Once My Weed Seed Sprouted Now What

Damping Off Disease in Seedlings: Best Tips for Treatment, Control, and Prevention Help! Did your seedlings suddenly fall over and die overnight? It’s not from pests, and it’s not because the First, you need to place the seeds in a culture medium that has the right humidity and temperature before you start a series of reactions leading to…

Damping Off Disease in Seedlings: Best Tips for Treatment, Control, and Prevention

Help! Did your seedlings suddenly fall over and die overnight? It’s not from pests, and it’s not because the wind knocked them over. In fact, the problem starts below the surface. not above it. Damping off moves swiftly through seedlings but there are ways to treat and control the disease. Find out what damping off disease looks like, why it happens to even healthy seedlings, and how to prevent this common fungal infection from happening in your garden.

It’s a sight that every seed starter dreads: a seemingly healthy seedling, perhaps even the first to sprout, suddenly slumped over the next day with a wizened stem.

You may have blamed old seeds or even lousy seed germination for a meager crop of seedlings, but more than likely, microscopic plant pathogens were at work below the surface.

Collectively, these pathogens cause a condition called damping off disease. Below, I’ll walk you through how to identify this common problem and how to prevent damping off in seedlings.

What causes damping off disease?

There’s never any warning when damping off might occur. The disease can take hold of a seed before it’s even sprouted, or a seedling before it’s formed its first true leaves.

Caused by several species of seed-borne and soil-borne fungi including Pythium, Rhizoctonia, Fusarium, and Phytophthora, damping off disease can move through an entire tray of seedlings in a matter of days and once they’re infected, they’re near impossible to treat.

The plants that do survive the infection are often stunted and afflicted with “wire stem” symptoms: twisty, constricted stems that result in abnormal growth and smaller yields.

Damping off disease occurs in all types of seedlings, from tomatoes and peppers to leafy greens and root vegetables. One variety is not more susceptible than another, and disease-resistant strains will not prevent it from occurring.

While damping off can strike seeds and seedlings started outdoors, it most often affects indoor seedlings due to high humidity, poor ventilation, and overcrowded seed trays.

What does damping off look like?

Damping off is a fungal infection with easily identifiable symptoms: It’s characterized by the absence (or rotting) of roots; thin, thread-like stems where the seedlings are infected; and/or the presence of a white, gray, or pink cotton-like fungus at the base of the stem.

But, it can also wreak havoc in seeds below the soil in two different ways:

In pre-emergence damping off, fungi infect the seed as it germinates.

If the root is infected soon after it starts to grow, the shoot can rot underground before you ever see it. Damping off progresses swiftly and sometimes the seed decays before a stem even emerges. This is probable cause for a complete lack of germination, or thin and patchy stands of seedlings where old or unviable seeds tend to take the blame.

In post-emergence damping off, fungi infect the stem near the soil surface.

The stem takes on a discolored, water-soaked appearance from the bottom up, weakens and withers and eventually collapses, unable to support itself. It often looks like someone—or something—just pinched it off.

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How to treat damping off disease

Plant pathogens exist everywhere inside and outside, but they thrive under certain conditions that are typically found in poorly ventilated greenhouses or indoor seed starting environments.

If you suspect damping off in a seedling, be ruthless and remove it immediately. Once a seedling shows symptoms of damping off, this is the best way to control its spread to other plants.

As with most seed starting problems, it’s easier to stop damping off disease from happening in the first place, than try to fix it if it does. Once a stem shrivels at the base and the seedling is lying on the ground, it’s a goner. There is nothing you can do to save that seedling.

The good news is, damping off disease is easily preventable and you don’t need any chemicals to control it. The key is to give your seeds a clean, healthy start and keep moisture levels in check.

Damping off: why it happens and how to prevent it

Cause #1: Reusing dirty containers

You don’t have to wash your pots if you didn’t have any problems with them last season, but it’s best to discard pots that previously held diseased plants.

To ensure healthy seedlings and minimize the chances of fungi spreading, start with fresh pots and plant markers, and tools that have been properly cleaned.

