Last year I tried to grow some Boston Pickling cucumbers. They grew to about 2 inches and just as they got their first true leaves they wilted and died. I had just moved house and had planted those indoors on a heated propagator in mid May (I used that method to grow Vorgebirgstrauben once at my last house and it was a success). I chalked this up to bad luck.

Now this year I've tried to grow Vorgebirgstrauben and also National Pickling varieties and they have followed the exact same pattern. I propagated in mid April, seed leaves grew and then the plant just wilts.

So now I've started a second run of National Pickling, this time not on the propagator but in a greenhouse at the start of May. 2 weeks later I'm in exactly the same situation, first leaves appearing, plant is dying.

The seedlings start off a good colour, but very suddenly yellow, or lose their colour on the seed leaves. I've attached photos of plants which 2 days ago looked very green, although I think for 2 weeks of growth these plants are behind where they should be.

Things I've tried:

  • Using pots instead of propagator to give seedlings more soil depth.
  • Watering a tiny amount each day just enough to keep soil moist.
  • 3 different seed varieties at this point.

I've not had this issue in the past. Generally I'd start the seeds on the propagator and re-pot them to a large pot once the first set of seed leaves were somewhat established.

Anyone have any suggestions? I'm going to plant more straight into a large container this time and see if that helps.

Photos of my current run attached: Seedlings Seedlings 2 Seedlings 3 Seedlings 4

  • Is there an air vent nearby? Hot or cold air? Or an air circulating fan? Many plants don't like fan-driven breezes.
    – Boba Fit
    May 17, 2023 at 12:38
  • The plans are in our conservatory which we basically use as a greenhouse, windows are open at either end to control the temperature which is between 20c and 30c in there but it'll easily go higher with windows shut. I've dumped one of the plants out and I'm thinking possibly I'm over watering even with the small amount I'm putting in, the soil is on the wetter end of damp.
    – Kasheen
    May 17, 2023 at 13:09
  • 2
    What sort of potting soil are you using? Are you re-using pots without washing them? Do the pots have drainage holes?
    – Jurp
    May 17, 2023 at 13:12
  • The soil is just a general purpose compost (different bag both years). The pink pots are new, but have been stored and were dusty so I washed them. The propagator pods that I've also had the same issues with are re-used but I wash them with soap and water then rinse off. The pink pots in the picture have no drainage holes, but the propagator pods do and I seem to get the same result with either. I switched from the propagator pods to the pink pots because I think the pods were too shallow (although I did have success with those when I grew the Vorgebirgstrauben variety years ago).
    – Kasheen
    May 17, 2023 at 16:52
  • Are the stems eroding near the soil line on the plants that die? It's possibly damping off disease. That can be caused by infected soil or water. Making sure containers are extra full is one of many preventative measures (if you have a lot of space between the soil line and the top of the container, that encourages damping off to be a lot worse). The leaves actually look scorched, though; so, it could be something else. They likely need fertilizer, considering the way they look and the soil. Feb 13 at 11:19

1 Answer 1


I think they are drying up. Once the true leaves are out, they need more water.

I would leave a cm of water in the tray underneath, just enough to touch the bottom of the pots. The soil will absorb as much water as it needs. And top up every 2 to 3 days.

We plant all our veges in pots with reservoirs at the bottom. None of them have died of over-watering. Unless it has rained, we top up the reservoirs every two days. Cucumbers, lettuce, radishes, peppers, chilies, eggplants, okra, berries, tomatoes all work fine with this method. The reservoirs have overflow holes in them, to ensure that they dont rise too far.

  • The asker commented that a test pot was on the „wetter side of damp“, I would disagree with your diagnosis.
    – Stephie
    Jun 18, 2023 at 12:42
  • I did try this suggestion (watering from the bottom), but it ended in the same results. I need to update my question with my new results but long story short is I ran a large test of all different soil compositions, depths, etc, none of which made any difference. What made a difference was 3 seeds which I planted outdoors (in pots), those 3 are making good progress (onto 3rd true leaves now). It seems that the indoor plants don't grow a good root system past their taproot, then struggle and slowly die. The outdoor plants continued to grow very nice roots and seem to be happy.
    – Kasheen
    Jun 28, 2023 at 18:59

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