Damping Off - a Deadly Disease
That Destroys Seedlings
There is a fungus disease, know as ‘Damping Off’ that destroys seedlings, seemingly overnight. The seedling stems just wither at the bottom and they fall over, dead. By the time you realize that you have a problem; it’s too late.
Prevention then is our only recourse. If everything you use is sterile then the chances of the fungus spores finding their way to your basement are quite remote. A good wash in hot water, for all tools and trays, with some bleach in the rinse can be quite effective.
One of our problems is that in order to create a good germination situation we also create the perfect environment for the fungus to grow. High humidity and limited air circulation are what we want, to prevent the soil and the seeds it contains, from drying out. That also is ideal for the fungus growth.
Give Me Air
As soon as the seedlings appear above the soil, we need to increase the air circulation. Remove the clear coverings from the seed trays. I run a small fan at the edge of my growing table to increase the air flow. The bright light necessary for good seedling growth also helps to inhibit the growth of the damping off fungus. Getting the surface of the soil dry, once the seedlings are standing, not only helps the seedlings to develop deeper roots, it also helps to prevent the growth of the damping off fungus.
A Little Helper
If you are not a committed organic gardener then this is one place where a little chemical assistance might be useful. Most places that sell seeds and equipment will sell you a little bottle of “No Damp” that you can use in the water that you soak the soil with, before seeding. This product is no longer available in Canada under our cosmetic pesticide ban and there is no readily available substitute.
The commercial soilless mix that you have purchased will come sterilized. Another very good reason for using it.
Just remember that there is no cure. Only prevention works!
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