Cause #2: Using infected soil or heavy garden soil to start seeds

When starting seeds indoors, always use new seed starting mix. It’s okay to reuse old seed starting mix for other tasks like repotting larger seedlings, but not for starting seeds. Make sure your seed starting mix is light and fast-draining (mixing in some perlite can help with drainage).

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Resist the temptation to simply dump the soil from your yard into a pot to start your seeds. Garden soil is too heavy for seed starting pots and trays, and it often brings on other problems (like dormant weed seeds sprouting and competing with your seedlings).

Cause #3: Sowing a seed too deep

Seed packets usually have instructions for sowing seeds, and it’s important to pay attention to seeds that need light or darkness to germinate.

As a general rule of thumb, seeds should be planted as deep as their size (measured by thickness or length).

For example, a pea seed should be planted about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep, while a pumpkin seed should be planted about 1/2 to 1 inch deep.

For tiny seeds like basil, mustard, or carrots, sow your seeds on top of the soil, then add a layer of vermiculite or very fine granite (like chick grit) to cover. The drier, grittier surface is less likely to harbor fungi that cause disease.

Cause #4: Overcrowding

Seedlings need proper airflow and plant spacing to not only strengthen their stems (which is part of the process of hardening off) but also to promote good root development and reduce the chances of disease.

After your seeds germinate and the seedlings grow their first true leaves, remember to thin the seedlings as needed to provide good air circulation around them.

Cause #5: Overwatering

Seedlings don’t have very deep roots, so they do better with frequent but shallow watering where the roots are concentrated.

Because of this, it’s easy to water too much, especially if your indoor seed starting mix or outdoor garden soil is on the denser side. Fungi thrive in wet conditions and overwatering gives them the perfect place to grow. So, try to keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged, and make sure the water drains freely out the bottom of your pots.

At the same time, don’t let the soil dry out between watering because peat-based soil mixes are very difficult to rewet once dry, leading you to water more than you have to.

Cause #6: Wet leaves

Do you constantly find moisture on the leaves after watering? It happens easily when you water with a spray bottle, squirt bottle, or watering can from overhead, even if you try to be careful.

Soil splash is a common cause of fungal disease in plants, especially with seedlings that don’t have the benefit of mulch to protect them.

To solve this problem, try watering your pots from the bottom up to avoid wetting the stems and leaves.

Cause #7: Too much humidity

Seedlings started in greenhouses with poor air circulation tend to suffer from damping off if humidity levels are too high.

The same goes for seedlings started under plastic humidity domes (which essentially act as mini greenhouses). These domes work well to trap heat and provide the warm environment that most seeds prefer for germination, but once they sprout, the domes should be removed either partially or completely.

In either situation, running a low-speed electric fan near young plants can gently circulate the air around them while strengthening their stems at the same time. (This “blowing” effect is similar to how you’d harden off seedlings with your hands.)

Cause #8: Conditions that are too cool or too hot

Seedlings need to be kept at the right temperature: too cool or too hot of an environment can weaken them. Also, Pythium is most active in wet, warm soils, while Rhizoctonia is more active in cool, moist soils.

When starting spring seeds, skip the heating mat (which only speeds germination time by a couple of days) and place your seedling trays in a non-drafty room with a comfortable room temperature. When starting fall seeds, avoid starting them outside too early (that is, in mid-summer when air and soil temperatures are at their warmest) and start them indoors where they’ll germinate better in cooler conditions.

Cause #9: Other environmental stress, like low light or excess fertilizer

Damping off is sometimes exacerbated by environmental stress such as too little light (common when germinating seeds in a window in late winter to early spring, even if it’s a south-facing window), early pest damage, or excess nitrogen.

When seedlings are stressed, their immune defenses are down, leaving them susceptible to pathogens they otherwise might have been able to fight against.

Make sure you give your seedlings adequate light (which also prevents leggy seedlings), keep them away from other plants that have pest problems, and only use an organic fertilizer at half strength.

