Why are my seedlings dying?

Everything You Need to Know About Carrot Seedlings

When to look for seedlings.

Carrot seeds are usually sown directly into the soil and require heavy watering to germinate; this can take anywhere from one to several weeks. Generally speaking, look for one inch tall seedlings somewhere around three weeks after planting, although it could take a little longer.

What your seedlings will look like.

At first, a carrot seedling looks rather similar to a blade of grass; just a single or double growth of slender green leaf. By the time the plant is an inch or two tall, though, the familiar lacy green carrot top is evident.

When to thin your seedlings.

Carrot seeds are tiny, and are planted very closely together, thus as your seedlings emerge, they will need to be thinned to allow room for growth. Actually, you will thin your carrots twice. The first will be when your seedlings are about three or four inches tall.

To thin the first time, select the seedlings that are smallest, or too close to others. Do not pull your selected seedlings, though; using sharp scissors, cut the seedling at soil level. Pulling seedlings could damage the roots of surrounding carrot plants. When you’re done, your remaining plants should be about a thumb’s width apart.

Thin again a month later; your carrot plants should end up two inches apart. Water first, then use a fork or similar garden tool to loosen the soil around the top of the plant. Grasp the greens at their base and pull. You will likely pull some baby carrots this time; these are edible and delicious!

You can transplant your seedlings.

Carrot seedlings aren’t known for their love of transplantation, but if you’ve got a bunch of thinned plants and a place to put them, give it a try!

  • Prepare the soil just as you would for seeds; it needs to be loose, sandy, and well-drained.
  • Water well, then place the seedling in the ground carefully.
  • The root needs to be inserted into the ground as straight as possible.
  • Once the plant is situated, gently mound dirt around the root, making sure it is completely buried.
  • A mulch of straw or leaves mixed with organic compost will help feed your plants while helping retain water in the soil.

Your carrot seedlings need proper care to grow to maturity. Luckily, only a little work is needed to raise a plentiful harvest.

Tino’s Carrot Tips


There’s nothing more satisfying than growing your own juicy carrots in your backyard and with the help of some of Tino’s carrot tips, they’ll grow straight and true every time!

  1. Grow from seed

    Carrots should always be grown from seed. Transplants are expensive, hard work and they rarely result in success as the roots don’t like to be disturbed.

  2. Don’t spoil them!

    Don’t use blood and bone or pelletised manure when growing carrots. These fertilisers will promote leafy growth and can cause your carrots to be distorted in shape.

  3. Make their bed properly

    Prepare the soil by digging the ground over thoroughly and deeply so the long tap root can make its way easily into the soil.

  4. Sow sparingly

    Make a shallow rill with your finger and sprinkle the seeds sparingly, firming the soil down to ensure it makes contact with the seed.

  5. Keep them moist

    The most important thing – keep them moist! As they are tiny seeds buried just below the surface, so they can dry out really quickly on a hot day. Tino’s grandfathers tip – place an old plank of wood over where you have planted the carrot seeds which traps the moisture in. Remove it in a couple of days or weeks when the carrots have germinated, then remove the plank.

  6. They don’t like a crowd

    When they get up to about 5cm high, start thinning out the weaker ones – giving the stronger ones enough room to grow.

Learn About Saving Carrot Seeds

Is it possible to save seeds from carrots? Do carrots even have seeds? And, if so, why haven’t I seen them on my plants? How do you save seeds from carrots? A hundred years ago, no gardener would have asked these questions, but times changed; laboratories began developing new strains and pre-packaged seeds became the norm.

Seed Saving in the Garden

In the past, it was a common practice among flower and vegetable gardeners to save seeds. From carrots, lettuce, radishes and other fine seeded species to the larger seeds of beans, pumpkins and tomatoes, every gardener kept a stash of their favorites to plant again or trade with friends.

Modernization gave us hybridization — cross breeding. In spite of recent complaints, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It allowed farmers to grow larger quantities with fewer problems and to ship their produce over long distances safely. Unfortunately, many of these new strains sacrificed flavor and texture to meet these needs.

Now the pendulum of progress has swung back. With the re-emergence of heirloom vegetable varieties, many home gardeners are returning to the past with a growing interest in harvesting seeds from the flavorful varieties they’re discovering.

