Friday, April 9, 2010

Garden on the Deck: Moldy Seedlings & Dampened Spirits

Mold on the Eggplant Seedling Cups, 4/7/2010.

It seems that some of my seedling cups are being struck by "Damping Off Disease", or MOLD. Luckily the white nasties are only on a handful of the seedling cups (in the spinach/eggplant section of my seedlings) and haven't affected the plastic trays at all. That's what I get for being 'env-friendly' & going organic. And, my spinach seedlings are very tall, but spindly or "leggy," as well. I've now got a fan aimed at the plants, set on a timer, to dry them out and to encourage some toughening up.

Gathering advice on how to fix the problem, I found the following from Gardeners Net:

"Let There be Water, in just the right amount- - Provide water to your seedling every couple of days. Do not soak the soil each night. Overly wet soil encourages the development of damping off disease. Let the soil dry out a little on the top, then water thoroughly. Watering from the bottom is preferred. If you have a seed tray, add water to the bottom of the tray . The soil will absorb it through the bottom holes in your container...your container does have holes in the bottom, doesn't it!?!
Guard against Leggy Plants- - Seedlings are leggy when their main stem or stalk grows tall and thin and can hardly support the leaf structure. It is caused by insufficient sunlight and a sheltered environment. Indoors, they do not experience the effect of wind, and do not need to develop structure to defend against it. Most seedlings do not even experience a slight breeze. When transplanted outdoors, "leggy" plants can be damaged or broken by the wind.
Let there be no Damping Off Disease: Those of us who have grown seedling indoors for any number of years know what "Damping Off" disease. This is a white mold that forms in the top of the soil. Damping Off disease flourishes in cold, wet damp weather along with little sunshine. It quickly spreads across the soil and wilts the seedling. Take it's habitat away, and the disease can not survive. Plants on the other hand, love just the opposite conditions. The more you make conditions ideal for your plants, the more likely you will avoid Damping Off Disease and other mold and fungal problems.

If you do experience problems, do not give up hope. Here are some things you can do to minimize or eliminate disease problems: First, get the plant in direct sunlight if at all possible. Stop watering until the surface is very dry. Water only from the bottom. Scrape as much of the mold off the soil as possible. Stir the top of the soil without disturbing the roots. It will also speed drying. Increase room air circulation. You can gently blow air on your plant trays with a small fan. Avoid sowing your seeds in the basement and leaving them there for a couple of days. While the trays are conveniently out of the way, this is a perfect breeding ground for Damping Off Disease. More on Damping Off Disease."