Treating damping off with cinnamon and other home remedies

Since the key to treating damping off is preventing the infection in the first place, it might make sense to preempt the problem by applying chamomile tea, clove tea, or a sprinkle of cinnamon to your soil. After all, that’s what the Internet often tells you when you Google “how to treat damping off.”

All of these home remedies are known for their antifungal properties, but they’re 50/50 on whether or not they actually work.

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Cinnamon, in particular, gets a lot of attention as a treatment for damping off and one thing is true: cinnamon has antifungal properties. However, there are several different kinds of spices marketed commercially as cinnamon, some of them may be effective against certain species of damping off fungi, and the one you have in your spice cabinet is probably not true cinnamon.

Many studies that show promising results on the use of cinnamon as an antifungal for damping off disease use concentrated alcohol extracts from the leaves. But, most people are sprinkling ground cinnamon bark on their soil (which is used to make the spice). Perhaps some active ingredient is extracted with water from wet soil, but the science on this isn’t clear.

Cinnamon does have plenty of anecdotal evidence to back up its use as a cure for damping off, and because of that, it’s worth a try (especially if you’re already following the strategies above for preventing the disease). In the past I’ve sprinkled cinnamon on visible mycelium growth around my seedlings and the fungus seemed to die, so either the powder was effective enough to dry out the soil or I got lucky and treated that particular fungus with the right kind of cinnamon.

This is something I’ll never know, and bottom line is, there’s no scientific proof that cinnamon works to stop damping off.

Should you sterilize your soil?

Various sources advise gardeners to sterilize their soil by baking it in an oven… literally spreading it out on a sheet pan and baking at low heat to rid the medium of microorganisms.

When you start with a clean, blank slate, no nasty pathogens are threatening to claim your poor defenseless plants.

But by sterilizing your soil this way, you’re also removing the good microorganisms that plants depend on in the circle of life, rendering them even more defenseless. Without populations of good microbes to balance the bad, you’re inadvertently lessening your seedlings’ chances of survival in the real world.

“Living soils”—those inoculated with bacteria and fungi—simulate the environment your plant will eventually move into.

Rather than starting your seeds in a sterile potting medium, use a clean potting medium and drench it with compost tea as your seedling grows.

The compost tea will gradually build up microbial populations in the soil and strengthen the seedlings’ immune systems, in the same way that humans need bacteria to boost our own health.

Can you treat damping off with fungicides?

Truth is, most cases of damping off disease in plants result from overwatering and low ventilation.

Neither of these problems can be solved with fungicides.

Furthermore, fungicides only work if you apply the right one for the species of fungi you have. Unfortunately, it’s impossible for a gardener to ID the fungi that’s causing the problem, so the fungicide may or may not work in your case.

Rather than applying fungicides blindly, watch for signs of excess moisture or poor airflow as you start your seeds, and you’ll have a greater chance of raising strong, healthy seedlings.

This post updated from an article that originally appeared on March 10, 2015.

More help for seed starting problems:

Linda Ly

I’m a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is. Read more »

7 Tips for Germinating Cannabis Seeds from Top Notch Growers

What is the best way to germinate your marijuana seeds?

7 Tips For Germinating Cannabis Seeds

Are you trying to grow Cannabis seeds? Well, here are some useful tips to help them grow and germinate successfully.

1. Don’t Let The Germination Medium Dry Out

First, you need to place the seeds in a culture medium that has the right humidity and temperature before you start a series of reactions leading to germination in a few days. Depending on the substrate you use for germination, make sure it never dries out completely. That’s because the seed will stop absorbing moisture thereby stop germinating.

You need to check every day to make sure the medium is always moist. If you use a heat source to increase the temperature and improve germination, it might cause the substrate to dry up faster. Therefore, you need to check on it regularly to make it moist and avoid drying up. If you are using hydroponic cultivation, you should grow the cannabis seeds in rock wool cubes that must always remain wet or moist.

