Fighting the Fungus
Every Spring we battle getting a jump start on the growing season by starting plants inside, and creating the perfect conditions for damping off to take hold and wipe out those plants and all our early season efforts.
Damping off is a disease that affects tender seedlings, before they’ve developed mature leaves and root system. It thrives in cool wet conditions, which is what early spring growing areas can easily become when the Weather throws some extra cold conditions our way.
The disease is most commonly identified when the fungal infection attacks the stem of the seedling at soil level and seems to chop down the plant. Damping off can easily wipe out entire trays and cause a little chaos to the intricate garden plan we sweated over this winter.
So every spring we take precautions and send up prayers and hope that hard work and luck will bless us with healthy seedlings to transplant into the garden.
Our standard precautions are adding an extra layer of perlite over our seedling trays, which draw away the surface moisture from the stem of the seedlings, monitoring humidity, using fans to create airflow, heaters at night in unheated seedling spaces, being vigilant for overwatering.
This year we’re experimenting with dusting trays with ground cinnamon, which has anti-fungal properties, and using a heat mat to keep the soil warm until the seeds germinate and begin to develop a root system.
We’ll keep our fingers crossed, keep vigilant, and hope we don’t encounter the frustration of damping off this year.
If you want to take a deep dive on damping off, check out: www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/diseases/damping-off/