if you never have damping off.......(help me!)

imagreenthumb(Z5 ONT)February 28, 2006

Last year I lost over half of my plants to damping off. I'm determined not to have that disaster again. If you are successful in preventing it, what is your method? Wash everything in bleach? Microwave soil-less mix(for how long)?

I haven't started my seeds yet this year. I want to be sure I do everything possible to keep all my seedlings.

Thanks for your help.

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roxy77(Houston Z9)

Yes, the Bleach solution is good and sterile soil helps. Since I've been following those practices I've not had one instance of damping off.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2006 at 12:28PM
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amcorrigan(6 Canada)

I wash all my trays in a weak bleach solution before I start. I use those little peat pellets to get my seeds started. They are a bit more expensive but very sterile and they can be moved around under the lights and turned as the plants bend toward the lights. I also water with chamomile tea. Now, the jury is still out on that (it may be the boiled water rather than the tea that helps) but I heard it works and I haven't seen any damping off since I started. I also add a bit of No Damp to the tea every once in a while as insurance. As soon as the seeds sprout, I move them out of the covered tray and into the air. I also run a fan in the furnace room for a few hours a day.

It is very discouraging to see your hard work droop and die so try everything.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   February 28, 2006 at 12:44PM
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cherylk(Z5-Cent IL)

Always bottom-water your seedlings and make sure they get some sort of air circulation. I use a small fan near mine. A couple of times I sprinkled my seedlings with cinnamon (yes, just regular old baking cinnamon) because I had heard that would help prevent it as well.

But since I've started the bottom-watering and use of good air circulation, I've had little problem.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2006 at 12:48PM
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bakemom_gw(z6 Central Ohio)

Winter Sowing. No damping off. See the winter sowing forum.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2006 at 2:29PM
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leslies(z7 No VA)

I have never washed anything in bleach and do not water with anything other than water. I have certainly never tried to cook my potting soil. If there's a sleety afternoon in February and I absolutely can't think of anything better to do, I'll wash my transplanting pots out with dish soap and warm water, but I have never washed the trays I use get seeds germinated.

The most important things to do to avoid damping off are: provide good ventilation and don't overwater (however you apply the water). Bottom watering is probably a little better, but nothing is going to help if you're growing your plantlets in mud. Test how the trays feel when the soil is very dry and test again when you know they're soggy. Try to use those feels to decide when you've watered "just right". If you have to choose, water too little rather than too much. The worst that can happen is you have to water again a little sooner.

Ventilation, however, is the real key. Keep your plantlets in as large a room as you can manage. Take the lids off the trays pretty much as soon as sprouts appear. If you're using a heat mat, take the tray off when the sprouts appear, even if not all of the seeds have germinated. If you can open a window a crack (I used to be able to do this on the south side of my house, even in winter in zone 6), that's good. Keep the door(s) of the room open. If the room doesn't have good air circulation already, run a fan once in awhile to clear out the humidity.

I only had damping off once, when I had to travel out of town and a friend stopped by to water for me. She apparently tried to dump Lake Michigan on my seedlings and it took days for the soil to dry out. I lost about a third of my plants that year!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2006 at 2:40PM
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The suggestions about sterilizing trays (or pots), ventilation and not overwatering are all key - along with using a fast-draining soilless mix.

I'd make sure the area the seedlings are grown also has been scrubbed down and cleaned with a bleach solution, and that any lighting fixtures suspended over the seedlings are swabbed as well. Tools used for transplanting need to be cleaned or dipped in alcohol between uses.

