The Q&A Archives: Seedlings Damping Off

Question: I am growing some flower seeds (Meconopsis Betonicfolia poppy) that are prone to damping off. I have used non organic potting mix, soaked the container in clorox and washed it carefully. The seeds germinate and get a small leaf then they lean over and die. I think it is "damping off." Is there a product that I can spray on the soil to keep the damping off organism from growing and killing my seedlings?

Answer: That certainly sounds like the damping off fungus. It occurs when a non-sterile medium is used for seed starting, containers used for seed starting are not sterile, seeds are sown too deeply, or seeds become too moist. Damping off will cause germination to not occur or may kill tiny seedlings. The standard prevention is to always start new seeds in sterilized flats with commercially prepared seed-starting mix and keep the soil moist but not soggy wet. It sounds as if you have done that. Other things that might help include making sure seedlings aren't overly crowded and have plenty of air circulation. I've never tried the following, but in The New Seed Starter's Handbook it is suggested to soak the seeds in a small amount of water that contains one or two crushed cloves of garlic. Or, make a garlic spray (one clove in 1 quart of water) for seedlings. Garlic has fungicidal properties. Another suggestion is to spray seedlings with chamomile or nettle tea. I hope this helps!

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