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Overwatering Seeds

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Seed germination relies on consistent, surrounding soil moisture as seeds swell with water to break their protective coats. Seedlings soon emerge from the engorged seeds. However, overwatering seeds does not increase the germination pace but rather causes harm, ranging from pathogen vulnerability to seeds lost through runoff. Observing and controlling your watering patterns during germination when starting seeds outdoors allows plants to grow in a healthy environment.

Issues with Overwatering Seeds

Seeds deeply sown in cold soil, coupled with overwatering, are prone to fungal pathogens. Natural, beneficial fungi live in the soil as they consume organic matter for successful plant nutrient uptake.

However, wet conditions surrounding struggling seeds often encourage harmful fungi to grow. As a result, seeds become fungi food sources as their wet outer seed coat slowly breaks down — the seedlings never have a chance to grow into the sunlight.

In addition, seeds may simply rot in the soil if overwatering continues. Along with nutrients and moisture, seeds need some oxygen for healthy seedling growth. Overwatering seeds prevents healthy oxygen levels around seeds, which may then fail to sprout, notes Iowa State University Extension.

Overwatering Displaces Seeds

Overwatering seeds often leads to displacement, notes University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. This can particularly be a problem if you are trying to establish a lawn. Water flows and puddles pull lightweight seeds into miniature currents as they move away from the planted site. The seeds may even be carried away into your street’s rain gutters.

Along with reduced irrigation sessions, you can prevent seed displacement by amending your soil with organic matter. For example, till compost into your soil prior to seeding. The compost improves the soil texture to combat compacted conditions that lead to seed displacement.

Sowing seeds to their proper depth also inhibits displacement – seeds sown too shallowly simply spread across the soil surface when watered, becoming likely to float away. Seeds sown at the proper depth and covered by a light layer of soil are more protected, and therefore less likely to become displaced when watered.

How to Prevent Overwatering

If you are inclined toward overwatering, use misting hand sprayers and capillary mats as alternative watering strategies for seeds. Misting sprayers provide ample seed moisture without the damaging effect of large water droplets. Seed flats placed on capillary mats simply absorb water as needed using a simple wicking action. For larger seeded areas, such as lawns, a shallow, twice-a-day watering strategy is necessary to keep the seeds moist but not wet to a 1/2-inch soil depth.

Water Areas Appropriately

Observe your yard as you water newly seeded areas. As trees and shrubs grow taller, they create small microclimates within your yard. For example, some areas are shaded and remain moist, while sunlit spots dry quickly during the day. This means some areas may need more water than others to create a healthy garden ecosystem.

Water seeds according to their moisture needs. Use a soil moisture meter or insert your finger into the soil to verify that an area needs watering, and remember that water will evaporate more slowly in areas that receive less sunlight.

Overwatering Seeds. Germination relies on consistent, surrounding soil moisture as seeds swell with water to break their protective coats. Seedlings soon emerge from the engorged seeds. However, overwatering seeds does not increase the germination pace but rather causes harm, ranging from pathogen vulnerability to …

How to Care for an Overwatered Seedling

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Overwatering seeds and seedlings is a common problem for many novice gardeners. Whether starting the seeds indoors in pots or containers or starting them outdoors, plant soil not drying out can be a symptom of overwatering that can lead to numerous other problems and eventually kill the seedlings. Thankfully, caring for an overwatered seedling can be quite easy, and it requires a minimal amount of equipment.

Overwatering Seeds and Seedlings

Plant soil not drying out can point to heavy and poorly drained soils that can become waterlogged. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, overwatering is one of the most common plant issues, and roots in overwatered soil may die due to lack of oxygen, meaning that the rest of the seedling won’t get moisture and nutrients and can die itself. Stunted growth, yellowing leaves, soaked spots and blisters are all symptoms of overwatering.

According to Michigan State University, overwatering can also leach nutrients from the soil and thus waste a good amount of time and money. It’s important to note a few key things when considering how much to water seedlings or plants in general, including the soil type and the weather if growing them outside. Some kinds of soil hold water better than others. Sand holds water less than clay, for instance, which can affect how much to water and the how well the soil will drain.

Caring for an Overwatered Seedling

Shut It Down

The first step in helping seedlings when they are overwatered is to stop watering them, whether they are overwatered outdoor plants or overwatered indoor plants. According to Cannabis Training University, this usually means providing less water when watering or watering less frequently.

Consider Watering Alternatives

If you are watering plants outside or using some kind of irrigation system indoors, consider finding water-conserving drip emitters or watering systems that can be moderated. However, it is important to note that things like overhead watering can use more water and can be a vector for fungal diseases. Further, ensure that none of the pipes or hoses are leaking to avoid putting too much water into the soil.

Dry Out the Plants

The next step in helping overwatered outdoor plants or indoor plants is to let them dry out a bit. In truly extreme cases and if the seedlings are strong enough, be prepared to transplant the seedlings into new containers with new soil. Smart fabric pots can help with the overwatering issue, but it does require more watering since the soil inside dries quicker.

Keep an Eye on It

Next, it is important to monitor the plants and the soil to see if the seedlings recover and if the soil is dry enough. Afterward, consider watering less, switching to other watering methods, using different pots or increasing drainage in whatever soil is being used. If necessary, take a pair of scissors, disinfect them with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol to avoid the spread of disease and poke more holes in the bottoms of plastic pots. Test the nutrients using a soil nutrient test kit, readily available at most garden centers. If the soil balance is not ideal for the seedlings, apply the necessary fertilizer.

Things You Will Need

Watering can, irrigation system, hose, etc.

How to Care for an Overwatered Seedling. "Water, water everywhere" is not a good scenario for a seedling. Whether you accidentally left on the hose or Mother Nature sent a downpour, overwatering seriously threatens the health of a seedling. Although adequate irrigation is essential to a young plant, overdoing …