Seedlings Damping Off (8 Ways to Prevent)

prevent seedlings from damping off

Damping Off Has No Cure! But it is preventable friends. Damping-off is a soil-borne fungal infection that affects seemingly healthy seedlings shortly after germination. It can be devastating to the new gardener who has no idea what is happening to his or her plants. One minute they are healthy and we’re on our way to the best gardening year ever…the next minute all the seedlings are flopping over, for no reason at all.

An ounce of prevention… In this article, I’ll show you 8 ways that you can prevent Seedlings from Damping Off so that your seedlings stay healthy and make their way to your spring garden as intended.

What is damping off?

damping off

Well, damping off is a soil-borne fungal disease. It’s a condition affecting seedlings that seemingly germinated just fine, only to succumb to a rotting stem and failing root tissue soon after. Obviously, it’s a general term and there are several funguses and molds that cause this issue.

The real killer is that the plants germinate just fine only to fail a few days later. The one positive thought is that you’ll never mistake damping off with poor seed viability.

Okay so we know what it is and we know that the condition can’t be cured once contracted. So let’s go ahead and look at the eight different ways that you can prevent damping off of any of your seeds this year.

8 Ways to prevent seedlings damping off

1. Clean and sterilize all you pots and garden tools

Clean and sterilize all you pots and garden tools

It goes without saying that if you’re trying to prevent the spread of disease and infections it’s in your best interest to clean.

Use a 10% bleach solution or a vinegar bath for best results.

2. Fresh seeding soils

Fresh seeding soils

Another method to prevent seedlings from damping off is to only use new seeding mixes when you’re planting your seeds. Don’t reuse soil and don’t use soil from your garden.

The pathogens actually live in the soil so it goes without saying that you want to start fresh every time.

3. Raise the heat to prevent seedlings damping off

Raise the heat to prevent seedlings damping off

Another way to prevent damping off is to raise the heat. Seeds not only germinate better and faster at higher temperatures, you know between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Most pathogens do not fare well when the mercury rises.

Use this to your advantage by employing either heat mats or heat lights or a combination of both so that you can hit that temperature range.

Your seeds will come up more uniform and your chances of experiencing damping off are greatly reduced.

4. Keep the soil moist but not wet

Keep the soil moist but not wet

Excess water can lead to root rot and it provides the conditions for the pathogens to thrive which obviously increases the opportunities for our plants to get infected.

Moisture control is a direct function of your soil medium as well as your container’s ability to drain water.

5. Provide adequate light to prevent seedlings damping off

Provide adequate light to prevent seedlings damping off

Not only does full spectrum light actually destroy mold pathogens, providing your young plants with the optimal growing conditions is the best way to ensure that they out-compete the bad guys and get established to a point where things like damping off are no longer a problem.

6. Air flow/circulation

Air flow/circulation

This solution is an easy one but it’s often overlooked. Airflow and air circulation fresh air is gonna help your ceilings by preventing those moisture droplets from settling on the foliage especially in the human environments that our seeds are usually growing in.

You can create good airflow in two ways plant spacing and actually physically moving the air. A small fan or even an open door is quite often enough of good clean air exchange to do the job.

7. Watering from below

Watering from below

Keeping that soil surface nice and dry is gonna help prevent those mold and fungal spores from spreading as well it should act to keep those fungus gnats at bay.

Only the roots of the plant need access to water so keep that stem of the ceiling dry and safe, think about it. The world’s best vector for fungus and pathogens is water.

8. Proper seed depth

Proper seed depth

And last but not least we have seed planting depth. Always plant your seeds at the proper recommended depth. Don’t make them work harder to get established than they already have to.

If unsure always err on the side of too shallow, you can always add more soil later.

At the end of the day, anything you can do to help the plant minimize its struggles will in turn maximize its strengths and thus viability and fortitude.

The biggest thing to remember is that those damping off pathogens thrive in cool, dark, wet, low airflow conditions, basically the exact opposite conditions that our plants love.

So if at the end of the day we plant our seeds in fresh soil using clean pots and clean tools, as well as giving our plants the ideal environment to grow in things such as damping off won’t even be an issue.

Quick Recap:

Damping off is a soil-borne fungal infection that is irreversible. Our best defense against it is prevention.

Use clean containers, clean tools, and fresh soil wherever possible. Plant your seeds at the recommended depth and make sure to keep them between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit for the first few weeks until they become established.

Full-spectrum light and good airflow are a must and the soil should be moist never wet.

Just as not doing one or more of these things will compound the chances of your seedlings getting the damping off condition. Observing these eight best practices will also have the effect of your ceilings becoming bulletproof. It’s really disappointing when it happens I know I’ve been there but the old adage an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure has never been more applicable.

Hey if you have any other tips to prevent sealing damping off please share them with the community in the comments down below.

Thanks for reading guys, if you’re getting value in this article please do share it with your friends and family. Happy Gardening!

I am Fenil Kalal. Professionally I have done Engineering in Information and Technology. Gardening is my passion/love/favorite hobby and I have 5+ years of experience in Gardening.

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