Tips for Saving Carrot Seeds

Before you set your heart on saving carrot seeds from this year’s crop, there are a few things you need to know. The first thing you need to check is the original package your carrot seeds came in. Are they a hybrid variety with an F1 designation on the package? If so, saving carrot seeds may not be a good idea as hybrid seeds don’t always breed true. They often revert to the characteristics of one parent rather than a combination of both. The carrots you grow may not be exactly the same as the ones you pulled from the ground last year.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to spend the time, you can use those hybrid reversions to develop your own strain. Sow all the seed from the hybrid stock, then choose the plant characteristics you most admire from that sowing and save them for the next seed collection. Eventually, you’ll have a carrot that grows best in your garden soil and climate.

Secondly, you’ll have to save seeds from carrots grown this year, next year. Carrots are biennial. They’ll grow their greenery and long tender root this year, but won’t flower until next year. Like our grandmothers and grandfathers, you’ll have to sacrifice the root from your best looking plant for saving carrot seed in order to insure that future crops will carry those admirable traits.

When saving carrot seeds during the second flowering year, allow the seed heads to fully ripen on the plant. When the flower heads begin to brown and become dry, carefully cut the heads and place them in a small paper bag and then leave them alone until the drying is complete. Small plastic containers or glass jars can also be used, but be careful. The same airtight lid that will protect your dried seeds will also hold the moisture of not quite dry seed heads and that can lead to moldy seed. Set your unlidded containers in a safe dry place.

Once the seed heads are thoroughly dry and the seeds have darkened, seal your containers and shake vigorously to release the seed. Label and store your seeds in a cool, dry place; the cooler the storage, the longer the viability of the seed.

Modern technology may have robbed some of the flavor and texture from the garden foods we eat, but it has also given modern gardeners the means to restore flavor and variety to their gardens. There are several good sites on the Internet that carry heirloom seeds for sale and others where seeds are exchanged. Why not check them out and save seeds from carrots that are proven originals.

What Do Carrot Sprouts Look Like? Let’s Find Out!

What do carrot sprouts look like? You need to have an answer to this question if you’ve decided to plant carrots in your garden. It’ll help you to differentiate between actual carrot sprouts, which are one of the very first parts of the carrot that pop out of the ground, and other growing plants.


We understand the struggle you, as a home gardener, face when planting vegetables at home. Sometimes, it can be confusing whether the leaves coming out of the ground are carrot sprouts or if they’re weeds. So, let’s answer your questions!

How Do You Identify A Carrot Sprout?

Via harvesttotable.com

If you have planted a number of vegetables in the garden, then the sprouts coming up from the ground might be confusing. This means that the first shoots coming up might be a cabbage sprout or a potato sprout or even an annoying weed! You need to understand the basic difference between a seedling and weed before moving on to identifying carrot sprouts.

  • Do you know Where Carrot Seeds Come From?

What Do Seed Leaves Look Like?

Before talking about how carrot sprouts look like, let’s first talk about seed leaves, which are also known as cotyledons. Cotyledons are embryonic leaves and are responsible for providing nourishment to the plant. As soon as the seed starts to sprout, either a single leaf or a leaf pair (seen leaves) begins to shoot out of the ground.

Most of the vegetables we plant at home shoot out a pair of leaves. To get a basic idea, leaves that sprout out first are visibly very different than the actual leaves of the plant. Take note that this doesn’t always apply, and there are exceptions but generally, but leaves that come later differ.

Here’s a useful video about knowing the difference between seed leaves and true leaves.

Leaves that come out when the seed sprouts have a simple shape. They are smoother at the edges, and the veins aren’t really that prominent as compared to the veins visible on the actual leaves.

Why is Identifying Carrot Sprouts Tough?

As mentioned, the very first two leaves that are visible as soon as the shoot sprouts are the cotyledons. Usually, each plant has a very distinct cotyledon because of which identifying them becomes easy. However, this doesn’t apply to carrots because the cotyledons of carrots are quite generic.

So, why might identifying carrot sprouts be tough for you? There are two primary reasons for this. Firstly, carrot sprouts are visibly quite similar to grass, and secondly, carrot sprouts are minuscule in size, making it difficult to notice the edges and the shape.