I don't completely avoid damping off, but when it happens it's usually because I've been careless about one of these precautions.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2006 at 5:20PM
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sharont(z5 can)

I remembering posting last year about sterilizing soilless mix in the microwave. It had been left in standing water outside for months. I wanted to ensure nasty micro-organisms hadn't set up home in the bag!
Now I make sure I pour boiling water over the soilless mix as recommended by Garden's North site owner.
Since I religiously use NoDamp in my sowing process, I conclude this has curtailed any damping off in the past three or four years. Sow seeds in your dampened medium & soak the container in a sink of NoDamp added to tepid water. Allow those pots to drain off on layers of newspaper. to soak up excess water.
I wash all equipment in bleach & detergent even my cut up mini blind labels!
A ceiling fan is on in the room & the soil temperatures are not over 26C to 28C for most pots & flats. The lowest shelf is used for lower germination temperatures such as 18C to 22C. I use a cold basement for lower germination temps & a hot water radiator for higher germination temperature requirement.
I use 4 inch plastic pots & fibre flats in plastic bags to start off germination. Getting the sprouts out of the bag or opening up the top is vital for air circulation. Allowing the soil to almost dry out before bottom watering is as everyone else says key to preventing damping off.
I have learned so much over the years of germinating seeds. Experience & doing are rewarding you'll see!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 12:36AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

My experience is the same as leslies. I always assume that it is impossible to be completely sterile and so am careful not to allow the growing environment to favor the growth of the damping off fungus. Not too damp or humid, not too warm, plenty of light and fresh air circulation. I make my own mix from unused peat, perlte or virmiculte and have never sterilized anything. For at least 10 years I have not had a case of damping off. Al

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 9:48AM
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beleaf(east Canada)

The easiest cure for all damping-off problems is NO DAMP. It seems a lot of places don't carry this product in North America, don't know why?? It is a miracle cure for this problem. I haven't lost a seedling in 6 years since using it. It is in abundance up here in Canada. A small bottle will last years.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 10:16AM
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hello imagreenthumb; this year I am experiencing seed borne pathogenic growth from a specific collected seed sown out of doors in new containers despite all the precautions (less chemical treatment) I have taken...

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 12:56PM
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mbravebird(VA zone 7)

I have something slightly different to report -- I was starting to get some damping off after having a fan and using chamomile tea. I decided to make some Aerated Compost Tea, because it is full of beneficial bacteria and fungi, and see if that would put the soil mix back in balance. And... it did! The seedlings that had already wilted from damping off actually are coming back to life!!! I am amazed by such a positive result. I thought that once damping off had happened so a seedling, it was a goner. But these seedlings are actually strengthening again!! If anyone wants to know how to make Aerated Compost Tea (more strong and active than just regular compost tea), you can follow the link below or visit the Soil, Compost and Mulch forum here on GW.

Here is a link that might be useful: Deuley's Own Little Texas Tea Brewer

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 1:02PM
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imagreenthumb(Z5 ONT)

Wow, what great information. I didn't do any washing last year. I'll start with that. I have a bottle of NO DAMP somewhere, I'll get that dusted off too.

Thanks for all your help!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 6:15PM
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triple_b(BC 5b)

I bottom water but the soil surface gets the occasional misting with chamomile tea. So far so good.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2006 at 1:22PM
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Loretta NJ Z6

Winter Sowing. No damping off - not true. If you have a wet cold spring, things can still damp off outside in this neighborhood.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2006 at 1:40PM
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My present report is that I think I have averted a catastophic event intervening with a chemical treatment.My germinants appear to be healthy at the moment,though I lost some seeds.... My preference is to try to manage diseases from a cultural approach, but this particular seed is too important to me....stuff happens...

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 11:55AM
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I was so happy... until my straggler seedlings started dying as they btoke the surface - but my first seedling were still thriving. I've lost over 50% at this point.

I bottom water using a capilary mat, not too much heat, just the right light, and air circulation - but still have moldy mildew. I think they're water logged via too much water via the capillary mat. How do you cut back the water if using the capillary mat system under a tray?
Any suggestions would be appriciated - I have to move the healthy ones out - but all I have is an old bag of Jiify Starting Mix and MG Mopisture (with fertilizer).

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 2:56PM
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zengeos(5 Maine)

This is my first year starting indoors from seeds. No damping off yet. What I think is helping is the use of the coir pellets. Peat can often carry the pathogens, but apparently the coir does not. In addition, the coir is much more renewable compared to the peat which takes many many years to replace.

