The Q&A Archives: Seedlings that Die

Question: I have trouble starting plants from seeds even when I use the peat pots. They seem to shoot up very quickly but then just die for no aparent reason after the stems get 1-2". In addition, when I keep a lid or plastic bag over them, fuzzy mold forms onthe sides of the peat pellets. What am I doing wrong? DD Bowling Wytheville, VA

Answer: Sounds like your seedlings are suffering from a soil-borne fungal pathogen called "damping off". This fungus attacks seedlings at the soil line and destroys the stem tissues. It happens when the soil used is not sterile. Use a soilless media, usually made up of part peat moss, vermiculite and/or perlite. Peter's or Pro-mix are good bagged potting soils. Try using plastic pots. You can wash them in soapy water which should prevent the growth of any fungus.

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