The Land Rover Owners Wife

A disaster in my seed tray


The first true leaves should be in by now!

The first true leaves should be in by now!

The tomato seed tray to be exact and if the cause is what I think it is, then it is entirely my own fault. The majority of the seedlings appeared between 5 and 7 days after sowing which is about normal in my experience and all seemed well. However, a week further on and we still have no first true leaves, one seedling collapsed with a tell tale brown stain at its’ base and a few of the others are starting to look a little under the weather. So what do I think is the matter with my seedlings? I believe they are suffering with a condition called damping off and as I said at the start, if they are then I have nobody to blamed but myself.

We have some very odd looking first leaves ......

We have some very odd looking first leaves ……

Damping off is a root and/or stem rot caused when the compost is too wet and cold, allowing the damping off fungus to take hold. It can happen to indoor and outdoor sown seedlings and can even prevent a seed from either germinating at all or aborting germination before the seedling breaks through. So basically, if it is damping off then I have over watered my seed trays and even though I have been moving the propagators off the windowsills onto the warmer kitchen worktop every night, this obviously hasn’t been enough to prevent this annoying little fungus doing it’s thing.

Okay I may be wrong and it could just be that the ambient temperature in our house has slowed seedling development down to virtually non-existent but who am I kidding. The kitchen is never that cold and my instinct tells me that I should be seeing the start of the second set of true leaves, never mind the first, on at least some of my tomato plants by now. This really is frustrating but there is nothing I can do about it now other than to see if the seedlings improve and to sow some replacements just in case.

With this in mind and the longevity of my seedlings in jeopardy, I decided to take immediate remedial action. I have thoroughly cleaned another pair of propagators and inserts, bought more seed compost and sowed some more:

Propagator 3:

Stupice, Gardeners Delight, Amish Paste and Garden Pearl tomatoes, as well as sowing some of the Chocolate Cherry tomato seeds I saved from last years’ crop; and

Another row each of Sweet Pepper, Cucumber and Dill.

Propagator 4:

..... but no sign of the true leaves.

….. but no sign of the true leaves.

Patio and Cayenne Chilli seeds as a precaution, although so far the propagator with the chilli seedlings in doesn’t look to be affected but then these seedlings started to emerge a week after the tomatoes and the first true leaves won’t be through yet anyway; and

Black Eyed Susans, Cosmos and Lupins for a successional flowering but I also sowed some Zinnia as well.

This strategy could result in my having far too many tomato, sweet pepper, chilli and cucumber plants if it isn’t a damping off problem and the first batch of seedlings all recover but that is a risk I am prepared to take. I would rather have too many and have to find new homes for them, than not enough. Either way, I am going to be a little more sparing with the watering in future.


6 thoughts on “A disaster in my seed tray

  1. Oh no! I learned a trick a few years back to prevent damping off. Water your sowed seeds and new seedlings with a weakened chamomile tea. The chamomile is a natural fungicide. I steep a batch and keep it in the fridge. I water with it every few days. Works like a charm.

  2. How devastating! Although I guess if you are going to have a disaster it is better to happen early in the growing cycle.

    • Yes, although I sow these particular crops early to give them the best chance of ripening before the end of the summer/first frosts arrive, so a delay of a week or two can make all the difference. Never mind, it’s not the end of the world 🙂

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