Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show: Damping off
We’ve received our catalogs and some of us have started seeds. The dreaded disease of seedlings is damping off. It’s a fungal disease that attacks when our plants are just sprouting into seedlings. The pictures below show mushy tan spots that indicate infection by damping off fungi. The tray has been overwatered. The photos are by Michelle Grabowski from the University of MN Extension.
The important thing to do is stave off damping off before it has a chance! Damping off fungi typically survive on plant debris, soil or in contaminated water. So the best thing to do is start with sterilized pots, trays, potting mixes and any other equipment that you’d use. I usually use peat pellets or peat pots (new ones!) but you can re-use other containers if you soak them in a 10% bleach solution for 30 mins. Rinse well and dry well! Never use garden soil.
The University of Minnesota Extension has a good article on Damping Off – it’s where the above photos came from.
I just shared with you General Seed Starting last Friday. Other important things to remember is that seeds need moisture to germinate but NOT soggy soils. A heating mat helps germinate tomato and pepper seeds and will also help prevent damping off. I also suggest keeping that shop light on your seedlings about 6 inches away from the top. Leave a fan on low of an hour moving gently across your seedlings to strenthen their stems. Thin, leggy seedlings are ripe for problems.
You can plant peat pots right into the soil when you’re transplanting your hardened off plants. What I suggest is that you cut off the top of the pot to the soil line before planting. The peat will dry out some plants but if you have it in the soil, that won’t be a problem.