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Did I overwater my squash and cucumber seedlings??

Brookfield, WI

I am a brand new gardener. I picked up several types of vegetable seeds last month, found a bright location in my house to start them & planted in biodegradable containers that have a clear plastic top - got it at the garden store.

I've replanted smaller containers (when the roots grew through the bottoms) into larger biodegradable containers -- I've done this so far with my squash plants (2) and my cucumber plants (3). These guys have done GREAT and looked wonderful... up until the last two days...

I am NOTORIOUS for overwatering houseplants but I did a lot of reading before I planted these guys and I thought I was doing a good job.

Now they're droopy. The leaves are turning in & they are all leaning.

I was spritzing water on the soil of these plants about every-other day. It is very dry in my house and when I'd feel the soil it would also be dry.

My plan of attack this morning was to NOT water them because I suspect that I have overwatered as I've unfortunately done in the past.

Here are my questions:

1. how do I know if they are overwatered? What are the signs of this?

2. if they are overwatered, if I do not water them for some time will they perk up again?

3. how often SHOULD I be watering them? I thought I knew, but I guess I do not.

If you have any OTHER recommendations, please let me know. I'm so sad! I was so excited when my seedlings popped up and then they were doing so well - I feel so bad that I may have damaged them beyond repair.

Any help is appreciated.

PS - I can work on getting a picture of them posted but in the meantime, if anyone can help me out just from the droopy description, that'd be great. Thanks in advance!

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

I cannot garden without my Moisture Meter. Buy them at HD or any nursery, about $20 or less. Here's a pic.

I water when the soil is fairly dry, most plants prefer to dry somewhat between waterings.


Thumbnail by MaryMcP
Brookfield, WI

Thanks, Mary - I'll put that on my list of must-buys the next time I'm at the store!

Here is a pic of one of my sad plants (they all look like this - droopy).

I decided to try again with new squash and cucumber seeds but in the meantime, if anyone could take a peek at the picture here & let me know if my little guys can be saved, I'd appreciate it.

FYI - I did NOT water today... and won't for a while.

Thumbnail by HaleyZ
Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Yeah Haley, I'd let those little guys dry out a bit. The soil looks wet and he sure is droopy. It might help if you added some airspace under the pot. I sometimes use a trivet (from the kitchen) to raise the base of the pot off a flat surface so air can get under and around the pot. Is there a hole in the bottom of the pot? A good sized hole?

Brookfield, WI

Mary - the pots are the biodegradable kind - no hole, but they're supposed to be 'breathable' through the material they're made from... I haven't the slightest! I'll try your trivet idea - I'm happy that they may not be a lost cause...

Who knew how bummed out I'd be when my plants took a turn for the worse - I'm so emotionally connected to them now that I've watched them grow! I'll have to get over that, I think ; ) !

Riverdale, NJ(Zone 6a)


Almost everyone over waters their plants when they start out. I drowned my cucumbers and peppers. I seem to remember some yellowing of the foliage as it wilted. I killed everything except my radishes and tomatoes, which are both virtually impossible to over water. Some of the lettuces were good swimmers too. I bought a moisture meter and used it religiously for about 2 years. By the third year, I could tell when a plant was thirsty from about 20 feet away. I can't explain the signs. You just know.

Three other possible beginner problems jump to mind. Putting the seedling too close to the window on cold nights can burn and shrivel the leaves. I did that one too. I seem to remember that the leaves looked more damaged near the edges when this happens. These plants recovered. Over-compacting the soil so that the roots can't grow quick enough to keep up with the foliage is another goodie. That was back in my "concrete soil" days. This was usually symptomatic of "failure to thrive" rather than outright wilting. Repotting usually saved the day. The third is over-fertilizing, which is apparently easy if you use synthetics. I only do organic veggies so I have been spared this one so far. Perhaps some of this will help if the watering does not check out...


Brookfield, WI

Ed, it is so nice to know that I am not the only one to ever make these mistakes.
It's such a treat to see new leaves & growth on my plants & such a heartache when I can see they're not thriving.
Hopefully with a few days of just letting them be they'll recover.
Thanks for the words of advice... I'll jot down what you mention here so I can remember it in the future!

