Ok.  I planted my tomato and pepper starts.  Done.  They look so awesome all lined up in a row.  I am trying them in the small growing cells this year.  But I am planning on transplanting as they get bigger and outgrow their little cells.

Seed Starting

Tomato and Pepper Starts

Everything was looking good.  I went to put them under the grow light and guess what I saw?  On the tray I planted last week, there were two cells with a tiny bit of white, fuzzy…mold.  Ewwww.  Dampening off is one of the most frustrating things that you can deal with when starting new seeds.  In fact, this plant disease prevented me from starting seeds on my own for YEARS.  It seemed like every time I tried, they would grow and grow and then just up and die on me.  I told you that I wasn’t very good at growing things indoors.  I am honestly completely challenged at it.  However, the last couple of years, I have found success using a very cheap and easy solution.  Hydrogen peroxide.

So I pricked the teeny tiny bits of mold out of the two affected cells and then busted out my bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a bottle of bottled water.  I drank about half of the water (because it’s good for me and I didn’t want to just dump it out) and then added a bit of hydrogen peroxide to the remaining bottled water (I didn’t measure – just dumped some in.  I have heard ratios to mix the peroxide with the water from just using straight peroxide (which I don’t recommend as I think that would be way overkill) – to a 10:1 ratio water/peroxide – to 1 – 1 1/2 tsp. per cup of water – use whatever you think best) and popped the cap back on.  Then I took a safety pin and poked about a dozen tiny holes in the top of the cap.  I gave it a quick swirl and then watered all of my cells with the peroxide and water mix.  The peroxide should kill any bacteria and since my seedlings haven’t been affected yet, I think they will be fine.  I will try and keep you posted.  I think I will also sprinkle some cinnamon on the soil surface just to be on the safe side.  Cinnamon is a natural anti-fungal/anti-bacterial agent.  Plus it smells nice, which is always a bonus.  Another thing to remember is to water your seedlings from below once the seedlings emerge if possible.  That also reduces the risk of dampening off.

Sprouted Seedlings

Seedlings Just Sprouted

It is always good, to remember if you are starting seeds using planting supplies from last year to give them a good washing – either a trip through the dishwasher or with a diluted bleach water solution to prevent bacteria from forming.  (I did this – and yet still, the mold came anyway. Go figure.)  So it is good to know some techniques to keep your seedlings alive.

A couple of more ideas that I have heard of but not yet tried myself…

1.  Chamomile tea – also an anti-fungal/anti-bacterial.  You can just brew the tea straight in your sprayer. Warm water and a tea bag.  Mist your plants and the soil with the tea mixture.

2.  Thyme – another anti-fungal, anti-bacterial.  Use dry thyme and brew it like tea.  Strain and use on the plants/soil.

3.  Sprinkle a dusting of sand on top of the potting soil – dries out quickly and reduces moisture on the surface which is a major cause of plant diseases.

4.  Sprinkle sphagnum peat moss on the top of your potting soil.  Also an anti-fungal/anti-bacterial.

So, there are a few thoughts on saving our seeds from the dreaded “dampening off.”  If you have any other methods on preventing this problem and want to share – please do.  I am always curious to find out what works for others.  Happy gardening peeps.

 

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4 Responses to The Hazards of Seed Starting – Dampening Off

  1. John says:

    I hope this works. You get so sad when they start to wilt. Crossing my fingers for ya…

  2. Kate says:

    Thanks babe. Me too.

  3. Malinda says:

    I would love to get an update. How did the hydrogen peroxide do? Also, if the hardening off process appears to have started, is it too late? Should I just consider those plants a lost cause and start new seeds? Thanks!

    • Kate says:

      It worked fine thanks! The hardening off process is something you do when you start to bring the plants outside for a few hours a day for several days in a row before moving them outdoors permanently. If your plants are wilted at the base of the stem and shriveled there, usually they are lost. Sorry.

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