Seed Sprout, Then Die - Knowledgebase Question

Oceanport, NJ
Avatar for madusky
Question by madusky
March 8, 1998
I started my seeds in pots indoors. I covered the pots with plastic to form a "moist greenhouse". The seeds all germinated, and I removed the plastic. They are under lights 12 hours a day. After a few days, most of the seedlings died. I especially have this problem with basil. Help!

Answer from NGA
March 8, 1998
Did you plant the seeds in regular garden soil? If so, that is likely the problem. Little seedlings often can't cope with the soil borne diseases in real soil until they are a bit older. Instead, use a sterile, soil-less seed-starting planting medium.

Even if you did use a sterile mix, you can still have trouble with "damping off", which is a general term describing when young seedlings mysteriously keel over. It is caused by disease, so, before you try again, be sure to sterilize your pots with a 10 percent bleach solution.
Some people have good luck sprinkling a fine layer of sand over the surface of the soil in the pots, after they plant the seeds. This provides gooddrainage at the soil line, where the disease usually strikes. For a detailed description of effective seed-starting techniques, check out National Gardening Association's web site, especially the article at:

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