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Archive for March 2nd, 2012

Sunflower seedlings, just three days after ger...

If you have been starting seeds indoors for any length of time, you may have had experience with “damping off”. This fungal infection causes the seedlings to shrivel at the soil line and die, usually very suddenly. There’s not much you can do to save them at that point, but you can take some measures to prevent damping off, and give you stronger healthier seedlings in general.

  • Use sterile planting medium.
  • Resist the temptation to use garden soil, or re-use potting soil. You may be introducing pathogens at the plant’s most vulnerable time.
  • Give your seedlings plenty of light, direct sun if possible.
  • Provide ventilation. A fan will help, but at least make sure your seeds are in an area where air flows freely.
  • Thin crowded seedlings. This will strengthen them in general since they won’t be fighting for available resources, and allow better air circulation as well.
  • Don’t over-water. Water from the bottom, and keep the growing medium moist, not soaking.

If you had a problem with damping off, don’t despair. Throw out the diseased seedlings and planting mix and start again. This is one good reason to use individual “plugs” rather than a large seed bed. It would make it easier to remove just the infected plugs without disturbing healthy growth. In any case, you’ve got plenty of time, and looking at the list above, you can probably figure out where you need to improve conditions.

Happy seed starting!

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