The Q&A Archives: Planting in potting mix

Question: I planted some carnations and English daisy in Jan 09 in a moisture control potting mix, they germinated but died later. What was the problem?

Answer: The most common reason for seedlings to die is a fungal disease called Damping off. Usually the seedlings are attacked at soil level and the stems then wilt and the whole plant dies. You can help avoid this problem in the future by watering the seed starting mixture before planting your seeds and sowing seeds thinly. Crowded seedlings do not dry quickly after watering, resulting in humid, moist conditions - the perfect environment for fungus spores to germinate. After the seeds sprout, sprinkle a thin layer of sand or perlite on the surface of the soil. This step will keep the stems dry at the soil surface where damping-off occurs. Be sure to prop the top of the seed-starting tray up a few inches (or remove any plastic wrap that you may have placed over the seed starting tray) to allow for good air circulation . Be sure to avoid overwatering your seedlings. A light misting may be enough if the soil was saturated thoroughly prior to planting. You might want to place an electric fan near the seed-starting tray. The added air circulation will prevent fungus from developing. And finally, water around the base of the plants once they emerge from the soil to avoid wetting the foliage. Following the above guidelines will help keep your seedlings from developing Damping Off. Best wishes with your next batch of seeds!

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