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

Okay, I'll confess, too. My first time (three years ago) I was totally committed to growing my own heirloom tomato starts. 40 some kinds. I read all the articles. I bought books. I haunted the tomato forum.
I set everything up in what should have been a great place. A closet with lots of room, it's own outlets (weird house) and shelves for everything. I spent hours on this. I planted my little cells with great care, set up the heat mat, got the timers ready for the lights, and sat back to watch them grow huge.

They got to be an inch and a half. Then they stopped. For good. They never got any bigger. They didn't die, but they didn't grow. They eventually just shriveled. I was devastated. My heart was broken. I had to buy plants, which was a fiasco in itself.

Somehow I ended up with a great tomato season, anyway, but was afraid to try growing my own (TOMATOES) again. Last year was tough with the drought, but I still got a decent crop with store-boughten plants.

This year, I wanted my heirlooms again. But, finances don't allow me to spend money on plants. I still had seeds left. Old, but some might grow. So I started over. It's not an expert set-up. My SO swears he's blinded every time he walks in the door, and that he can't get to the stuff in the cabinet they live under (there's nothing he needs there). But they seem happy. I've already transplanted some, and after three days of nailbiting, they still look good. I'm already looking for adoptive homes, as the germination was better than I expected, and they LIVE!!!

So, don't give up. Hope you have success, and that mine continues :)


Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Yayyyyy, great story Margo. Try, try again....that was my motto. It took me three tries to get the germination routine down. I have 24 tomato starts this season, all going well. Have not lost a single seedling...yet. shhhh Mary, don't disturb the karmic balance now....

With squash, you can always start a few more seeds 2 or 3 weeks after the first set, and so on through the season.

Good luck to all!

Riverdale, NJ(Zone 6a)

Great story Margo. I am still using Rene's Garden Candy seed from 5 years back, and I bought that for 66% off after the prior season.

I use a 25 peat pellet "greenhouse" on a step-stool near a radiator next to the laundry basket, with an old T-shirt thrown over it. Survivors get put into a 7 oz plastic cup on the window seat in the bathroom. My first few years were surprisingly problem free. However, last year I got sloppy. Late planting combined with a warm spring (heat off so radiators off too... oops!), and I got only 2/3 of what I planted. But this is not the end of the story...

When I went to plant this year, the dried out pellets from last year were still in the greenhouse. I did not use them for tomatoes, but put some celery seed in for an experiment. The celery is doing fine, but so are two of the tomatoes that ignored my efforts of a year ago. I have no idea which ones finally decided to wake up, but I guess I will find out in June.


Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

Now _that's_ a testsment to the survival skills of the tomato. It even survives all our attempts to "help" them grow!
Ed, please let us know if you are able to figure our what varieties they are :)


Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

Haley, I'm not an expert, but here's my suggestion. Go ahead and transplant them to slighter bigger pots, using dry mix. It will wick away moisture from the original clump of soil. Looks like it needs a little more light, too.

I use disposable drinking glasses from the $ store with a couple of holes poked in the bottom for my seedlings. They're really cheap. Until you get your moisture meter, just stick a regular pencil in the soil to check moisture. If soil sticks to the pencil, the plant definitely doesn't need watering. Pencil damp, but no soil, it's probably good enough. If the pencil comes out dry, need to water.

Hope this helps! Robin

Brookfield, WI

Thank you, everyone!!
Like I mentioned, I'm a brand new gardener - certainly learning as I go!
I am so encouraged hearing all of your stories and I'm very hopeful I'll have success in my first vegetable garden.
Good luck with all of yours, too!
Thanks again for the recommendations - I'm confident I'll have fresh squash and cucumbers this summer - I'll make it happen!!

Riverdale, NJ(Zone 6a)

Haley... A tip for cucumbers is to get some "row cover" (a fine, porous, plastic cloth) from the garden store and entirely cover your cucumber plants with a layer of it, until they set flower. It keeps the night time temperature up which helps the flowers form, and it keeps the cucumber beetle away. As soon as you see a flower, take it off so the bees can do their job.


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