can seeds be overwatered

Am I Overwatering My Seeds?

I am entirely new to gardening and I just got a set up with a hanging T5 lamp over two 32-cell trays. I’ve learned a lot from employees at Stein Gardens and Gifts within the past few days but I’m very new to this so a lot is still over my head.

When I put the starter soil (Epsoma Organic Seed Starter) I wet the soil like the soil bag instructed me to. I planted my seeds in the cells yesterday (I have peppers, roma tomatoes, okra, cilantro, and basil). It’s been probably 15 hours since they were planted. The light has been on the whole time, about 3-4 inches away from the trays.

The man I talked to at Stein told me that when the soil looks really dry I should water them just a little on the top. So my problem is I think I might have over watered them before planting, or maybe just some of the cells. The issue is that, because I’m new to this, I’m unsure how to tell. Some of the cells have some darker soil on the top that’s moist to the touch, some of them also have some dry looking soil on the top with it (probably there because I was moving around the soil during planting. A couple actually look wet (producing a light shine under light).

Does this mean there’s too much water or is this normal? Should I be watering the ones with lighter dry soil sprinkled on top a little bit more?

If I did over water them, I have some other questions. I want to put clear covers over the plants soon to keep them warm (they’re in a basement so it gets a little cooler at times) but I understand its main function is the humidity. Should I wait for the soil to dry out? Or is my best bet to just redo the trays altogether?

Thank you so much for your patience and help. This is all very new to me and I have next to no intelligence when it comes to this stuff. I know it’s all a matter of learning as you go, though.

I have some pictures attached of the setup I have and of the soil to give you a better understanding of what I mean.

This message was edited Apr 17, 2015 3:58 PM

It is basically impossible to overwater your seeds in the few days it should take them to germinate. I can’t speak about the light setup but your seeds will probably germinate best in 100% humidity (soil saturated, lid over container). Once that happens you can start reducing the humidity little by little. No need to redo anything at this point, just keep things moist for a while and don’t give up on germination if it doesn’t happen immediately. You can mist with a sprayer or bottom water in a tray, or whatever works best for you, just be careful not to dislodge any tiny seedlings that have yet to sink down decent roots.

You don’t need to worry about overwatering yet, but the advice is generally okay. just keep the soil moist, not sopping. Don’t let it dry out completely between waterings (or later on, once you have seedlings). It is especially important now to keep the soil moist while you are waiting for seed germination and want constant moisture and humidity.

Seed germination can happen in 15 hours or less, but that would be unusual for the types of seeds you’re starting. Nothing to worry about yet.

The purpose of covering your trays is not to keep them warm. It’s to hold humidity to promote seed germination. You should cover the trays NOW, and then REMOVE the covers when the seeds germinate. (To fail to do so, is to court seedling death due to damping off, if your conditions are prone to it.)

REPEAT: There is nothing to worry about now. Just give it time for the seeds to germinate.

Most seeds need the soil to be wetted before planting, the damp soil helps the seeds to germinate, grow its first 2 leaves and also send down a little root.
IF you only planted the seeds yesterday, there will be NO sign of growth in any shape or form YET, germination will take place between about 10-14 days.

For new gardeners, it is quite hard to get watering right, for seeds, you need to try gage when the soil is dry, the best way I know is by sticking your finger into the soil and if it’s dry, you water, IF damp, leave watering for another day. IF there is no room in the small cells to poke your finger, then use a lolly-pop stick, clean and light in colour, when removed from soil you should notice a change in colour where the water /damp soil is, the cells you think are dry there will be no water mark at all.

For seeds,/ germination, I always like to water from below, this means sitting the seed trays in a
Shallow tray with NO holes or a basin with about 2 inch of water, sit the seed trays in this shallow water and leave until the soil turns a darker colour, lift the seed trays out from the water and allow the soil to drain. then set the seed trays back where they are to grow.

I really think your lights are too close to the seeds, I could be wrong as I don’t work with lights, so hope someone else will come in and help you best practice while using grow lights, I think there could be too much top heat on the soil, burning the seeds might also be a problem BUT dont take that as knowledge, like I said, I have never needed to use lights for germination, I also feel at this time of year, there is enough day light for my seeds to get started, half way through April is light enough for us here in UK.

Hope this helps you out a little, ONE last thing I would ask of you is, to calm down, try relax a little, Gardening is supposed to be a nice calming Hobby / past time, it’s NOT supposed to get you to have sleepless nights, and have to remind you, most new gardeners kill their new seedlings or plants with kindness, weve all done that, try to remember nature has a part to play with seeds, plants, or other growing stuff, we as the gardener can only try to mimic nature by watering, good soil, best start to growth and general good practis so, your correct, it takes time and practice to gain the right experience and Please dont take this the wrong way, but seeds planted the day before is hardly reasons to be too upsat IF things are NOT how you imagined, by 2-3 weeks IF theres still no sign of growth then start to panic A LITTLE. for the mean time, just give water, a bit of heat and some light. keep checking for over watering and only give it when you are absolutely sure the soil needs it.
Some seeds depending on type will germinate faster than others so dont be worried IF peppers are faster than Tomato’s etc.
Good luck and Kindest Regards.

Thank you all so much for the help. I wasn’t expecting any visual progress for a while. I was just thinking and hoping that I didn’t do anything drastically wrong. I’d at least like to get a good start.

I think the lights are supposed to be close by. The instructions I saw said 2 to 4 inches away from the seeds. It’s not that warm of a light so I don’t have to worry about it getting too warm. With some more money I might get some heat pads because I really don’t have much of a sun source where they’re growing. Just the lamp, which to my understanding should do something if I keep it on regularly.

Again, thank you very much. About what temperature range should the air be in the room it’s growing in? I’m not exactly sure what the temperature of the room is that they’re in but I could figure it out sometime soon. And like I said, there isn’t much of a sun source at all.

Your plants are all warm season crops, so if the soil is in the upper 70s that would be good. Keep the light very low, almost touching them at first. There will be a little heat from it, but mostly the heat rises.

Thank you, Diana. The soil is definitely not around that temperature. I take it they probably have thermometers for soil at the garden store? That’s something I’ll have to monitor since the basement it’s in is pretty cool. The soil seems almost cold.

Right now I’m going to put a folded electric blanket under the towel I have the trays on. Hopefully that will add some heat to the soil. I guess I’ll just monitor the soil temperature and turn that on whenever it’s getting a little cool. That should work, right?

If you’re concerned that the area is cooler than optimal (70 deg F, 20 deg C), you could turn the lights on now – they will generate some heat.

Okay I’ll set up the lights then. It should at least do something. I’m going to try that electric blanket idea as soon as someone tells me where the cord for it went.
Is it the soil, the air, or both that needs to be in the 70s?
Thank you for all your help and understanding me for having questions.
The lamp says that it should be on from 16 to 18 hours a day. I take it it’s fine if it’s on longer than that?

Well, whatever temperature the air reads, the soil will also achieve. The air temp is easiest to measure. 😉

I wouldn’t leave the lights on for longer than that. Plants are used to a day-night cycle.

When the seeds have not even sprouted it is OK to leave the light on. But look into soil warming equipment; electric blankets and similar heating pads are not for use in a damp environment.

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