

Littleton, CO(Zone 5a)

I'm pretty sure now that the globe flowers got Dampning off. The day outside, cutting back water, and cutting back the dying leaves seems to have perked up a few of them.

Gastonia, NC(Zone 7b)

How's your boy doing today? That would be so scary! But, my dad would have said something like, maybe it will knock some sense into his head...... he would say that about anyone though, so it was okay. ;-)

I'm learning with the seedlings too kTalia..... but doing it differently than you are so just reading along here. ;-) We seem to have a few of us new-to-the-climate folks going on ---haha keeps the oldtimers lively, I reckon.

Reno, NV

Glad the seedlings are doing better. I'm not new to climate here, just new to gardening in it. Lol.

Aurora, CO(Zone 5b)

Never heard of the milk until DN mentioned it, nor the baking soda. The biggest cause of damping off that I know of is to much water and not enough air flow. As far as that goes, you just don't wnat to stick them somewhere the air isn't moving. If your medium (dirt) gets a little dry, don't panick and drown them. Just add a little water at a time (bottom watering) until you get the hang of keeping the babies MOIST. Obviously, as they get bigger, they will need more water. Oh yeah, have never seen purple before. LOL

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