Damping Off Disease
Somewhere lurking in the air in your house, is the fungus spores of the
most dreaded indoor plant disease, for those of us who start plants indoors
for transplanting outdoors later in the season.
Damping Off Disease is very common plant disease problem. We fear it, because
it is fatal to our young seedlings, and equally harmful to our soaring spring
spirits. To lose seedlings so early in the new gardening year, is just
heartbreaking, especially if it is a special seed. It leads to replanting,
and gets our young gardening season off to a late start.
If you grow indoor transplants early in the spring, you likely have experienced
it at some point. Most often, it is the new gardener that experiences Damping
Off Disease. It can happen to the most experienced gardener. We usually think
of Damping Off Disease as an indoor plant problem. But, it also occurs outdoors,
too. We are less likely to recognize it outdoors, as the loss of plants in
the spring re often attributed many other things that threatens our
Now for the good news.... Damping Off Disease as a threat to your seedlings
can be minimized, if not avoided all together. We have lots of tips and ideas
to help fight off this gardening enemy.
Identification of Damping Off Disease
Identifying this disease is easy.
Seedlings, which were previously healthy, fall over. They do so, right at
the soil level. You might not see the fungus at first. As the disease progresses,
this white cottony fungus is clearly visible on top of the soil. As days,
go by it, quickly worsens.
Causes of Disease:
Damping Off Disease thrives in cool or cold temperatures, dark or cloudy
conditions, wet or damp soils. It is an airborne plant disease, and can spread
very quickly from one seed tray to another.
The fungal spores take root in and on your soil, and quickly spreads across
the seed tray, jumping to other trays with ease. It is fatal to young seedlings,
nipping them off at the soil level.
As with other plants diseases, prevention is the best means of treatment.
Follow the do's and don't's listed below. If Damping Off Disease
does take hold in your seed trays, act immediately. Remove diseased sections
to minimize the spread. If it has affected a significant number of plants,
replant in new soil and clean containers. Do not reuse the soil. Either use
new containers, or sterilize the ones you were using. We recommend new
Controlling Damping Off Disease:
Controlling this disease is a matter of removing the environment that Damping
Off Disease thrives in. Here are the basic do's and dont's:
** Buy sterilized seed starting soil.
** Use clean, sterilized containers.
** Provide plenty of air circulation.
Tip: Use a small fan and direct a very gentle breeze across the plants.
The important word here is "gentle", as seedlings are delicate.
** Thin seedlings to increase air circulation.
** Provide as much sunlight as possible.
** Let the surface of the soil dry out between watering. Watering from the
bottom is much preferred.
** Stir the top of the soil around the seedlings.
** Put plants in a sunny location. It helps to keep the surface soil dry.
** Don't leave your seedling trays in the basement. Basements are perfect
breeding grounds for molds and fungus..
** Don't overwater plants.
** Do not use fertilizer on your new seedlings.
** Don't use tray covers. While it is a popular practice to use them, they
increase the humidity level, and encourages disease growth.
Did you know? Nitrogen in your fertilizer can promote rapid growth
of Damping Off Disease.
Other Tips and Suggestions:
It is believed that soaking seeds in a small amount of water and a clove
of crushed garlic will prevent the disease.
Some people suggest misting the plant with Chamomile tea as a preventative.
Some people suggest fireplace ash on the top of the soil.
Cinnamon also acts as a fungicide.
Sphagnum moss spread thinly on the surface of the soil.