[Market-farming] yellow non growing seedlings

Susan Ventura sue at dragonfly-farms.com
Tue Mar 4 10:18:35 EST 2014

The plant based proteins in organic fertilizers (i.e. soybean meal, alfalfa meal) inhibit germination and can cause the seedling die off when they break down into nitrogen.  We had this problem when switching to a higher nitrogen based organic fertilizer a few years ago a 5-4-3 (North Country Organics Pro-Gro) fertilizer versus a 2-3-4 (North Country Organics Pro-Start).  We spoke with the manufacturers of the fertilizer and they indicated the above.   The fertilizer manufacturer said to water drench the plants to dilute/leach out the fertilizer that was there.  That did help prevent further die off, those that were already failing did still die.  

Since that time we avoid organic fertilizers when germinating seeds and only apply at pot up time or apply after germination in small amounts.  This year we actually switched to a compost based potting mix (we used to only use sterile mixes) with good results so far.  Hoping to avoid some of the fertilizer issues we have had.

Hope this helps.  

Sue Ventura
Dragonfly Farms

On Mar 3, 2014, at 11:06 PM, Marlin & Christine Burkholder <burkholders at glenecofarm.com> wrote:

> I have checked for fungus gnats and found none.  I had started with a sterile potting mix straight out of the bag and had only mixed in a small amount of Plant Tone, an all organic mix with no soluble salts.  I had germinated the tomatoes and brassicas in seedling trays and had pricked over healthy seedlings into the fertilized grow out trays before the trouble started.  Lettuce and spinach was seeded directly into this same batch of mix and they started going down as soon as they came up.  I may have bottom watered more than I should have as I was using for the first time some giant plant trays (capacity four 1020 flats each) which I had ordered from Greenhouse Superstore.  I only put about a ½ gallon at a time in each tray as the soil began looking dry on the surface.  Another dozen or so flats were not in the big trays, were watered from the top, and look just as bad, so that leads me back to suspecting something pathological or toxic in the soil mix.  What makes this thing look strange is that I had started a bunch of onions and lettuce back in November nearly the same way using potting mix and Plant Tone from the same bags and had no trouble then.
> One question though, four days after I had mixed the ill-fated plant starting medium, I planted the lettuce in the remaining six flats I had left stacked near my seeding table. Each of these flats had a thin layer of white mold mycelium beginning to form on the surface.  Though I have seen this a few times before, I do not recall it causing problems.  I would think that came from mold spores floating around in the basement air  and settling on the flats rather than something in the potting mix.  The lettuce seedlings in those six flats are failing but so is the spinach seeded into the first eight flats from that batch which were freshly mixed.  Also the next batch I mixed up, which received the tomato and brassica pricks, is looking bad.
> Last year,  after having trouble with weak starts from the year before, I decided to avoid using organic amendments in  plant starting mixes and I had good luck starting everything using Miracle Gro or something equivalent.  I also got rid of the small amount of Roundup I had in storage and had occasionally used for spot spraying in fence rows.  I now know that Roundup can infiltrate plastic and contaminate a plastic container enough to damage plants if one forgets that the container had been used to temporarily store a Roundup mix and was later used as a container to carry water for plants.  I don’t think Roundup is causing my trouble this year.  As much as I hate to, I think I am going to go back to using only chemical salt based fertilizers in the greenhouse for the remainder of this season.
> If I decide to chuck this whole mess and either start over or go out to a commercial greenhouse and buy plants, does anyone have any practical suggestions as to how I could salvage the damaged flats by applying a soil drench and prepare to reseed?   Other wise I will have to bite my lip, dump all the flats, and scatter the stuff on the hay field.
> From: Robert Schuler [mailto:sunnfarms at gmail.com] 
> Sent: Thursday, February 27, 2014 2:01 PM
> To: burkholders at glenecofarm.com
> Subject: yellow seedlings
> Two things to check, soluble salts can burn roots, pythium rot from overwatering. I use sterile plug starting mix. I leave the compost mix for transplanting seedlings to larger cell trays. I never use fertilizer on seedlings... Bob.
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