The Q&A Archives: Starting Seeds

Question: I recently planted several species of annuals and perennials from seed on peat pellets. After about five days several of the plantings began to sprout. I noticed that on the surface of the soil, many of the plants had a white "cotton" appearance that I suspected as some type of mold or fungus. Is this anything I should worry about, and what should I do about it, if it is a problem.

Some of the seeds I planted were Dimorphotheca aurantiaca, Rudbeckia hirta, Chrysanthemum paulsodium, Helichrysum, Asters, etc.

Thanks for your help.

Answer: It sounds like some type of fungus is growing on the surface of the pellets or possibly on dust that settled on the pellets. This is usually an indication that they are too wet, but not always. It can also be due to stagnant air or temperatures that are too warm or too cool. To combat the fungus, be sure you are not overwatering the pellets -- they should be barely moist, not sopping wet, and do not allow them to stand in water. Next you might try increasing the air circulation around them and be sure they are thinned sufficiently so they are not crowded. Some gardeners also report succes by watering the seedlings with chamomile tea. Finally, be sure you are not overfertilizing the seedlings as this can also contribute to the problem. Most seedlings do not need to be fertilized until they have grown several sets of leaves.

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