Carrot Sprout vs. Grass

In the case of carrots, both of the seed leaves come out from the same spot. Meanwhile, when it comes to grass, the second leaf sprouts from the place where the first leave came out from.

Methods to Identify A Carrot Sprout!

There are a useful number of techniques through which you can know how a carrot sprout looks like.

#1. Wait Till a Real Leaf Comes Out

The first thing you can do is to wait till the real leaf comes out. An actual leaf of a carrot resembles a lot to a palm leaf. This means that it should look like a small green fan.

#2. Snip a Leaf

The second thing you can try out is to snip a leaf a bit and then crush the root with your nail. On smelling your nail, you will notice that it smells like carrot if it is one. If it doesn’t smell like a carrot, then you can be sure that the plant growing in your garden is actually a weed.

#3. Using Straws

Another thing that can be done to identify carrot sprouts is to cover the soil using a straw once you have planted the carrots. This helps to retain the moisture present within the ground; otherwise, the germinating seedlings tend to die in a short period if they don’t get enough moisture.

Once the carrot starts to come up, you should take out the straw. As soon as you do, you would be able to set apart carrot sprouts and weeds. Species of weed are quite leggy because they tend to grow in a shorter period due to its evolutionary and genetic makeup.

If you feel like you have a weed problem, there are numerous safe methods to get rid of them naturally

What Do Carrot Sprouts Looks Like Answered!

The bottom line is that differentiating between a carrot sprout and another kind of plant is not that difficult if you know what you should look for. Now that you know what to expect and how it looks like. It will be easy to identify whether your garden has started growing carrots or not.

However, if you still have questions regarding the sprouts growing in your garden, don’t hesitate to ask us by leaving a comment below! Does this article answer your questions? Do leave your feedback regarding this post and let us know whether you found this article helpful or not.

Orange carrots are the traditional standard, but you can try planting white, yellow, crimson, or even purple carrots, too. More important than color, though, is choosing the right root size and shape to suit your soil. Carrot size and shape varies by type, and there are five major categories. Ball-type, Chantenay, and Danvers carrots have blocky shapes that can handle heavy or shallow soil, while slender Nantes and Imperator carrots need deep, loose soil. All types are available in early and late cultivars; many are disease-and crack-resistant. Some catalogs don’t describe how to plant carrots by type, but will point out which cultivars do better in heavy or poor soil.

(Whether you’re starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)


How To Plant

To produce the best crop possible, double-dig your planting area or build up a raised bed. Loose, rock-free soil is the goal. If you have heavy soil, add plenty of mature compost.

Start sowing this cool-weather crop 3 weeks before the last expected frost; plant again every 2 to 3 weeks after that. Most cultivars take 70 to 80 days to mature, so sow your last planting 2 to 3 months before the first expected fall frost. In Zone 8 and warmer, plant carrots in fall or winter.

Try this trick for planting tiny seeds evenly:

Rake the soil free of lumps and stones. Broadcast the tiny seeds, or for easier weeding, plant in rows. Put a pinch of about six seeds to the inch. They will take 1 to 3 weeks to sprout (they germinate more slowly in cold soil than in warm), so you can always mix in a few quick-growing radish seeds to mark the rows. Cover with ¼ to ½ inch of screened compost, potting mix, or sand—a little more in warm, dry areas—to make it easier for the delicate seedlings to emerge. Water gently to avoid washing seeds away; keep the soil continuously moist for best germination.

The Garden Smallholder/Getty

Thin to 1 inch apart when the tops are 2 inches high, and be thorough, because crowded carrots will produce crooked roots. Thin again 2 weeks later to 3 to 4 inches apart.

Related: 26 Plants You Should Always Grow Side-By-Side

As the seedlings develop, gradually apply mulch to maintain an even moisture level and reduce weed problems. It’s best never to let young carrot plants dry out. However, if the soil dries out completely between waterings, gradually remoisten the bed over a period of days; a sudden drenching may cause the roots to split. Carrots’ feeder roots are easily damaged, so hand pull any weeds that push through the mulch, or cut them off just below the soil surface. Cover carrot crowns, which push up through the soil as they mature, with mulch or soil to prevent them from becoming green and bitter.

