Stop the killing! Take care of those seedlings

You’ve planted your seeds indoors, waited for them to sprout and one day find a container of tiny, droopy plants.

    What went wrong?

    Damping-off could be responsible for the collapse and death of your seedlings.

    The gardening experts at Iowa State University Extension note that damping-off is caused by several different fungi. Environmental conditions usually associated with damping-off are poorly drained potting soil and overwatering.

    Damping-off can be prevented by using clean containers, a sterile, well-drained potting mix and by following good cultural practices.  Previously used containers should be washed in soapy water, then disinfected by dipping in a solution containing one part chlorine bleach and nine parts water. Flower and vegetable seeds need an evenly moist potting mix for good germination.  After germination, allow the potting soil to dry somewhat between waterings. 


   I’m getting a later than usual start on my seedlings, having just planted my first round today. The earliest I’ve planted seeds indoors was in late January – I had flowers blooming by the end of March. Some plants, of course, need more time to grow than others. The ISU gardening experts also offer this reminder on the starting times for seeds: The crop time (number of weeks from sowing to planting outdoors) for several popular flowers and vegetables are as follows: 10 to 12 weeks – geranium; eight to 10 weeks – petunia and impatiens; six to eight weeks – marigold, pepper, and eggplant; five to seven weeks – tomato, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower; three to four weeks – cucumber, watermelon, muskmelon and squash.  Always check the seed packet if unsure of the correct sowing date. 

3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    prairillon said,

    Good luck on the seedlings, Cindy! I did seeds last year and am skipping this year. I managed to avoid damping off but had a lot of failed germination and then lost a lot at transplanting. Since I’ll probably buy flats, I’ll still have some transplanting issues, but not that really fragile first stage. I bought a “root awl,” a new tool that is being heavily promoted on the internet, just because I do do so much transplanting and do often destroy rootballs in the process. So we’ll see whether it works or is just a gimmick!

    The part I’ll miss about seeds is the “surprise” — things never look quite like they do on the seed packages. I lost a few labels, and then just wanted to get the tiny things into the ground and out of my hair, but ended up with a bed of mixed fuschia petunias and short but intense blue larkspur that was just breathtaking, although in a rather odd spot because I had no idea what it was going to grow up to be! In retrospect, I think that is the real fun of seeds for me. It’s a lot like my cooking, come to think of it. 😉

  2. 2

    startrekdvd said,

    This article was written was the wand of a lot of my help. Thank you very much, I’ll study a lot.

  3. 3

    cindyha said,

    Re: Prairillon – Thanks for the encouragement. It’s fun watching to see what seedlings sprout first – some within days of being planted. If you have shots of your petunias and larkspur, send them my way. Would love to see how that looked:)


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