The Q&A Archives: Seedlings Wilt

Question: When I start my seeds, they grow like mad for a couple of weeks and then begin to wilt. Am I overwatering them?

Answer: It sounds like your plants are "damping off". This is usually caused by poor air circulation, overcrowded seedlings, and/or over-watering -- usually in combination. Here are a few tips to minimize the likelihood of damping off. Since the fungus enters the plant at the soil line you can try to make an inhospitable environment for the fungus. When planting seeds, cover the soil with a fine layer of milled sphagnum peat moss or "play sand" (this is sand that has been sterilized; you should be able to find it at a hardware store or lumberyard). This provides a sterile, dry -- and therefore unfavorable to the fungus -- surface at the point it usually enters the stem. Provide good air circulation (a fan blowing gently in the room -- but not directly on plants -- is one way), and do not wet the foliage when you water. Be sure not to overwater.

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