sad seedlings

Starting Seeds

sad seedlings 072

This is a picture of my sad basil and pepper seedlings. They were in seed cells that didn’t drain well in my closed cold frame during the very wet, cold weather last week. The seedlings have a problem called damping off. Its caused by a fungus that attacks the stem and makes the plant fall over and die. 🙁 I brought the trays inside yesterday and put them under lights to warm up and dry out.

Cold, wet weather is hard for a cold frame. I didn’t know whether to leave it open or closed. In retrospect, I suppose I might as well have opened the panels since there was no sun to warm it up. Any extra airflow might have helped.

I’m realizing that while raising all my seedlings in my cold frame this spring may have saved lots of lighting-dollars and time, some of my seedlings are small. In particular, basil, peppers, eggplants, and cabbages. Less so, but a bit smaller are my tomatoes. Next year I’ll remember to keep these seedlings inside longer.

The ones that seem to be really happy outside early are marigolds, cosmos, onions, kale, leeks, lettuce, escarole and frisee, arugula and other greens.

I did baby my squashes, melons and cucumbers by keeping them inside until is was very warm and these are doing great. Next weekend should be a good time to plant these out in the garden.

17 Comments. Leave new

  • Oh, no. They damped off! I planted lots of pepper transplants and the heat has taken several of them already. It's already in the 90s with a heat index near or at 100. I wish it was still Kale and carrot and lettuce season here. I envy you.

  • I suppose in your case being the size and lack of air flow it is almost like greenhouse conditions, where lots of fungus and disease can take hold quickly. My cold frame is small, but I open it every day unless the temps are too low. I think if it were a different spring you would not have had much, if any trouble at all. I hope your seedlings recover for you!

  • Hello, I stumbled upon your blog a few days ago and am enjoying reading about your home & community gardens. I'm in DC (zone 7A) and we had a cool spring too. I just brought my tomato, cuke, pepper, & squash seedlings out this past weekend. I hope your cold frame seedlings pull through! Looking forward to reading more…

  • I'm planting my first homegrown seedlings this summer – usually I get seedlings from the farmer's market. I wish you luck with yours!

  • Oh no! I hope they will recover!

  • I've never been able to get squashes right! I'm always tempted to put them outdoors far too quickly.

    Sad to see your seedlings in a poor state.

  • That certainly is a sad photo. It just proves that no matter how seasoned the gardener, nature can always humble us with another lesson.

    I agree with you that better air circulation would be a good thing…and perhaps raising them above the ground.

  • Yes it is sad. I lost my broccoli not to damp but too much sun at once. My second batch have been seeded so I hope they do ok because I have no more sprouting broccoli seeds!

  • Hi there long time no comment 🙂 It's Marie in Boxford, MA down the street from the Oreo cows 🙂

    I was envious of your cold frames for a while because I'm not quite up to that stage in my gardening, though I do now have an inside grow frame and did black plastic early in the season to warm the soil & cut down on early weeds.

    Right now I'm disappointed in my transplants of tomatoes, peppers and cukes earlier this month (May) because many of them look frostbitten and I just plain lost many transplants. I keep having to pull the dying plants and try to transplant better ones.

    Some tomatoes are looking hardy but hardly top shape. They just look larger and sturdier but can't say green or lush or ready to go. They look like they need a vacation in Florida, most of them.

    Peas are doing amazing for me, I seeded them in the garden in mid-april and they are indeed lush and green and tendriling already. Also had great luck this year with broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Lost track of which were which in the seedling tray but transplanted nearly all of them and they just thrived in the cold and damp. Go figure. They are going gangbusters.

    Last summer I also ended up finding a few totally sprouted grocery potatoes hidden in my pantry and for larks, cut them up and planted them in one of my main plots. Hilarious because I later figured out I planted half of them shoots down, half shoots up. I got a few tiny potatoes last year and wanted to do real seed potatoes this year.

    Crazy thing is while weeding to seed squash, I was coming across these small "weeds" which I was pulling, and lo and behold! One "weed" came up with a tiny potato (!) attached to it. I looked around and realized all those "weeds" were new potato volunteers from the previous season. We'll now see how those come out.

    I have created a few new garden beds, one of which is raised & I've put carrots there. Some seem to be coming up now. Also trying onions in another. Not seeing much there so far. Planted 2 weeks ago. (2nd week May)

    Have some lettuce volunteers from last year and saved seed from some bolted plants which are now coming up in another bed in droves. Hello crowding, but I don't really care. I'll use them as baby lettuce. I have huge seed troves anyway.

    On the downside, can't find any appropriate places for corn this year, haven't planted any beans, and can't get a squash plant (butternut, zuchhini etc.) started for the life of me.

    Have tilled up some new beds and just scattered pepper and cuke seeds and tilled them back in with a hose just to see what comes up. I am notoriously loathe to part with seeds and I might just be up against seed age so I'm technically throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks, I guess.

    New experiment with seed potatoes this year. Have some old trash cans with drainage holes (natural decomposition over time). Chitted seed potatoes out in a hot warm room and cut them up. Have 5 plants in each can to start in about a foot of potting soil, with more soil to gradually put in around each plant. I have heard that you can ultimately just reach in throughout the season and grab small potatoes for dinner this way from all the plants growing, and due to the height of the cans, they grow tall. We'll see how this works out!

    Look forward to keeping up with you.

  • We're having a cool and damp spring as well here in the Seattle area. I have some seedlings that I am scared to leave outdoors yet I know need the sun when it does peek out. I've taken the lids off of the seed starters off and on to get them going safely. I am not sure about the night temps but they seem to be faring well thus far. I tend to cap them with their plastic lids at night to prevent the slugs from having a party. I've considered bringing them inside at night but not sure that the change of temp in and out will be good for them. My indoor temp is about 70 in my house and outside has been highs in the 60's. It's a hard decision about when to let in the fresh air vs protecting them with the coverings. Great post and good info though, so thanks!

  • oh no! I have read that a brew of chamomile tea used periodically reduces damping off. I'm sorry for your disappointment. ((hugs))

  • It's always sucha disappointment to lose seedlings you've babied for weeks.

    Glad to hear your squash seedlings are doing well. Mine are going in the garden this weekend too.

  • I just took a 'wall of water' off my tomato plant today and it looks like it may be suffering the same sad story. The tomatoes without the protection look ok. Who knows?? Crazy mixed up weather!

  • it's a good try to save the plants by my point of view but the sunlight & open air is really very necessary for a proper plantation

  • After a few days inside under dry lights, the seedlings are doing very good. I lost 2 or 3 basil plants. Oh well…

  • I get many information from this……thankyou.

  • Instead of cold frame, try winter sowing! You will not have a problem with damping off at all, and you'll have sturdy little seedlings that stand up to just about anything. Plus, it gives you something fun to do in the winter time!


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