Evgeniy Parilov/Getty

Troubleshooting Problems

The biggest threats to carrots are four-footed critters such as deer, gophers, woodchucks, and rabbits. (Here’s how to keep animal pests from destroying your garden.) Otherwise, carrots are fairly problem-free, though there are a few insect pests and plant disease you might run into.

Keep an eye out—particularly in the Northwest—for carrot rust flies, which look like small green houseflies with yellow heads and red eyes. Their eggs hatch into whitish larvae that burrow into roots. Infested roots turn dark red and the leaves black. Infestations usually occur in the early spring, so one solution is to delay planting until early summer, when damage is less likely. Or cover plants with a floating row cover to keep flies away.

Parsleyworms are green caterpillars with black stripes, white or yellow dots, and little orange horns. They feed on carrot foliage, but they are the larval stage of black swallowtail butterflies, so if you spot them on your carrots, try not to kill them. Instead, transfer them to carrot-family weeds such as Queen Anne’s lace, and watch for chrysalises to form, and later, beautiful butterflies!

Related: 14 Natural Ways To Control Garden Pests

The larvae of carrot weevils, found from the East Coast to Colorado, tunnel into carrot roots, especially in spring crops. Discourage grubs by rotating crops.

Nematodes, microscopic wormlike animals, make little knots along roots that result in stunted carrots. Rotate crops and apply plenty of compost, which is rich in predatory microorganisms.

Leaf blight is the most widespread carrot disease. It starts on leaf margins, with white or yellow spots that turn brown and watery. If leaf blight is a problem in your area, plant resistant cultivars. (You can keep all your garden plants healthy by understanding plant diseases and disorders.)

Hot, humid weather causes a bacterial disease called vegetable soft rot. Prevent it by rotating crops and keeping soil loose. The disease spreads in storage, so don’t store bruised carrots.

Carrot yellows disease causes pale leaves and formation of tufts of hairy roots on the developing carrots. The disease is spread by leafhoppers, so the best way to prevent the problem is by covering new plantings with row covers to block leafhoppers.

Related: 7 DIY Recipes For Deterring Unwanted Garden Pests And Diseases

Johner Images/Getty

How To Harvest

Carrots become tastier as they grow. You can start harvesting as soon as the carrots are big enough to eat, or leave them all to mature for a single harvest. Dig your winter storage crop before the first frost on a day when the soil is moist but the air is dry. Since spading forks tend to bruise roots, hand-pull them, loosening the soil with a trowel before you pull. Watering the bed before harvesting softens the soil and makes pulling easier.

Related: 4 Tips For Planning Your Fall Garden

To save harvested carrots for winter use, prepare them by twisting off the tops and removing excess soil, but don’t wash them. Layer undamaged roots (so they’re not touching) with damp sand or peat in boxes topped with straw. Or store your fall carrot crop right in the garden by mulching the bed with several inches of dry leaves or straw.

Or … is it a seedling or a weed?

By this time, early May, you’ve probably planted a number of seeds in your garden and they are coming up (if you haven’t planted any hurry up, it’s already late for things like peas and certain greens). But there are weeds coming up too, and it can be difficult sometimes to tell the difference between them and your seedlings.

A little basic biology first (no really, it’s not that scary). When seeds first sprout they send up a single leaf or pair of leaves called seed leaves or cotyledons. Most of what you’ll be planting will have 2 seed leaves. Most of the plants with a single seed leaf are grasses or related plants. Generally, seed leaves look different from the leaves that come later (true leaves) although there are definitely exceptions. Seed leaves will have simpler shapes, smoother edges, and less prominent veins (see the beet seedlings picture, especially).

Below are number of the common seedlings you may have planted.

Radish Seedling

Cabbage Family
Radish seed leaves are typical of the members of the cabbage family including Cabbage, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cauliflower, Turnip, Rutabaga, Kale & Mustard. So if you’re growing any them their seed leaves will look similar to the radish (for red cabbage and some of the kales the leaves will have a purplish tinge too).

