seed starting problems - this year...???

I have started my own seeds every spring for the past 5-6 years. I have one of those wire coated, heavy duty shelves in my laundry room. I suspend shop lights over 4 shelves and have three seed heat mats. I use both seed start mix and jiffy pots. I use water that has been allowed to stand to remove the chlorine. There is a heat vent at the bottom of the shelves (I keep 1/2 open) that circulates air and heat. This is not in the basement near any possible gas leak...
Always worked very, very well in previous years.
THIS YEAR I am having difficulty getting ANY pepper seeds to germinate. Not the bells or jalapeno or cayennes... I FINALLY got 3 varieties of tomatoes to germinate but it took about 3-4 weeks to see any green. Tomatoes are usually up in 3 days.
I tried again with the peppers - all new seed - and in both seed start and jiffy mix. NO PEPPERS! I planted 10 jiffy pots of cantaloupe and now have only 2 growing. Cucumbers same - 10 to get 2. I can dig up the seeds and they are not rotted. Just white and clean looking. Like PLASTIC!
I planted 30 of the Park's Lighthouse salvias and now have 2. Zinnias (I know don't like transplanting but have done well for me in the past) I have planted twice! No zinnias. Pinwheel variety. Not a speck of green.
The marigolds, cosmos, coleus and impatiens are doing fine.
I cannot figure that anything has changed from last year.
ANY ideas??????????? I am so puzzled....
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I also want to add:
I am not collecting my own seed from last year's harvest. I am using a variety of Burpee, Park's and Ferry-Morse.
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You can try replacing the soil. Maybe you got a bad batch.
wrote:
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I am using new sterile seed start mix (2 different brands)and some seeds are in new jiffy peat pots. Thanks for answering, though.
fran wrote:

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My guess from your descriptions are that you've gto something environmental going on here... too hot, too cold or not enough water. Are the seeds fully imbibed?

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imbibed - had to look it up. :) Yes, fully imbibed. Moist, not floating. And I would think that if they were not going to sprout, they would have rotted as they've been wet so long. But when I dig them up, they are nice and white.
I do know about scarification, but these kinds of seeds don't need that.
The ONLY difference is that this year I did start the seeds about 2 weeks sooner than I usually do. But the peppers and tomatoes and zinnias were on the heat mats and I don't keep my house (Atlanta) really cold.
I have had very good success in past years. I know how to do seeds. I usually have so many seedling, I have plenty to share.
Something environmental - yes, but what????? This is very frustrating.
Thanks
Kay Lancaster wrote:

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If they're fully imbibed, not rotting, and not sprouting, you've either got a soil temperature problem (what is it? Stick a thermometer in the soil!) or you've got an inhibitory batch of soil -- at least that's my best guess. Pull a few of those fully imbibed seeds out. Put them in a tea strainer and drip cool water on them for a day -- you're trying to wash out water soluble inhibitors; a drippy faucet is just perfect for this. DO NOT SOAK THEM -- most people soak seeds in too-deep a water, and they strangle them from low oxygen tension. At this stage, of germination, it would probably be fatal for them. Now put those seeds on several folds of coffee filter or plain paper towel, cover with another thickness of paper, and put it on a saucer. Cover the paper with a custard cup or a bowl, to keep the paper from drying out. Continue to water the other seeds, and keep the paper moist, but seeds not in standing water. Instead of paper, you can use plain old sandbox sand -- that's the gold standard for laboratory testing of germination, though rarely used because it's a pain to handle.
If the seeds in the paper sprout, you've got an inhibitory batch of soil. If it's commercial soil, it may have been made with compost contaminated with something or other -- caffeine is one of the more common seed inhibitors. One of the suppressant herbicides may be another possibility. Or you may have gotten soil that was heat treated poorly and has become inhibitory. If you heat treated it yourself, you may have created the problem, too...
At any rate, you've got seeds that sound like they're primed for germination, but they've only made it to the earliest stages. The major factors in germination are: -- water -- oxygen -- temperature (some require alternating day/night type temps) -- lack of inhibitors for some seeds (that's part of what stratification is about) -- time -- seeds capable of growth
Generally, if the temperature is too high, some seeds can be pushed into deep dormancy. That sounds unlikely here -- the usual issue is too cool. Too cool a germination regime tends to prolong germination time, and you often get results like yours.
Kay
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thanks very much - I will try all of your suggestions and see what transpires.
Kay Lancaster wrote:

what should the temperature be? I do have the peppers on the heat mat...

