Problems With My Seedlings===Vesuvius and Pompeii

Oh dear! My seedlings look as if they are dying.

They were germinated in multi-purpose compost and were doing fine. When They were big enough, I transplanted them into 2″ pots in the same compost. Since then, they have wilted.

What can possibly have gone wrong?

For a few days earlier this week, I was putting them outside in the sunshine. There was a cool breeze, but it was sunny. I wondered if the problem was that the breeze had cooled the pots and that that was the problem. It appears that not, because some more seedlings which I transplanted a couple of days ago are also heading the same way.

I am becoming pretty sure that the coldness of the compost is the problem. My digital thermometer (with probe) tells me that the compost temp is 19C, which ought not to be detrimental to the seedlings. But when you push a finger into the compost, it feels quite cold.  The damper the compost the colder if feels. So we can surmise that the water in the compost is draining heat from the roots, even though T is 19C (in the same way that the reason that it feels cold to your finger is because heat is being snatched away from the skin of your finger by the water).

Funny stuff is water. As we know, as compared with, say, metal, it can hold heat for a long, long time. I suppose that the corollary is that it can also absorb heat rapidly. Thus, even though a swimming pool might be heated, it always feels freezing when you first dive/jump in.

I’ve checked the roots of a couple of the seedlings and they seem to be OK, and so I am trying to rescue them by putting them into the heated propagator. But I can only do about 20 at a time. I’ve been rotating them in groups during the course of this afternoon. The digital thermometer that I bought for use with the curing box has been a godsend because I can push the probe into the compost in the pots and see what is happening.

Time is advancing all the time. The plants should be out in the ground by now. But I’m not that worried because it is not that important that the plants should go through their full life cycle. Apart from the initial small leaves, it is the next layer of leaves which grow the biggest. The top-most leaves are not very big, and therefore not that important, and producing seedbuds is not that important – I can always buy a new supplyof seeds, and I still have lots of seeds left from 2013/14.

There are lessons to be learnt in there somewhere, although I’m not quite sure what they are. I think that maybe an investment in grow-lights might be warranted.

We’ll see how things go.


I hope that readers are not bored by my slight obsession with Pompeii. I was reading something yesterday which said that what killed those residents of Pompeii who did not escape was not poisonous gas inhaled, but sheer heat, around 800F (or was it 800C?). I wondered what got so hot. It is hard to imagine the air itself getting so hot because it would immediately create a massive upward draft as the hot air rises and cold air floods in to replace it. So what got so hot?

So you come round to ‘pyroclastic flow’ and ‘pyroclastic surge’ – the difference does not matter much for this post.

So what got hot?

Although no one is absolutely sure (because “anything might happen in the next half hour”), what seems to have happened is that the magma directly under Vesuvius was a mixture of silica (sandstone?), water and gases. The whole mass of molten silica (mostly) and gasses was so compressed that the gasses were more or less liquids. When the pressure got too great, the mountain cap gave way, and this mix of silica and gasses FROTHED into the atmosphere with great force. The word FROTHED is important. Think of shaking a bottle of coke, or champagne and then releasing the mixture. The big pieces of silica, thoroughly mixed with gasses, exploded into many fragments. Those fragments are called ‘pumice’. Most of the pumice deposited upon Pompeii was in pebble size – say, one inch diameter. Think of the forces which decide that rain, hail and snow do not drop out of the sky as great bid dollops.

What happened next is interesting.

The cloud of exploded froth rises vertically into the air. As it rises, it cools and is pushed sideways (the mushroom cloud) somewhat. The gasses diffuse, but the pumice stone falls under the influence of gravity. It rains down over a wide area. You could call that ‘Phase 1’, and it is the most widespread phase and the least damaging phase, except that the longer it goes on, the more ‘ash (pumice)’ is deposited on roofs of buildings, and the sooner they collapse.

Funnily enough, the collapsing of roofs and ceilings is what protected the contents of buildings from the next phase.

The volcano, in the first instance, has to build up enough force to blow off the cap. When it achieves that, the force is dispersed for a while – think of a spring which has suddenly been released – it shudders back and forth for a while. I takes a period of time for the initial expenditure of force – to blow off the cap – to be replaced. Pressure must build up again. But, one might ask, since the volcano’s cap has been blown, why should not the contents just spill out like an overflowing pan?

They do, but they are augmented by the stuff which is falling back down from the initial explosion. What is HOT and is pouring down the sides of the volcano is much the same stuff as as blown up into the air, except that it has not been ‘exploded’ into the air. It is heavier than air and thus flows as though it was a river. Further, it is in the nature of a tsunami – it is HUGE. It towers over the highest buildings and walls. It’s front is 20 meters high.

Very few of us have experienced any kind of equivalent. Oddly, it seems that we are not allowed to know such equivalents, such as snow avalanches. Sure, we can read about them and about heroes, and such, but we never ever are told about the extent of the avalanche – how big it was. These things happen from time to time and can be milked by the press for gore.


