Dealing with ailing seedlings

Some background

The 2022 Chilli season for me officially begins in about ten days. This is when I will start seeds for the last remaining varieties I will grow this season. Once again, I probably have gone over the top. I always do. In total, I will be growing about twenty-five varieties. In addition to the seeds I will be starting, I already have seedlings for some superhots and few other types.   I started these last year. These seedlings are in various stages of development. They are currently in a controlled, heated environment under grow lights indoors

All in all, most of my seedlings are doing well. There are, however, exceptions. For example, my Carolina Reapers, Moruga Scorpions and Nagas seem to be struggling. Even though they were planted three months ago, they are only about an inch tall. I have always been aware that some superhots have long seed to maturation growth periods. That is why I started these varieties far sooner than I might ordinarily have, but their growth still appears relatively pedestrian.

In addition, I also have a few plants that don’t seem as healthy as they should. Some have yellowing leaves, and others just don’t seem vigorous. You can tell if a seedling is doing well. These seedlings (six in total)  don’t appear to be making the grade. I really don’t know why. It’s not like they haven’t received the same care and attention as my  other seedlings, which are thriving

With this in mind, the time has come for me  to go back to conventional wisdom. As part of my detailed look into growing Chillies, I decided to dig deeper into this side of growing Chillies.  Some of the following is what I found while doing research and the rest is based on my own experience.

The first step. Diagnosis

Chilli plant diseases

If any seedlings appear to have any form of fatal disease, get rid of them immediately. Dispose of them in garden refuse, well away from your other seedlings. Even burn them if you can. You don’t want disease transferred to your other seedlings.

Generally, diseased plants will be pretty evident, with signs like yellow-green legions, black or brown spots, yellow patches in a mosaic pattern on leaves, toppling thin stems and fuzzy, grey moulds on the stems and leaves wilting at the edges.

Fungal, viral and bacterial diseases can cause these symptoms.  These Chilli plant diseases can attack seedlings via various means, including pathogens in the soil and pests like aphids, spider mites and aphids.  Most often attacks on seedlings will be fungal in nature and are caused by excessive watering .   An example of a fungal disease is damping off, where Chilles topple over when their stems become too weak to support them. This is caused by many fungal infections, including Fusarium  and Pythium

If your plants exhibit any of the symptoms above, you should sit up and take notice.  You need to take immediate action before it is too late.  Following this guide on Chilli plant diseases will help determine what diseases are causing the symptoms

If you have identified the disease that is attacking your seedlings (depending on the type of disease), it may not be necessary to dispose of them immediately. You can try and save them. , particularly if the disease has not gone too far. You may not be able ton reverse damage but sometimes you can halt the disease in its tracks. This excellent video from Welsh Chillies will show you how

Not Chilli plant disease. What now?

Chilli plant diseases

Recuperation station

If you have definitely ruled out Chilli plant disease, there are various options open to you. To make a decision, the following need to be considered:

Firstly, some seedlings are just not going to be as robust as others. If it is evident that a single seedling is not keeping up with other seedlings of the same variety (planted simultaneously as the others), then it is best to cut your losses. Invariably, plants like this never reach their full potential.

On the other hand, it appears the seedlings are otherwise healthy, except perhaps for discoloration of the leaves and the like, another approach can be tried. Here, you still need to separate the affected seedlings from the healthy ones. Except now, you will need to create a recuperation station. Place these seedlings into a separate area where you can give them special care and attention. Everything to do with them will receive more attention to detail. Ensure they are kept at the right temperature, receive adequate feeding and moisture, and lots of TLC

I will be trying the recuperation station approach this year. I have come to the conclusion that it is not disease affecting my plants. I believe it’s probably a stress problem of sorts. The discoloration could have been caused by over or under watering, or bright light from the grow lights they are under right now. However, I am not taking any chances. If any of the plants conditions worsen, I am afraid it will be tickets for that plant. Come spring, if this special attention has not paid dividends, I will cut my losses. I won’t harden them off for permanent placement outside. It will be a waste of time and effort to put more time into these plants. It would be better to focus all my attention on my healthier specimens

Final note

Growing Chillies successfully requires a lot of attention to detail. Particularly in the United Kingdom. If it’s not the cold, it’s the aphids and lack of sunshine. If it’s not giving your plants too much water, giving them too much will be the problem. And so on and so on.  That’s what makes it such great fun!

On that note, there is a lot to be done before I start the remaining seeds for 2022. This preparation needs to be done in advance of the start of the season, so I am already starting to get my ducks in a row. I have placed my orders for the equipment and materials I will need, and am generally just planning my strategy for next year’s Chilli growing season. That however is the subject of another post

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Why are my leaves turning yellow?

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