[Market-farming] yellow non growing seedlings

Frank Ventura frank.dragonflyfarms at gmail.com
Wed Mar 5 20:53:58 EST 2014

< I plan to fertilize with a 20-20-20 soluble fertilizer at the rate of 1/2 Tbs/gal with the next watering.   Am I making another mistake?>

I don’t know if you are making a mistake but I would be careful.  If you are experiencing what Sue and I experienced a few years ago it is related to ammonium toxicity.  First let me say that I am no expect on this and am inferring a lot form what the manufacturer told us when we had our issue primarily with germination and then followed by the same problems you are having now.  I believe ammonium based nitrogen sources are pretty common in conventional fertilizers so I would double check before applying another fertilizer.

Here is a link with some pictures from Cornell that might describe things much better than I can.


On Mar 5, 2014, at 2:00 PM, Marlin Burkholder <burkholders at glenecofarm.com> wrote:

> The most recent response  to my inquiry regarding the possible causes of poor germination and yellowed seedlings and stunted growth seems to come closest to explaining what is happening to my plants.  I had a similar experience about 6 – 8 years ago when I used an all organic OMRI approved germination and potting soil mix purchased at a local garden center for starting plants.  It also happened several times when I used worm castings in some of my starting mixes.
> On 3/4/14 10:18 AM, "Susan Ventura" <sue at dragonfly-farms.com> wrote:
>> 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.  
> The analysis of the Plant Tone is 5-3-3 and it contains several of the plant based proteins mentioned in Sue’s response.  I did not think I was using an excessive amount of the fertilizer when I prepared the soil (several handfuls in about two cubic feet of soil) but I was not measuring accurately and may have used enough more than I had used in the first batch I mixed up which had no problems, to cause trouble.  I guess I have been assuming too much that the organic ingredients have a slow breakdown and release rate and shouldn’t be toxic to plants even though I’m not being precise in my application methods.
> That is one of the values of the MF forum in that we can learn from one another things that are not written in books or on product containers.  I express my thanks to all who have responded to my original post.  It sure is disconcerting when one thinks he is doing things right and things screw up that bad!  It is also profoundly humbling when one who thinks he has a lot of experience, bombs out with the next move!
> I set the tomatoes and brassicas in nursery wagons outside on the patio and drenched them with about five gallons of water per four flats and set up fans to dry them out before moving back inside.  The air temps are in the forties but the patio is south facing and catching some afternoon sun.  Let’s see what happens.   I plan to fertilize with a 20-20-20 soluble fertilizer at the rate of 1/2 Tbs/gal with the next watering.   Am I making another mistake?
> I’ll probably drench everything else too but I have less hope that these plants will recover.  Will it be safe to plant melons and cucumbers into these flats or will I be better off to dump them and start over with new soil?
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