Carrot Seedlings vs. Grass

Carrot seedlings are one of the hardest seedlings to tell from a weed because they are very small and look a lot like grass, but if you look at the picture here you can see the differences. Carrots have the 2 seeds leaves coming from the same spot while with the grass, each new leaf comes from inside of where the previous leaf came from.

Spinach Seedling

Spinach can be a bit difficult too, but the seed leaves are much larger than carrots. I think they look kind of like big, floppy rabbit ears.

Beet Seedlings

Beets are easier, especially if they are red beets. because you’ll see some of the red color even in the seed leaves. Also, beets will almost always have more than one seedling come up in the same spot because each beet “seed” you planted is actually the fruit of the beet and contains a few seeds. Eventually, you’ll want to thin out the extra beet seedlings or they they’ll compete for nutrients and you’ll get very small beets. Chard looks the same as beets.

Squash Seedling

Squash Family
Squash and other members of that family (cucumbers, melons, gourds) are probably the easiest to tell because their seed leaves are very large, on the order of an inch long, each.

Lettuce Seedlings

Lettuces do have seed leaves, but they aren’t very distinct from the true leaves so you just have to pay attention. Luckily, they are very distinct from grass or any narrow leaf weeds, like grass.

Pea Seedling

Peas, have no visibly distinct seed leaves. However, since peas should be planted very early, there shouldn’t be a lot of competing weeds to confuse you.

Onion Tops

Onion Family
Onions and other members of their family (garlic, chives, leeks, shallots, scallions) also don’t have observable seed leaves, but they are very distinct in the garden. Their leaves look like round tubes coming up out of the ground.

Beans are almost as easy to tell as squash, but it’s too early for them yet, so I don’t have any pictures, but I’ll add them at the proper time.

That’s it for now.
Happy Gardening

Seedling problems are super frustrating, and many times you’re left wondering “Why do my seedlings keep dying?”. Don’t worry, I’ve got the solutions to your seed starting problems! In this post, I’ll give you detailed fixes and tons of help with seedlings, so you can finally stop struggling.

Help! Why are my seedlings dying? This is one of the most common questions I get from gardeners when they’re starting seeds indoors. If this sounds familiar, and you need help with seedlings, then you’ve come to the right place.

This detailed troubleshooting guide will help you figure out why your seedlings are struggling (or worse, falling over and dying), and give you tons of tips for how to fix common seed starting problems.

Healthy seedlings growing indoors

The Most Common Seed Starting Problems

If you’re struggling with growing seeds indoors, you’re not alone. We have all been there, and everyone who has ever started seeds indoors has had seedling problems at some point (even the seasoned experts!). Don’t worry, many of these issues are easily fixable with a few minor adjustments.

In the troubleshooting sections below, I’ll go into details about the causes and solutions, and I’ll give you tons of help with seedlings. Here’s a list of the most common seedling problems we’ll talk about. You can click the links to skip ahead, or simply keep reading…

  1. Seedlings falling over and dying after sprouting
  2. Seedlings turning yellow, brown, or have faded leaves
  3. Weak, leggy seedlings
  4. Mold growth in seed trays
  5. Tiny bugs flying around seedlings
  6. Seedlings not growing, or growing slowly
  7. Seedling leaves curling up, down, or drooping

Leggy seedlings stretching for light

Seedling Problems, Causes & Solutions

The good news is that most of these common seedling problems are easily fixable, but you will need to take action pretty quickly to save your seedlings.

So now let’s dig into the help with seedlings part. Below I will walk you through each of the problems listed above, identifying the main causes, and their solutions.

1. Seedlings Falling Over And Dying After Sprouting

Probably the biggest frustration for gardeners is when their seedlings tip over at the base and die without warning. This is called damping off, and is caused by bacterial seedling blight. Damping off is the most common cause of seedlings dying after sprouting.

Unfortunately, damping off happens so fast that there’s really no way to save them once they flop over. The best way to stop it is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are the common causes of seedling damping off, and their solutions.

Why are my seedlings falling over and dying (and how to fix it)?

