The Q&A Archives: Tomato seedlings dying off

Question: I started tomato seeds indoors this spring. About 10 days later, seedlings appeared in most of the peat pots. When the seedlings were about an inch high, and they had 2 tiny leaves on the top, many of the seedlings died. When I say died, they basically went limp and slumped over. They may have even formed some sort of constriction at mid-stem. They get about 8 to 10 hours of sunlight, are in about 68 to 75 degree temps, and get ample water. What do you think the problem is and what can I do to correct it? Thank you for your insight.

Answer: Your problem sounds like a text-book case of damping-off , a complex of fungus that gangs up on seedlings of all kinds. Damping-off occurs in unclean soil mixes, when air temps are a little too high, when watering is a little much, and when air circulation is less than ideal. How to prevent and control the problem: 1) start seeds in a sterile mix. 2) keep air temps down (soil temps at optimum). 3) space pots and trays well to allow for good air circulation. 4) monitor watering to make surethere are no soggy times. Once damping-off begins, there is little you can do. Dispose of diseased seedlings and soil and do not touch other, non-diseased plants, pots, or tools without washig. Disinfect tables, benches, trays, pots, tools, etc. with a strong chlorine solution.

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