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I had quite a few seedlings of tomatoes, eggplant, capsicum, peas, cucumbers among others and they were about 3 weeks old and I started to harden them off outside. The first sunny day i put them outside, it was quite warm and I stupidly watered them with a watering can. Now they are falling over and have developed a whitish coat on their leaves. Was it the heat, too much water or a combination off both causing the seedlings to burn? I have had to start again!

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You do need to treat seedlings with care. When watering it is better to wet the surrounding soil verses overhead, this will stop burning of the foliage especially if you water during the heat of the day (first thing in the morning is better than at night) and will not damage the fresh, delicate foliage. The whitish coat you describe sounds like Powdery Mildew, it is a fungus which spreads a white or ash-grey film over the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves of plants. Powdery mildew fungus favours high humidity and dry conditions. Water splash and air currents spread the spores of powdery mildew which grows on the surface of the leaf only. Also consider mulching around the seedlings to conserve and retain moisture, and to control weeds. Use Pea straw or Barley straw, there are also some generic garden mulches you can buy at Palmers.

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