Damping Off: A Problem for Your Seedlings

Gardening Tips
Seedlings Damping Off

Damping off is one of the worst things that can happen in your garden. It's very demoralizing to see all of your newly sprouted seedlings damping off. Suddenly, they look all sickly and bad. It's a very bad sight and every gardener should know how to deal with this situation.

What is Damping Off?

"Damping off" may sound like a complicated term, but it's actually easy to understand. Damping off refers to wilting and death of seedlings. It occurs just before or after they emerge from the soil.

It's an unpleasant situation to have in your garden, that's for sure. One of the things you can do to remedy this problem and to prevent damping off is to make sure you use the high-quality soil only and handle seedlings with care.

It's easy to recognize damping off. You expect to see rows of seedlings in a flat or seed bed, but instead of that, there are wilted seedlings and seedlings collapsing and falling over the ground. Many of these seedlings die. This is what damping off does to your plants.


Damping off is serious and it can truly ruin your new seedlings, but it's important to understand that, strictly speaking, it's not a disease. It's not caused by one specific organism, but may result from many different fungi living in the soil near surface. Under favorable conditions, these fungi enter the plants as they come out of the ground and this is how damping off occurs.

Seedlings are gentle and weak so they succumb under this fungal attack. Their stems shrivel up and this is why the plant topples over.

There are several things contributing to spreading of these fungi. Too thick planting is one of them. Another common factor is high humidity. It all contributes to development of fungi, which can cause about 90 to 100 percent of all the new seedlings to die.

How to Prevent Damping Off?

Unfortunately, there's no really a way to cure a seedling affected by these fungi. You can't save a seedling affected by damping off. All you can do is to control it and do your best to prevent the disease to spread to your other plants. This is why you should monitor your plants closely and do your best to control damping off as it appears.

As soon as you notice the disease appearing in the corner of a bed, you need to act promptly. This won't save the affected plant but it may save the others. It's important to ventilate and dry off the bed. Make sure to remove all the dead plants, as well as some of the soil. Remember, the fungi can be found in the soil, so it's important to remove it. This can be effective if the disease has spread to a limited area. Some people choose to spray with a fungicide to prevent the spread of the fungi.

The most effective way to avoid the problem of damping off is prevention. This is why you should take care of the soil. Before you sow, treat the soil with heat or special chemicals. This is one of the best ways to sterilize the soil and prepare it for seeding.

Alternatively, you may also treat the seeds. They should be treated with specialized fungicides you can find on the market. Make sure to follow the instructions carefully and stick to recommended dosages. This is the only way to ensure safety for your plants and yourself.

Photo credit: Scot Nelson

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