Young Seedlings & “Damping Off”

By Christine Freeburn, Master Gardener

There is nothing more disheartening than checking your freshly sprouted seeds to discover them rotted and almost dead. Damping Off is a fungal disease that often kills young seedlings. There are several fungi that are responsible, however the most common ones are soil-borne.

Damping off can be identified by these symptoms:

seedling-1386653__340
Seedling 1386653 by Alex80, 2016, used under CC0 1.0.
  • wilted leaves while soil is moist
  • rotten mushy seedlings
  • roots that have rotted off
  • stems that have thin, brown, almost transparent sections
  • white mold, almost cobweb-like on plant stems or surface of soil

Here are some tips to prevent this disease:

  • don’t plant seeds too closely together – plants need air to be healthy
  • fill container to top with soil, so seedlings grow up where air circulates
  • keep air circulating around the young seedlings – do not cover
  • water from the bottom with room temperature water
  • do not let container sit in water – no waterlogged soil
  • use good sterilized seed starting soil and clean containers
  • keep seedlings warm – cool wet conditions are where fungi thrive
  • apply a natural fungicide like a weak solution of chamomile tea

Basically, the best solution to controlling damping off is to give your young seedlings the best soil, watering techniques, and temperature control to ensure success.

 

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