Damped Off!


Damping-off – or sudden seedling death due to some variety of fungal problems – attacked my seeds when I first tried to grow them in 2004. And even with some how-to advice, here I am again, as you can see!


We have the seeds on heat pads in the heated garage. After Jim lost all his broccoli seedlings, which we though was due to soil temperature, I used a soil thermometer to take soil temp every morning. Then I sprayed my seedlings with warm water mist. Oops.

Last night, I attended a class at the Miami (Kansas) County Extension Office on seed starting. I learned a great many things that I didn’t know before, the main one being NOT to mist the seedlings after they sprout. That makes them too wet and can cause damping-off.

Among the bits I didn’t know before was to water the seedlings with a narrow stream of water to prevent overwatering. Lenora (my Master Gardener friend) suggested using chamomile tea for watering, and I found the same advice online.

The online gurus also suggested that I “bake” the seed starting mix in the oven or microwave before using it to make sure the mixture is sterile. Last night, we learned NOT to do that because of the smell. Learning from someone who has years of trial and error experience, along with years of success, is such a plus!

I also learned how to figure out if a packet of seeds is still viable. Now this may be old hat to some folks, but for me, it’s all new information. This is nothing like going to your local big box store and buying a couple flats of annuals and a tomato plant or two!

In a way, it’s easier to know nothing. Let’s me relax and be as wide-eyed and “sponge-like” as I can be. Meanwhile, I’ll be starting seeds all over again.


7 thoughts on “Damped Off!

  1. Of course if you do seed-starting right, i.e., using brand-new sterile soilless mix, you don’t have to even think about the oven. Anyone recommending the oven has just lost all credibility with me.
    RIP sweet seedlings! Let the next seed-starting begin with the advantage of your new knowledge.

  2. You may want to try seed trays that aren’t plastic. For some reason ones that breathe well seem to help. I prefer wooded flats, or, more often, just large pots even if they are plastic. I always had a ton of failures when using this various “seed starting kits” and peat pellet things, although many people seem to use them with great success.

  3. Who knew that baking dirt would smell SO BAD??!! For most things I just go the easy route and buy the flats. I got so discouraged and figure the time and energy I wasted was worth the money. I have a garden pal who has the earliest tomatoes and he does it all. Uses the paintbrush to pollinate and the whole shooting match. But he has a greenhouse and it has an oven for baking soil and a humidifier and an overhead watering system. I was just there this morning because I knew he would have something green and growing and cabin fever is really getting to me. Jim is the Havre Tomato King. He says that’s all he cares about…and he gives away the most beautiful baskets of every imaginable tomato starting in mid-July. The only other thing he “grows” is grass. And he has a beautiful weed-free lawn that is always moved in a perfect geometric pattern. He uses tons of chemicals for that but none on his precious tomatoes.

    • Oh I’m envious of anyone who has a greenhouse! But to just use it for tomatoes? That’s a shame. I’m looking forward to lettuce and kale, cukes and green beans, onions, garlic, maybe a little eggplant … you know that list of veggies is virtually endless! I could run out of real estate fast! Thanks for stopping by.

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