2. Don’t Leave The Seeds To Germinate For Too Long

Most cannabis growers make this mistake, especially when using kitchen paper or other growing mediums. If you let the seeds germinate until the cotyledons appear then you will have a hard time with transplantation. Eventually, you might end up damaging the root during transplantation.

Remember, if the root is exposed to air and light for too long, it will end up being damaged. Therefore, you need to start transplanting before this happens. Therefore, you can avoid this when the taproots are about 1-2cm in length. It’s easier to transplant at this time and you will not damage the roots. As such, after transplantation, they can grow into the new medium without any limitations.

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3. Avoid Direct Germination In Soil

Direct germination in the soil will often result in non-germination. If you do this when the substrate hasn’t been watered previously before sowing the seed but you water afterward, there will be no germination. Once the seed is planted directly into the substrate, there is a risk of burying it too deep. It will make things worse if you irrigate the medium after sowing.

For the best results, use kitchen paper when growing the cannabis seeds. You can also use peat plugs or jiffy pellets for rooting cutting before transplanting them into the soil or a pot once the small seedlings have germinated. Another benefit is that you can grow many seeds in a small space such as a greenhouse. It’s the best way to ensure the best humidity and temperature.

4. The Best Temperature And Humidity For Germination

Cannabis seeds will grow well in a relatively high temperature and humidity. During some seasons of the year, you can use heat sources to keep the temperature at 26 to 28 degrees Celsius. You can rely on heated greenhouses or thermal cables for the best results. Heated greenhouses are ideal because they also provide the best humidity for seed germination.

It’s ideal to keep the germination medium at about 26 to 28 degrees Celsius. The humidity should be maintained at 70% relative humidity. If you go any lower, there will be less successful germination. Higher values will result in fungal or rot problems.

5. Avoid Planting The Seeds Incorrectly

Cannabis seeds are usually oval in shape. They end in a point at one end and form a small crater at the other end usually known as the crown. When planting your seed, whether in a jiffy or a kitchen towel, make sure that it is always supposed to face upwards.

Therefore, the seed should be planted with the tip facing downwards and the crown at the top facing upwards. Once the seeds germinate the crown begins a hinge so the seed and the tip bring out the root. Once you plant the seed incorrectly, the taproot grows upwards while the seedling grows downwards. Make sure you avoid this at all costs since the seedling will not germinate.

6. Planting The Seed At Incorrect Depth

In most cases, you might plant the seed at the wrong depth such that the seedling will never germinate. On the other hand, if you plant the seedling close to the surface, it will germinate but the stem might be too weak. As a result, it might start bending thereby preventing the seedling from developing correctly.

The best depth is about 2cm if you want to avoid shallow or deep planting. Also, you can cover the lower stem as the seedling starts growing to allow it to gain stability. It should also produce new roots along the length of the stem depending on the depth. It’s a sure way of accelerating the growth of cannabis plants.

7. Avoid Planting Several Seeds In The Same Pot

Yes, it might be tempting to grow several cannabis seeds in the same container but it’s not a good idea. There will be some type of difficulty growing the seedlings correctly in the same container. On the other hand, when they germinate, they will start competing for the little space available to grow roots.

With restricted root growth, the cannabis plants will not grow successfully. They are likely going to be weak and have a large internodal distance. Therefore, it’s always a great idea to use different containers for different plants for the best results. Remember, with very little space, the plants will also start competing for the available light.

If you want to get the most out of each cannabis plant, you need to avoid planting a lot of seeds in the same container. If they are too crowded, they will have very little lateral branching and the growth will be centered on a weak main stem. All these factors will definitely have a negative effect on the final yield of the cannabis buds and impact on the amount you have for smoking or other cannabis uses. Get as many containers as possible to allow strong roots to give the plants enough space for proper root growth and light.

You must be excited to grow your own cannabis plants. However, if you make any of these mistakes with the seedlings, you will not yield anything. Do your research online or get information from other successful cannabis growers if you want to have a successful cannabis crop. Remember, if you don’t follow the temperature and humidity requirements, your crops will end up not being fruitful. With these tips, you can enjoy a great and successful cannabis crop without any hassles.