  • Using the wrong type of soil – Solution: Always use a quality seed starting medium or peat pellets for growing seeds. Don’t use regular potting soil or garden soil. And never, never reuse any of your soil or pellets.
  • Equipment wasn’t sterile – Solution: Disinfect all dirty seed trays, plastic cells, dome lids, and plastic pots by soaking them in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water. Get step-by-step instructions for how to disinfect seed starting equipment here.
  • Not enough ventilation – Solution: Remove the plastic dome lids once the seeds have germinated. Keep an oscillating fan blowing over the seedlings to ensure proper ventilation.
  • Soil kept too wet – Solution: Don’t water your seedlings if the soil is already wet or soggy. Don’t allow the containers to sit in water for extended periods of time. Use a soil moisture gauge so you know when to water.

  • Watering from the top – Solution: It’s best to water your seedlings from the bottom by pouring water into the tray, and allowing the soil to absorb the water from the bottom. Empty any water that hasn’t been soaked up after 30 minutes.

Reusing dirty trays can cause major seed starting problems

2. Seedlings Turning Yellow, Brown, Or Have Faded Leaves

When seedlings leaves turn brown, yellow, white, or look dull and faded, that’s a sure sign that something is wrong. Most of the time, you can save them but you have to act fast in order for them to survive.

Once you notice that seedling leaves have started to fade or change color, it’s important to figure out what’s wrong and fix it quickly. Many times you can save them, but if the damage is severe, some seedlings may not recover.

These are the most common causes of discolored or faded leaves, and the solutions for how to save your seedlings…

Why are my seedlings turning yellow, white, or brown (and how to fix them)?

  • Overwatered seedling – Solution: Make sure the soil is never saturated or soggy, and drain excess water from the trays. A soil water gauge is a great tool to help you give them the perfect amount of moisture.
  • Fertilizer burn – Solution: Chemical fertilizers are notorious for burning delicate seedlings. Switch to a natural, organic seedling fertilizer rather than using chemical fertilizers. And always be sure to follow instructions on the package.
  • Sunburn – Solution: Move your seedlings out of the sun immediately (severe sunburn is usually fatal to seedlings). Always be sure to harden off your seedlings properly before moving them outdoors or into direct sunlight.
  • Wrong type of soil – Solution: If you use the wrong soil for starting seeds, they may not be getting the nutrients they need. Always use a quality seedling soil mix for planting seeds indoors.

Using quality soil helps prevent common seedling problems

3. Weak, Leggy Seedlings

If seedlings don’t get enough light, they will reach and stretch for the brightest light source that’s nearby (usually a window). This is definitely one of the biggest problems with seedlings growing indoors, and also one of the easiest to fix.

However, if you don’t fix the issue that’s causing seedling stems to grow tall and leggy, it won’t take long before they are too weak to recover. If your seedlings have grown so tall that they are falling over… then it’s probably too late to save them.

Here are the main causes of weak, leggy seedlings, and how to fix them. Learn all about seedling lighting and how to use grow lights here.

Why are my seedlings leggy (and how to save them)?

  • Seedlings aren’t getting enough light – Solution: Add a grow light, position it so it sits 2-4 inches above the seedlings at all times, and keep it on for 12-14 hours per day. You can buy a grow light system to make this super easy, or make your own grow lights for seedlings using a fluorescent light fixture and plant grow bulbs. It’s also helpful to use an inexpensive outlet timer so you can set it and forget it.
  • Seedlings are overcrowded and competing for light – Solution: Thin your seedlings by cutting out the weakest ones at the soil level so there’s only one growing per cell or pellet (never pull them out of the soil though). If they have outgrown the small seed cells, then it’s time to transplant them up into seedling pots.

Fix leggy seedlings by putting them under lights

4. Mold Growth In Seed Trays

Mold usually grows on top of the soil, but it could grow on seedlings too. The mold isn’t directly what causes them to die, it’s a symptom of other more severe seedling problems. And if those issues aren’t fixed, your seedlings probably won’t survive for long.

It’s not the mold growing in your trays that will kill your seedlings… it’s the problem(s) causing the mold that you have to be worried about. Once you fix the problem(s), the mold will die.

Below are the causes of mold growth in seed trays, and how to fix them. You can learn more about how to get rid of mold on seedlings and soil here.

Why is mold growing in my seed trays (and how to get rid of it)?