I'm also winter sowing and have 4 containers showing sprouts, including of all things, chamomile! :)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 3:28PM
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shellva(Camden 7b/8a)

I'm putting in another vote for winter sowing. Drainage holes in the bottom of the jug and the lid off. I let Ma Nature for the most part water them. She seems to do a fairly good job of it too. On the rare occasion where I end up watering them, I water from the bottom. No damping off thus far....over 200 jugs and 2 seasons; everything from flowers to herbs to vegetables...no shrubs or trees though.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 7:14AM
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I'm really late to the thread but here's my two bits on the matter.

#1 - pasteurized soil, not sterilized is much better because sterilization kills everything in the soil where as pasteurization (between 140-170F degrees for 45-60 minutes) does not kill off the beneficial, thermophilic bacterial and fungal microbes that promote healthy plants.

#2 - because the seedbed you've prepared for your soil is also a perfect substrate for the several fungal contaminates that fall into the "damping off disease" category the best thing you can do to prevent them from taking over is plenty of fresh air exchange. The fungus will love the limited air-flow and elevated CO2 levels of your growing chamber almost as much as your seedlings will - however your seedlings really don't need the elevated CO2 until after they've put on their first set of true leaves. Having a little fan in there lightly blowing on the trays also helps promote hardier stems and reduces your "hardening off" times.

#3 - bleach does not kill fungus - it's technically not even rated for that purpose. If you want to clean your environment, use lysol, or better yet, 70% (not 91%) rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol is extremely effective at killing bacteria, viruses and fungal spores via it's evaporation point. The reason 91% alcohol is not as effect as 70% is because the extra water in the solution fools the cell membrane into allowing the alcohol to pass through and once inside, it destroys the cell as it boils away (evaporates) into a gas.

After having several nasty infections of trichoderma (forest green mold) I've learned to wash everything down/out with hot, soapy water (dawn antibacterial dish soap is GREAT), spray it down with lysol and wipe it out with a paper-towel dipped in rubbing alcohol. These days I've found that Walmart and various other pharmacy stores sell containers "wipies" that are 6"x6" sheets presoaked in rubbing alcohol which is _very_ convienent.

It may seem like overkill but when I was growing portabella mushrooms any kind of contaminate mold (in my case, trichoderma) can destroy an entire crop but when growing them organically I resisted using some of the rather harsh chemicals that huge commercial outfits employ.

If I can get a couple stacks of oak logs about 3-4" thick, I think I'll try some shiitake outside this year. God knows I'm getting more than enough rain for it this season... :rolls eyes:

Anyways, hope some of that helps...

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 11:52AM
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someone said: No damping off yet. What I think is helping is the use of the coir pellets.

coco-coir is often pretreated with a specific form of trichoderma that is beneficial in that it fights off (eats, actually) several other forms of fungal contaminates but doesn't have a strong enough mycelial growth to completely colonize the substrate and to choke-out / damp-off your plant.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 12:02PM
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Anybody tried Physan 20 for damping off?

I use fresh vermiculite, or sterilized potting mixes, fresh plastic containers, good circulation, bottom watering but I still get damping off. I've tried chamomile, cinnamon, hydrogen peroxide, etc but none of these "home cures" ever worked for me.

Hydroguard used to work but I don't know what happened because one year it just didn't do anything for me. And now I think the product has been recalled or something?

I'm looking into the No Damp and planning on buying some. I even got damping off with the Physan 20.... I'm just cursed when it comes to seeds.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 1:33AM
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I meant Phyton, not Physan.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 2:07AM
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No wait, I did mean Physan. Lol.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 2:09AM
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milled sphagnum moss. I have no idea WHY it works, just that it does. I religiously clean every pot before using, and also use new soiless mix but I also sprinkle milled sphagnum moss on the top of the starting mix and I have no problems.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 4:31AM
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Have done indoor growing for several years. Initially I cleaned my pots with bleach and such now I just make sure they reasonably clean from previous year soil. Put a big fan over your seedlings and run it 24/7 on slow. Take off your covers as soon as you see germination. Water from below and use regular plastic trays with cell inserts- no fancy stuff allowed. Water enough but let it slightly get dryish on the top between watering. those are my rules and I do not know what damp off is.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 9:41AM
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Karen Pease

