"Damping Off" is an unexpected plant
death in the seedling stage caused by soilborne fungi. It is a global
problem which occurs in many soils and greenhouses.
affect various seeds and seedlings. Cool, wet soils seem to promote development
of the disease(s). Pythium, Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia and Alternaria are
known to be among the culprits.
Germinating seeds may be attacked
by Damping Off which is termed "Pre-emergence Damping Off". When the emerged
sprouts are attacked it is termed, "Post-emergence Damping Off". Older
plants seem more resistant to attack, possibly because their stems are
not as tender, and therefore more capable of preventing bacterial penetration.
Gardeners are seldom aware that
their seeds have been attacked; they attribute minimal germination to bad
seeds. But when seedlings suddenly fall over at the soil line like a utility
pole hit by a truck, and a closer inspection reveals that the plant stem
has constricted at the soil line, you can bet that fungus of the "Damping
Off" family have attacked.
At this point it is best to discard
the infected container to the dumpster or an obscure corner of the garden.
If only a few seedlings have been affected, you may try to remove them
and the surrounding soil in an attempt to save the remaining seedlings.
But it is best to move the container to an obscure location where the disease
is less likely to invade adjoining containers.
A natural or commercial Fungicide
may be misted over the soil until it is damp. But be reminded that the
term "Damping Off" is derived from the dampness that often precedes the
disease, and is suspected of contributing to the conditions which promote
A dusting or misting of seeds
or seedlings with Cinnamon Powder, cooled Chamomile Tea, a tincture made
with crushed Garlic cloves, or a Hydrogen Peroxide solution may help. So
may Thiram or Captan when used according to the package instructions.
A Hydrogen Peroxide solution
may be made using the 3% drugstore product, by adding it to a gallon of
stirred rain water as follows:
Start with weak dilutions and increase
until you determine what works
for your particular problem
in your particular climate and
location without injuring plants.
1 to 4 Tablespoons; for watering
seedlings and potted plants.
3 to 6 Tablespoons; for watering
5 to 8 Tablespoons; for dipping
seeds or roots prior to planting or repotting.
Full strength for cleaning tools
and work areas.
The first line of defense is
to keep seedlings in an atmosphere which has been proven to hinder disease
Try to find seed varieties that
are resistant to fungus attack.
Use new containers, or sterilize
your used containers.
Select a soilless seed-starting
mix, which contains no "earth".
your tools and work surfaces.
Keep the seeds and seedlings moist
but not wet.
Water the containers only from the
Never put the containers in water-retaining
Keep the containers in a warm area;
75F. or more.
Allow and promote air circulation
among your seedlings.
Use minimal misting so as to not
wet the soil surface.
Wash your hands often to prevent