  • Overwatered seedling – Solution: Make sure the soil is never soggy or kept constantly wet, and try to allow the very top layer of the soil to dry out a bit between waterings. Water seedlings from the bottom rather than the top. Use a soil moisture meter so you always know when it’s time to water.
  • Overcrowded seedlings – Solution: Thin out your seedlings so there’s only one growing per cell or pellet. Otherwise, pot them up if they have outgrown their seed tray.
  • Not enough air circulation – Solution: Add an oscillating fan and position it to blow over your seedlings to give them plenty of airflow, and help to dry out soggy soil.

A fan blowing on seedlings helps prevent problems

5. Tiny Bugs Flying Around Seedlings

Fungus gnats (aka soil gnats) are small bugs that lay their eggs in soil, and they are a common pest indoors. You’ll see them flying around the seedlings, or crawling in the soil.

They’re normally just a nuisance, and won’t damage or kill seedlings if kept under control. Seeing a few gnats flying around is usually not a big deal.

But they are a sign of a bigger problem. So if the infestation is severe, then you need to take quick action to save your seedlings. There is one main thing that causes fungus gnats to infest your seedling trays…

Why are there bugs flying around my seedlings (and how to get rid of them)?

  • Soil is too wet – Solution: Water seedlings from the bottom so the top of the soil can dry out a bit between waterings. Potting them up will make it easier to control the soil moisture level, and get rid of the fungus gnats. Hang yellow sticky traps near your seedlings to help control the adult gnats. Store all unused soil in an air-tight container.

Use yellow sticky traps to control bug problems with seedlings

6. Seedlings Not Growing, Or Growing Slowly

Sometimes seedlings can grow very, very slowly, or they seem to stop growing all together. Keep in mind that some types of seedlings grow much faster than others do, and that is perfectly normal.

Fast-growing seedlings can get true leaves within a week after germination, while others won’t grow them for several weeks. So if it’s just that your seedlings are not growing true leaves yet, give it more time. However, there are a few problems that can slow or stunt growth…

Why are my seedlings growing so slow (and how to fix it)?

  • Room temperature is too cold – Solution: Seedling growth can be stunted when it’s too cold in your home. If the room temperature is below 65F degrees, then try keeping seedlings warm using a room space heater or a heat mat.
  • Not enough light – Solution: Inadequate lighting is another thing that can slow seedling growth. It’s best to always grow seedlings indoors under grow lights, rather than trying to grow them in a sunny window.
  • Lack of nutrients – Solution: Nutrition is very important for growing seedlings. Once they grow their first true leaves, then start feeding them with organic fertilizer. I recommend using an organic seedling fertilizer, liquid compost tea, or fish emulsion.
  • Inadequate watering – Solution: Over or under watering can also cause seedlings to grow slower. So keeping the soil evenly moist at all times is super important. I recommend getting a moisture gauge, and checking the soil regularly so you know exactly when to water.

7. Seedling Leaves Curling Up, Down, Or Drooping

Droopy seedlings and curling leaves are both indications that something is definitely wrong, and should be fixed ASAP. Under watering, spider mites, or fertilizer burn are the three main culprits – all of which can quickly kill seedlings.

As soon as you notice the leaves are sagging or curling, take a closer look. If you see webbing on the leaves, between the leaf joints, or tiny bugs on the leaves then it’s probably spider mites.

Here are causes of droopy seedlings or curling leaves, and their solutions…

Why are my seedling leaves curling or drooping (and how to save them)?

  • Under watering – Solution: Never allow the soil to dry out completely. Consistent under watering can weaken or kill seedlings. Water your dried out seedlings immediately. Severely dehydrated seedlings may not recover.
  • Spider mites – Solution: These tiny mites can kill seedlings very quickly, so it’s important to act fast! Increase the humidity level around your seedlings by misting them or putting them into an indoor greenhouse. You can also use neem oil or insecticidal soap to help get rid of bugs on seedlings (be sure to test it on one seedling first before spraying them all).
  • Chemical fertilizer burn – Solution: Rather than using a chemical fertilizer, which can cause severe damage to seedlings, use an organic one instead. I recommend either using compost tea, liquid fish and seaweed, or an organic seedling fertilizer.

