This is the time of year where I have multiple trays and pots of started seeds in various stages from just planted to just emerging to seedling and young plants. There is nothing more frustrating than to see damping off go through a carefully cared for seed tray. Damping off is a fungal infection that affects seeds before germination or young seedlings. The very conditions of warm and wet that encourage seed germination are also ideal for the fungal growth that causes damping off. Damping off in young seedlings is noticeable by a thinning of the stem at the soil level. Here are a few tips for preventing damping off:
- Always use sterilized soil for starting seed. This can be a commercial mixture or a homemade mixture of 1 part sterilized soil, 1 part vermiculite and 1 part peat moss.
- Spray the soil with an anti-fungal agent like chamomile tea. Make two cups of chamomile tea. Allow to cool. Pour into a spray bottle. Use the spray as you would water to keep the soil moist for germination.
- Use drier germinating conditions with air circulation. If using the mini greenhouse pots open the vent at the top to allow air circulation. If using the 72 cell mini greenhouse seed staring trays, prop the lid open for 5 or 10 minutes daily. If using plastic wrap as a make shift cover, poke a couple of holes in it for air circulation.