Damping Off

If your seedlings are keeling over, then it's probably damping off that's the cause.

The stems go transparent, then collapse - nothing you can do will make a difference at this point - the seedlings are dying or already dead.

Most likely, it will happen even before the 'true leaves' have formed.

This is a fungal problem and it could be caused by your soil, overwatering or overcrowdi

It is encouraged by humid conditions and overwatering.

It's quite common in glasshouses - the warmer temperatures encourage the fungi.

You might find it happens if you're sowing indoors either in preparation for planting out or sowing herbs for indoor winter use.

It very rarely happens in outdoor sowing.

It's very disappointing - you wait patiently to see the first green shoots emerge - care tenderly for them and your reward is a sad, flaccid seedling that just expires on you.

Once the sowing begins to fail, there's little you can do about it - you can try removing the diseased seedlings, but chances are, the rest of them will fail too as the same conditions apply and you might as well get rid of the whole lot and start again.

At this point, you need to either sterilise the compost or dispose of it and use fresh pots, compost and seed.

How to Combat Damping Off Disease

If you're sowing indoors, then there's not a lot you can do - not many variables here really - different pots, new compost - but you'll likely find that the problem is overcrowding, overwatering, humidity or a combination of all three.

The easiest way to combat it is to use a copper fungicide solution.

You decide whether you want your seedlings to mature into plants or use copper - I personally prefer to buy a tin of Cheshunt Compound - look for 'copper fungicide' on the tin if you don't live in the UK.

I don't consider this to be 'chemical' intervention - copper is a natural element in my book and I don't have a problem with using it.

Don't inhale it though - it makes your eyes smart and takes your breath away.

Read the instructions on the tin carefully - I only ever make up a pint (0.5 litre) at a time.

A tin will last me several seasons of growing. I throw it away when it begins to rust - that's how long it lasts.

I use a plastic spray bottle to keep the made up formula in and water my seedlings with it.

It is very effective in preventing damping off.

It can't be cured - it's happened, the seedlings are dead and there's nothing you can do to save them.

You can prevent it by exercising 'perfect' growing conditions - something few of us are able to do - or by using the copper solution as instructed on the tin.

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› Damping Off

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