Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Damping Off

I have been pondering the issue of our cilantro and wondering why the cilantro, and not the other seedlings, died after sprouting. I came across the term "Damping Off". According to Wikipedia, "Damping off is the term used for a number of different fungus -caused ailments which can kill seeds or seedlings before or after they germinate."

As in the case of my cilantro, a seedling can be infected after it sprouts or even after it appears well-developed, resulting in the plant mysteriously thinning right where it touches the ground, until its stem at that point rots and it falls over.

eHow offers the following advice:
  • Use quality, sterile potting soil to start your seedlings. Select a neutral pH potting soil, since acid soils are ideal for fungus growth.
  • Before planting, make sure the seed-starting flat has been well watered.
  • Sow seeds thinly. Crowded seedlings do not dry quickly after watering, resulting in humid, moist conditions - the perfect environment for fungus spores to germinate.
  • 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.
  • Prop the top of the seed-starting tray up a few inches to allow for air circulation.
  • Avoid overwatering seedlings. A light misting may be enough if the soil was saturated thoroughly prior to planting.
  • Place an electric fan near the seed-starting tray. The added air circulation will prevent fungus from developing.
  • Water around the base of the plants once they emerge from the soil to avoid wetting the foliage.

It may be the case that I overwatered the poor little cilantro. Or maybe it was a handful of the wrong soil. There is advice out there to microwave the soil before planting or mist plants with either chamomile clove, or stinging nettle tea as a preventative. But, the most helpful advice I found was: "If at first you don't succeed, don't be afraid to try again."

But then again, I do still see one little green sprout in the cilantro container...

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