I enjoyed watching this video tonight:

I had to laugh. It employs tobacco control tricks. It claims that Naples in Italy is in imminent danger from a massive explosion of Mount Vesuvius. Lots of vids from PHD ‘scientists’, but the commentary, which claims the danger, is divorced from the statements of the scientists. But, ignoring the politics and fearmongering, it has a lot of useful information.

The ‘divorce’ of science and ‘fearmongering’ is plain and obvious. It will not cease until the exponents of fearmongering  are unseated. By ‘unseated’ I mean told to do the jobs that they are paid to do in Public Health, like lecturing on the difficulties of the NHS in England, and similar difficulties in African nations, and more efficient ways for these NHSs, all over the World, to be better.

Vesuvius erupted in 1944. Those events are described, with films, in this video:

Do watch it because, if you listen to the commentary, you can see that the exaggerations of the presenter have little relationship with the ‘scientists’ who describe what they think might have happened. That relationship is the epitome of tobacco control. No one at all should believe a word of tobacco control, and the FCTC should be consigned to history.


7 Responses to “Problems With My Seedlings===Vesuvius and Pompeii”

  1. audreysilk Says:

    One of directions for transferring the indoor seedlings to outdoor pots, that I had heard from my first lesson years ago now, was to make the switch when there was no sun. Once planted they love the sun but not during the day of transplanting.

  2. Rose Says:

    For a few days earlier this week, I was putting them outside in the sunshine. There was a cool breeze, but it was sunny

    It’s also been much colder than it should be for this time of year with a relentless wind that will strip the moisture from young leaves. A couple of days ago it had only reached 10 degrees by 4 0’clock in the afternoon. That’s March temperatures.
    I’d use your digital thermometer to check the air temperature before you do anything, I won’t put my equally tender squashes out to harden off below 14.

    The plants should be out in the ground by now

    You remember the old saying, Ne’er cast a clout til may be out?

    The may trees at the bottom of my garden are nowhere near blossoming, so I’ll trust their judgement over when to plant my half hardy plants out.

    In fact, it’s the squashes that are driving me nuts, they badly needed planting out two weeks ago having got so big. After obscuring half the light from my windows, I had to put them out in the unheated greenhouse and trust to luck.
    I keep having to put them into bigger and bigger pots but I still can’t plant them out because it’s cold enough for frost most nights.

    I do know where our warmth has gone though,from the weather charts the Spanish have not only got their own early summer temperatures but ours as well on top. 43 degrees? Scary.

    • junican Says:

      I wonder if the BBC will shout that MAY 2015 HAS BEEN THE COLDEST MAY SINCE RECORDS BEGAN!!!!!!
      It may not be, but I suspect that nothing whatsoever will be said about what a chill May it has been. Like you, I have been astonished to see weather forecasts saying that overnight temps might be down to 0C or 1C. What makes things worse is that the soil temps are also affected. It would be risky to plant out even well-developed plants until the soil warms up somewhat.

      • Rose Says:

        You need a 50cm high polytunnel like Ed’s. Set it up about a month before you need it and it will warm the soil for you.

  3. Ed Says:

    Usually transplanting seedlings is traumatic for them; Their roots can often be broken and their root stability is compromised when you do this direct from a seed tray into individual cells or pots. They usually need a shady spot if you are taking them straight outside or a brief recovery period at the shady end of a cloche or greenhouse or even your windowsill till you see them perk up again.

    It’s far better to sow several seeds per individual cell or pot, then thin out to the strongest seedling. This way, when you do pot on into a larger container it is much less traumatic and doesn’t cause any check in growth. Transplant shock can often be a killer, but there are several remedies. A good general solution to use is dilute seaweed and molasses straight after the transplant. The sugar and minerals in liquid solution will be immediately available to them and help them recover.

    There’s a page here that discusses transplant shock in some detail;

    As for putting them outside: Unless they’re going into a cloche or polytunnel, I wouldn’t recommend it just yet in the North West. It’s too early for my outdoor toms and peppers yet and they’re growing great as they are in my cloche , so I’ll probably wait until June before planting in soil or their final pots. Also I don’t plan on being caught out by a late frost either!

    I’ll send you an email later but I should have around 10-12 large plants spare, which you are welcome to. I plan on putting the majority of mine into 20 Litre pots which is around the 5 gallon mark. This way I can move them around to take advantage of the sun, plus put them in a protected spot if the weather turns foul, which is often the case where I live.

    • junican Says:

      Many thanks, Ed. The plants will be very welcome. Email me when you think that they can go out and we can then make arrangements.
      Thanks for the link about ‘transplant shock’.
      I followed much the same procedure as you suggest. I sowed the seeds on the surface of the compost and then thinned them so that the best seedlings were spread out individually and thus easy extract for transplanting. When I thought that they were big enough, I used a teaspoon to ease the seedlings out, retaining as much compost as possible around the roots. Having made a hole in the compost in the pots, I then shoved the seedling off the teaspoon and into the hole, thus disturbing the rootball as little as possible. This is the first year that I have had a problem, and it is the first year that I have put the pots outside at this stage, thinking that the sunshine would do them good.
      I’m going to write another post about the problem with pictures shortly.

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