How wet should the seeds be kept? - the directions always say "moist not wet" but I have always wondered about this. I do make sure the water runs out the bottom and there is no standing water but they always follow up with "do not allow to dry out".
Now put those seeds on several folds of

I will surely try this.

I have two different brands of seed starter material and I am also using jiffy pots. The thought that all three different sources could be contaminated would be odd but certainly not impossible.

It may well be a soil temperature problem, even with the heat mats. It has been very cold here in Atlanta (down in the twenties)and I did start these seeds two to three weeks before I usually do. I don't keep the house really cold but with the price of gas, I cannot keep it really, really warm!

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Peppers are germination tested at 20oC if I recall correctly (it's been 20 years!), or about 68oF. Germ tests are done at close to optimum conditions for each species.

About as moist as a sponge you'd use for wiping off a kitchen counter. Not dripping, but definitely moist. It's easier to keep the trays covered with something until germination starts -- 1) it helps prevent drying and 2) you're not dealing with evaporative cooling. But you need to get the cover off ASAP at the first signs of the cotyledons emerging, because moist, stagnant air means the fungi move in. Personally, I like a combination of a humidifier and a fan to keep home=grown seedlings happy, but your mileage will vary.
If you think you're having problems with seeds drowning or drying out in your soil, try putting about an inch of sand in the top of the pots, and planting in the sand. The sand should be what's called "builder's sand", the fairly coarse stuff that goes into making concrete, not beach sand (which is likely to be salty.) It's hard to overwater sand, but it holds quite a bit of intersitial water.
Dried out seeds that have started to germinate are dead seeds. Seeds that someone has presoaked in a couple of inches of water are often dead seeds.
You might call your water company, too, and check the hardness and salinity of your water... too many minerals in the water can build up to the point that the seeds can't extract free water from the soil (it's an osmoticum problem.) You can see the same with salts in the soil, including fertilizer. FWIW, I loathe and detest jiffy pots. They tear when they're waterlogged, they wick water and your seedlings dry out at the most inopportune times, and they tend to contribute to a compact rootball instead of nice spreading rootgrowth in the garden. Try plain ol' plastic pots. Clean and well rinsed before filling.
I'll post an old sort of faq of mine written for this group many years ago, as a separate post.
Kay
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Thanks very much - all good info.
My Granddad used to say "I try to learn something new every day ... because every day I forget something else..."
Kay Lancaster wrote:

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Too cold is my bet, fuel prices increased, house temp declined
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Are your heat mats all working? What is the dirt temp? (I've read it should be 70-80 F.) Could the water have been contaminated from a laundry product? Spot spray? Are you running all this on a timer? Could someone being shutting off a wall switch that's cutting the power to the mats and lights?
I know.....some silly questions.....I'm just fishin.
Cheers, Jim

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Play4abuck wrote:

Well, these are the kind of heat mats that go under the flats and are supposed to raise the temp by "10 to 20 degrees" over ambient. All my thermometers (at least the kind I can stick in the dirt) start much higher than 70-80 degrees so I have brought one in from outdoors and now have it standing with it's base on the bottom of the inside of the flat and I'll see what it settles at. I'll also try it on top of some jiffy pots and see.
No timer - but the heat mats stay on 24/7 and I turn on the lights when I get my coffee in the morning, and turn them off before I go to bed. I am sure they are not getting turned off by anyone else.
I did place some phone books under the heat mats as it seemed that (with the wire shelves) they were not staying warm enough. That helped. The mats are warm and working. But it may be that the house has just not been as warm. Lot of people don't realize how cold Atlanta really gets but we've had temps below 20 this year plus an ice storm. Maybe the house just has not been as warm.
I don't use laundry sprays very much but I'll chew on the idea that maybe something chemical got in there.
Thanks for "fishin" as that is what I am doing.
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Without reading every post. Hot peppers are not adapted to our environment and need heat to speed germination. Some peppers i plant may take up to a month.

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