The Q&A Archives: Herb Wilt

Question: I have started herbs from seeds and have tried to follow all of the advice from your website and an herbalist friend of mine. But unfortunately, some of them, especially the oregano and chamomile (and I fear more of them) are just lying flat in their pots. I am using sterile soil, have good drainage, gro lamps at 3-4" and fertilizer once a week. I have tried to keep water levels appropriate with each herb as well. My friend warned me about verticulum wilt and was told that I could prevent it with a spray. Is this what is causing my herbs to keel over? Can they be revived? Where can I find this spray when I try again?

Answer: It sounds as though your seedlings are "damping off" which has numerous causes. In addition to starting with clean equipment and fresh soil, you need to provide the plants with bright light and good air circulation and be careful not to overwater. Avoid wetting the foliage when you do water, and be careful not to overfertilize. Seedlings need only a very dilute fertilizer as a stronger dose can burn their tender new roots and over fertilizing can cause lush growth which is ore subject to disease. Some gardeners report good success using a thin layer of milled spagnum peat moss on top of the soil for their seedlings and others report that a sprinkling of chamomile tea helps stop damping off, but in my experience avoiding overcrowding, avoiding overwatering, providing ample light and providing good air circulation usually do the trick.

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