This is the first year that I have ever had any success with growing plants from seed, but what a learning experience it has been!
One of the challenges I always face is "damping off" , or "root rot", due to over-watering. This year (aside from my first try at pepper plants) everything has gone really well, thanks to peat pellets. I tried 2 different kinds, peat and soil pellets and like the peat pellets better (I lost a whole flat of marigolds using the Jiffy pellets).
I noticed that the seedlings I transplanted first have done so much better than the seedlings I did in the following weeks. I think it's because of the potting soil. The first potting soil I used had a slow-release fertilizer incorporated in it. Then, when I ran out, I was tempted to buy a really cheap potting soil called Jolly Gardener. Well, this gardener isn't feeling too jolly!
The second potting soil was damp in the bag, and felt really heavy. I think the dampness hurt the roots, because the plants have pretty much stopped growing. I have tried a new potting soil called Fox Farm Ocean Forest (FFOF) which has been touted all over gardening forums. Still, my seedlings seem dejected. I think the longer the seedlings sit around in their peat pots, the more they lose energy to grow.
One of the biggest questions I have had is how and when to fertilize the plants. Again, the first potting soil with the slow-release fertilizer seems to have worked best.
Last week, I started getting extremely concerned because I noticed some of the tomato leaves looking a bit shriveled, and I discovered some tiny bugs floating around. Someone at the garden center told me that I probably have fungus mites, due to dampness. Darn that Jolly Gardener! Her recommendation was to bring the plants up out of the basement to get some air and dry off. So that's what I did.
Any way, here is a photo comparing two tomato seedlings, both sown on April 6th. What a difference!
In all fairness, the plant on the left was sitting in a peat pellet for at least 2 weeks while I waited for it to develop true leaves. I'm not sure why some of the plants grew so much quicker than the others.