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Beetroot and Tomato Seedlings

Hello everyone,

I'm a relatively new gardener and I've been increasing my range over the last couple of years. This year I decided to make an early start and germinate some seeds indoors. I got myself a little heat mat and a a 100W light. For the most part things have gone quite well so far. I have healthy looking peas, sweet peas, china asters, parsley, basil, chilies, and cornflowers. I've been hardening them off (except the chillies) over the last week or so, and the first of the peas are already in the garden. However I do have a couple of problems that I'd be really grateful for some advice with:

Firstly, my beetroot seeds have mostly gone floppy and died, one after the other. I sowed them nearly three weeks ago in pressed peat modules. They did alright at first and had their first true leaves. I then put them into small clay pots to give them a bit more space, and snipped out all but one per pot, around a week ago. I put them in a 50/50 mix of purchased soil and compost (I live in Switzerland and the range of specialist soils and composts is nothing like it is in the UK) with a sprinkle of granular organic fertiliser. But then they just started keeling over one after the other. The stems go floppy where they meet the soil, the seed leaves go droopy and the true leaves curl. Any one have any idea why?

Secondly, my tomatoes (varieties are Auriga, Black Cherry and Green Zebra) have been treated similarly to the beetroot and have been going a little longer. They're generally looking not too bad, with thick hairy stems and they have quite a few leaves, but the older (true) leaves have started to go a little grey and droopy. I planted them in the same sort of mixture as the beetroot but with a little peat added as I read that they like acid. Since they've gone grey, I've tried a dilute application of an organic liquid fertiliser (6-12-10) but nothing much changed. I've had success with tomatoes before where I've bought them or been given them as plants, but never tried them as seeds before. Again, any advice would be very much appreciated.

Thank you!




  • LynLyn Posts: 22,884

    I think you may have killed them with kindness.

     Its still a bit cold to start tom beetroot packet says sow seeds in April, but apar


    t from that, you dont feed toms until the first flowers appear, which will be May to june at least.


    Beetroots can go direct in the ground in mid April.They dont need any extra nutrition at the seedling sta

    ge, just warmth.Try another pot of tomato seeds just in a pot on the kitchen window sill, I am sure they will germinate and be fine.


    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • ommthreeommthree Posts: 314

    Thanks a lot for that Lyn. It could indeed be that they didn't like the fertiliser. That would explain why they were alright till I put them in pots, since there was none in the original mix. The tomatoes are far from dead though, so I'll keep my fingers crossed that they'll pull through and try again with the beetroot.

    There's no such thing as windowsills in my flat. It's all very modern. That's why I had to do the lights.

    Thanks again,


  • ItalophileItalophile Posts: 1,731

    ommthree, at this stage your tom seedlings need nothing more than as much light as possible and some warmth. They're too young to cope with fertiliser.

    With artificial lighting, keep the seedlings as close to the globes as you can. An inch and a half is fine. The seedlings won't burn. As the seedlings develop, raise the lights, but keep the narrow gap. In a 24-hour cycle, the seedlings need at least 6 hours of darkness. And don't overwater them.

    Beetroot, like most root veg, are best sown directly into the ground when the soil is warm enough.

  • ommthreeommthree Posts: 314

    That's good information. Thanks a lot Italophile. They're getting quite a bit of light and spending some time in the sun every day as well, as we're having lovely weather. Hopefully they'll recover from the over-fertlizing, if that's what it was.

    I'm just too nervous sowing things directly. Each time I've tried it, I've lost every single plant to slugs. image 

  • ommthreeommthree Posts: 314

    Well, thanks to your help Lyn and Italophile, I think that I may have saved the tomatoes. 

    I took one out of its pot to see, and the soil was pretty waterlogged, plus the roots were absolutely tiny compared to the top growth. So I reckon over fertilised and over watered was bang on. 

    So I took them all out of their pots, with just their tiny footballs, and repotted with just soil with some perlite mixed in to help it drain. I planted them good and deep, so that they have a chance to build more roots from the stem, and cut back on the watering. Luckily it's been beautiful weather, so they've been outside during the day, soaking up the sun.

    Seems like they're going to make it through. The newer leaves are a much deeper, healthier shade of green, and they're all putting on new growth. I'm very happy indeed.

    Thanks all!

  • LynLyn Posts: 22,884

    You have done right, dont leave them out for long though, they will still be tender.


    Try the beetroot direct in the ground about the end of April. I dont know how warm your soil is where you live but mine is freezing cold at the moment, wouldnt like to try the 'bum' test just yet!!

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • ommthreeommthree Posts: 314

    They're growing nicely now. Will need to pot them on next week I think!

  • LynLyn Posts: 22,884

    Thats good to hear, dont be in too much of a hurry though, only pot on toms when you see the roots at the bottom of t

    he pot, then only use a pot a little bit bigger, no feed until the first flowers form.

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • ItalophileItalophile Posts: 1,731

    Tom seedlings will happily live in a 3" pot till they're ready to plant out. No need to pot up.

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