White Mold On Peat Pots - Knowledgebase Question

Anaheim, CA
Question by Bridgk
October 28, 1999
I am attempting to start peas in peat pots. I have the peat pots with the seeds on a plastic tray. The tray is covered by a plastic lid. I have this tray in the garage under a grow light. My problem is I have a wispy white mold on the outside of the peat pots and on the surface of the soil. My seeds didn't grow. I purchased the seeds and the peat pots last year. What happened? Last year I was successful in growing the peas in the same environment.

Answer from NGA
October 28, 1999


Fuzzy stuff on soil surface and on the peat pots indicates things are too wet and there's not enough fresh air circulating around. If the seeds didn't sprout at all, things could be too wet, too cold, or the seeds were planted too deeply.

Some seeds need light to germinate, and some need warmth. If seeds are buried too deeply in the soil they will run out of stored energy before they can break the surface and reach for the light. It's sometimes recommended, especially for seeds that take 3 or more weeks to germinate, that the trays or pots be covered with plastic to help the soil retain moisture. But, for quick-germinating seeds, covering the pots can hold in too much moisture and result in a fungal disease called damping-off.

Peas will sprout in cold, damp soils which might explain your success last year. But sometimes they refuse to sprout in less than ideal conditions. The age of your seeds may have had something to do with it, as well as how they were stored over the year. Heat, humidity and light can shorten seed life.

I know it's disappointing, but I'd toss the pots and soil (in the compost heap) and start all over with disinfected trays, new pots and new seed starting mix.

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