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I am an amateur gardener turned Christmas tree grower.

Before I cared for cacti (can't really underwater) and venus flytraps (can't overwater) and felt great that all my plants lived for many years.

I now bought a bunch of Christmas tree seedlings (1-5 inch or 2-13 cm in height) and planted them according to instructions (peat based compost).

I believe I am underwatering my seedlings. Their leaves are turning yellow and the soil is bone dry. It's been a steady 25—30°C (77-86°F) here in the UK.

I realized my mistake and watered them well and put them in the shade. Is there any way to revive them?

Example of one of underwatered seedlings:

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You biggest mistake is planting in soil in a pot filled with (potting soil or garden soil?) way too large for a seedling. Seriously. You have to start your seeds in tiny pots like 2" high by 1" wide that come as a tray 18"X11"? Do not start your seeds in a huge pot that holds all that water in all that soil with nothing to suck that water up (roots). The wet soil below the seedling has ample time to ROT your seedlings.

I would try again using potting soil as your medium. It is STERILIZED soil-like medium with very little actual soil. Use tiny tiny pots for seedlings. I use a spray bottle to water until those roots and plants are more mature. I also use a dome of plastic to make a mini greenhouse but you have to be careful not to allow that tray of soil to over heat or being out of doors in the sunshine. You will cook your seedlings.

If you start seedlings in doors even under artificial light you will need to acclimate those seedlings to being out of doors in sun light or you will kill them by sunburn.

You are most certainly OVER watering your seedlings planted in pots with soaked soil. Please give us much more detailed information such as; indoor cultivation or out of doors or green house? Fertilizer? SOIL type. Any and everything you've added to that system. If you allow the soil on the surface where the seeds are trying to germinate to dry to will kill your seedlings. The soil beneath those seedlings if it is too wet will cause rot. That water will not be available to the seedlings until the roots are able to get into the soil...if you have 6" of soil beneath that seedling that is 6" of soaked soil that will cause fungus/rot.

Tiny pots. Go to a 'Green Grow Plant Shop' where they cater to those who want to grow marijuana. They have the best technology and information with which to grow any indoor plant.

Explain your plans as best you can and we might be able to help you to not make expensive mistakes, mistakes we've already made and know well. Christmas tree farm grins! Is this your first attempt growing a crop of anything?

Soaking even 2"X1" soil for a seed will cause damping off. Do not add fertilizer until up potted to the next size; no larger than 3"X4" pot using potting soil. Never use garden soil in pots. Only sterilized potting soil medium.

Peat based compost is NOT a sterilized potting or seed starting soil.

  • Thank you so much for this explanation! Before getting started with seedlings, I purchased a small, potted 3ft tree (1m), bought 3 bags of canna Terra professional (Canna 50L Terra Professional Soil Mix Bag amazon.co.uk/dp/B008MJXGOS/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_uctuBbRPBM0P9) and to give it "room to grow" repotted it from a 5lt pot into a 150 liter pot. That tree has grown a foot in the last year. That's the reason for insanely big pots. The seedlings themselves were grown by a farm and sent to me, I just re potted them in the soil (above) . I see I made a lot of mistakes here... – Thomas E Jul 20 '18 at 0:51
  • I checked out the soil but could not see what the additives were. "Give it Room to Grow" is just so very wrong. This is NOT your fault, Thomas! I am almost sure these companies WANT you to fail, you will obviously shoulder the guilt and buy more. Could you tell me if there is any fertilizer added to this soil or any water holding gimmicks such as sponges or gels? Too large of a pot of soil for a baby plant. All nurseries should know this. I would whine like crazy about the directions and get new starts, new seeds. Plant them in appropriately sized seed starter cells... – stormy Jul 20 '18 at 1:03
  • Hi Stormy, definitely no water holding gimmicks, it has peat at 70%, perlite, dolomitic lime and npk fertilizer. If these poor things survive, will move them to smaller pots. Otherwise the batch of seeds will be ready for sowing in a week, for those I prepared a seed tray with an irrigation system. Can I still use this soil for seeds, or do I need something else. Is it a fluke that my big tree with its huge pot survived and grew? It was kept in the shade most of the year, that's the only difference (plus it's probably hardier than a seedling) – Thomas E Jul 20 '18 at 1:08
  • Yeah, more of a fluke and yes more resilient than seedlings. I would not use the same soil, sorry. I would get fresh soil out of a bag that was sterilized. You also said that this soil has NPK? Seedlings do not need NPK until they are a bit more mature. Are you able to find cheaper bagged soil without fertilizer? You want to be the one in control of the fertilizer. Peat moss is a rapidly dwindling resource that we as gardeners need to be boycotting. Ugh. Also very very acidic. What is the range of pH the species of trees you want to grow? What type of trees are you growing? – stormy Jul 20 '18 at 1:22
  • There are tiny peat pots you could easily scoop the baby plants up with a spoon and transplant in fresh soil, without fertilizer. When they are ready to up pot, remove the peat pot, contrary to what they advertise. – stormy Jul 20 '18 at 1:25

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