Growing strong healthy seedlings

Tips For Growing Strong, Healthy Seedlings

The best advice I can offer you to help with seedlings is to try your best to prevent problems from happening in the first place. Many of these are fixable, but some seedlings can’t be saved and you’ll have to start all over from scratch (ugh!).

The good news is that it’s not difficult to care for seedlings, and there are only a few key things to remember. Here are a few quick tips for you…

  • Sterilize all of your trays and other equipment every time you use it
  • Always use a good quality seedling potting soil
  • Keep seedling soil consistently moist, but never soggy
  • Water your seedlings from the bottom rather than the top
  • Get some grow lights and an outlet timer, and always give seedlings the proper amount of light
  • Ensure adequate ventilation and airflow around your seedlings

Read all about how to grow strong, healthy seedlings in my ultimate seedling care guide.

Don’t feel bad if you’ve experienced any (or all) of these seedling problems, we’ve all been there. It’s best to avoid them all together, and prevention is the most important step you can take.

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to grow healthy seedlings indoors without any problems at all. But of course, if you need more help with seedlings, I’m always here for you!

If you’re tired of struggling to grow your own seeds, then my Starting Seeds Indoors eBook is for you! It’s a quick start guide that will have you planting seeds in no time.

Otherwise, if you want to learn how to grow any plant you want from seed, then enroll in my Seed Starting Course. It’s a wonderful, fun course that will teach you everything you need to know in order to easily grow your own seedlings.

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More Seedling Care Posts

  • A Beginner’s Guide For Thinning Out Seedlings
  • How To Repot Seedlings Into Larger Containers
  • When To Transplant Seedlings Into The Garden

Share your tips for fixing seedling problems, or ask for more help with seedlings in the comments section below.

Best way to avoid seedlings from bending and dying

I know several things that should help for damping off. Most of these are based on personal experience rather than things I’ve looked up.

  1. Don’t use containers that decompose. They attract mold. Pythium, which can cause damping off, is fungi.
  2. Put a 22+ watt 2500k CFL lightbulb (on) near your plants. In my experience, this kind of light seems to protect against damping off more than the highly recommended 6500k lights. Maybe pythium doesn’t like infrared light (which should be somewhat higher in 2500k bulbs).
  3. Make sure the soil level isn’t too far below the rim of the container. Your soil is quite far below. This provides a more ideal environment for damping off. Sometimes, after watering the first few times, the soil will lower. You can reduce this by initially compacting the soil more. If you’re using seed starting potting soil, this shouldn’t be too much compaction for your seeds. Compacted soil is generally regarded as bad, but in my experience, it’s better than damping off. Other kinds of soil may differ considerably. You could water the soil more lightly to avoid it lowering as quickly, too, somewhat, perhaps. Soil that is too compacted seems to kill seedlings, too, however, but this seems to be an indoor topsoil problem, primarily, and more sunlight probably increases survival rates. The sunlight increasing survival rates is just a guess, based on something I tried once.
  4. They say you should increase air circulation.
  5. Sunlight helps. More is much better.
  6. Put a little extra calcium in your soil, if it can handle it. Basalt rockdust or garden gypsum should work. Don’t add too much, though.
  7. Don’t over-water. You might consider watering with a dropper.
  8. Adding some neem oil to your soil might help (depending on the cause of the problem), but I don’t know if it would kill beneficial things, too. I’ve found that completely sterilized (baked) topsoil tends to get moldy after a while, and cucurbits that use it have smaller leaves. Plus germination rates (at least for plants in the solanaceae family) seem to decrease a lot.
  9. You could try adding beneficial microorganisms to your soil to out-compete the pythium. I haven’t tried this.
  10. Use fresh soil (not something that has been lying around for a really long time or has been used by other plants).

Damping off probably isn’t the only thing that causes the symptoms you describe. Are the seedlings just falling over or do they look rotted/withered at the bottom of the stem? If they look withered there, it’s probably damping off. If they don’t, they might need more rest from whatever light you’re giving them or something. I find that some of my tomatillo and pepper seedlings sometimes fall over if they get too much fluorescent light, but they recover some if I give them more rest. At least, that’s how it seems. I could be interpreting what happened incorrectly due to the scarcity of occurrences.

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