Monday, March 25, 2013

Failed Fall Seeds

In a past move, I gained a yard in August, but didn't plant much, thinking the growing season was almost over. I came to regret it, as fall went on and frost didn't hit until November. So when I moved into this apartment last summer, I quickly got to work in early August planting for a fall vegetable harvest.

Radish greens with no radishes underground

Poor little broccoli that died at that size.

I'd done alright growing a few things from seed before, so I thought I would try growing it all from seed rather than starters, since it's so much cheaper -- especially having just spent a lot of money related to the move. However, it was an experiment that largely failed. I direct sowed a variety of cool-weather vegetables - carrots, leeks, kale, mixed greens, arugula, radishes, broccoli, delicata squash, and more, but they all sprouted into little seedlings and then just stalled out.

Kale seedlings, the one plant which actually did get bigger (though not big enough for harvesting) and survived the winter.

I'm not sure why. It shouldn't have been the soil, because I used soil from a few different sources. Maybe it was that I didn't add any compost to the soil myself, but the potting soils I bought had organic matter mixed in, and the garden store owner told me I didn't need to add compost. It may have been the weather, since there was a storm that beat down the two-week oldish seedlings, and they never really recovered. After a couple more weeks, I planted new seeds, but they also stalled out, and I think there was another storm that didn't help matters. It's possible it was something called damping off, which can happen when soil is too wet and fungus attacks the young plants...which is worrisome since the fungus would still be in the soil this year. Another theory is lack of light, since there are several trees overlooking my yard, and trees are at their leafiest in summer when the seeds were planted.

Any gardeners out there have any suggestions for what I could do differently this year?


  1. Have you read the book "Four-season harvest?" It is a wonderful read and may have some ideas to help you out.

    But I can say at least in our area, that it was a tough gardening year all around!

  2. Soil looks damp and heavy. Try adding some vermiculite and perlite into the soil mix to help aeration and drainage. Using a beneficial myco powder in the mix will help roots and also fight off bad fungus.

  3. Also, nothing beats rapid rooters for starting seeds. Give them a few days after sprouting indoors under 24/7 direct light before transplanting outside.

  4. Anons advice is great. The one thing that I would add is that I never seem to have much luck growing edibles in a pot. Maybe try a few raised beds this time around. Drainage will be better that way, too.

  5. Potting soil is probably a poor choice for starting seeds. You need something lighter with better moisture regulation. Try mixing the potting soil with coconut coir, or getting seed starting soil. Coconut coir is the new peat moss because they say it's better for the environment (though no one has yet proven it to me and I tend not to trust anyone growing palm trees to not have burned away the rainforest in order to do so). Either way, my spring seeds are killing it in a peat/potting soil mixture.