Did you ever sow your garden seeds and have them rot right in the soil or grow into nice green seedlings and then suddenly the seedlings begin to fall over or turn black at the soil line or the top and the black spreads up and down the entire seedling and kills it?
I have had this happen to me a few times until I finally went and researched why it was happening and found out that this is called damping off.
Damping off can be caused by a few different reasons. You may have gotten diseased seeds or the soil may have various fungi in it that causes it. There are ways to help prevent it. If you are sowing seeds out doors directly like peas or corn, you can buy seeds that have been coated with fungicide.
For indoor sowing you should always and absolutely use sterilized potting soil. This is what I have done since researching and have not had any problem with Damping off since.
Soils contain all sorts of diseases and fungi that will harm the seeds or seedlings. Some affect only the seeds causing them to rot in the ground and never sprout, others enter through the roots and kill the seedlings that way.
You can also soak your seeds in a mix of bleach and water. Make a bleach soak for your seeds by mixing one half teaspoon of bleach per pint of water then pour some in a bowl and add your seeds and allow them to soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
There are two methods I use to sterilize my potting soil. Sometimes I put moistened potting soil in a large Tupperware bowl and microwave on high for 2 minutes per 4 pounds then put the lid on and allow it to cool. You need to keep the soil sealed up till using to keep it sterile.The other method is in the oven, put your moistened soil in a roaster or a cake pan, keep it level and 4 inched deep or less. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. stick a thermometer (candy or meat) through the foil and into the middle of the soil.
Set the oven for 190 degrees once the thermometer reads 180 hold the temp for 20 minutes. Don’t let the temp get above 200 degrees or it could create toxins for the plants.Once the time is up turn the oven off and allow the soil to cool off. Then transfer it to a clean container with a lid and seal it to keep the soil sterile until needed.
Be careful to not use dirty tools when sowing the seeds and wash your hands before too, this will help to not introduce any bacteria to your sterile soil. When you are heating the soil it will give off an odor like , well like hot soil so don’t be alarmed by this. Using these methods should help you to prevent losing all those seedlings you so patiently waited to transplant.
A couple other things that will help your seedlings are keeping the area you use poor potting very clean, I like to use some of the bleach soak solution to wipe down my bench before each use to kill any fungi or bacteria that may have settled on it. Also don’t overcrowd them so they have good circulation and don’t over water them to keep from drowning the roots.
Raised in rural Montana and educated in Mechanical Engineering and Sustainable Development, Paige Raymond combines a practical mindset with a passion for self-reliance and sustainability. With expertise ranging from mechanical solutions and food preservation to emergency preparedness and renewable energy, Paige is a proud author with more than 5000 published articles.
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