Bleach does kill fungal spores. It kills almost everything. Sodium hypochlorite (bleach) is used in water purification for that very purpose.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 11:12AM
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I've never had damping off only read about it :) I do what many have already posted here and keep the environment bad for damp off fungus. Water when almost dry. Grow in a room with good air circulation. Use Pro-Mix. I also wash pots, cells, and trays each year in dish soap and water.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 8:04PM
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I started some uncommon Black Pepper seeds about 4 weeks ago and have lost about half of the crop to my dismay, a combination of things probably led to the problem. I used recycled soil from last years planters which wa snot treated or cleaned prior to use and I started the seedlings in a room where there is absolutely no air circulation... Being a first year seed starter I have very little experience in starting seeds, I thought it was just stick them in the ground and give them a drink twice a day.

Going to start over with new, clean planting soil and get some air moving in the room. Bought some chamomile tea too... Wish me luck

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 12:34PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Same as leslies and others who don't do anything fancy. I have never had damping off (fingers crossed). As long you don't overwater and provide fresh air it won't happen. Camomile spray etc is treating the symptoms not the disease. I think damping off is most commonly caused by excess 'care'. I sow the seeds, water from below and then leave well alone until the compost is quite dry. Then I water from below again. Nothing else. If I'm using my heated propagator I take the lid off during the day as soon as the seedlings show. Damping off will only appear if conditions are right for it. Remove the conditions rather than treating the symptoms.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 3:57PM
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Besides the things already mentioned using fresh Pro-Mix BX with Biofungicide potting mix seems to prevent damping off and mildew on the surface of the soil. Its supposed to contain a type of bacteria that eats fungus. But the bacteria die after a while so old stuff that has been laying around for a few months losses its anti-fungal properties. If you do get damping off sprinkling powdered cinnamon on the seedling is supposed to help. My daughter was working in Guam where it is extremely humid and all her tomato seedlings were keeling over until she tried the cinnamon trick.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 9:26PM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

I had damping off several years ago when I knew nothing about growing seeds indoors. I had been plagued with aphids, damping off, and whitefly so I did all of the following: start seeds on paper towels with tea; water from below with chamomile tea; use a fan from time to time;do not allow too much condensation; use expensive sterile seeding mix. Keep everything clean: hot water and soap, maybe some beach solution. I have not had any problems for the past 6 years.

Winter sowing is not the answer. I live in Zone 5 Canada, and would not get a ripe pepper or tomato if I wintersowed them. There are also some annuals I must start indoors in order to get blooms and collect seeds.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 5:34AM
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IMO the problem is caused by the triple threat of high humidity, cool temps, and poor air circulation. Those conditions together seem to foster the growth of plant pathogens.

Once I learned that, I started to maintain high humidity, WARM temps (between 72 and 78 degrees religiously), and good air circulation. I haven't had a problem since maintaining these conditions.

Good air circulation doesn't necessarily mean a fan (although a desk or ceiling fan in the room on LOW setting would certainly be helpful). Too much air movement will just dry out the soil faster. To me good air circulation simply means having the seed shelf exposed to the ambient air of the room. Don't have them "inside" of anything - like humidity domes, or those cheesy plastic covered "greenhouse" towers, or the foil everyone puts around their flats to reflect the wasted light from the grow lights (a hassle and a waste of time anyway), etc.

I reuse all my flats, inserts, and pots, and I don't sanitize anything - although I believe sanitizing equipment with a mild bleach solution prior to reuse to be good practice. There is no such thing as true sterilization in a home setting let alone around gardening equipment and soil, so there is no point in worrying about it.

I use seed starting mix for impatiens only, the rest of my seeds are planted in cheap potting soil right out of the bag.

I do not use any chemicals - never heard of "No Damp", do not know what it is, and wouldn't use it anyway.

I use filtered snow melt warmed to room temperature until I am able to use captured rainwater at room temperature. I never use softened water or city water and will use well water only if I have no other choice. My preferred backup is water acquired through reverse osmosis.

I bottom water only, and mist surface-sown seeds twice daily until they germinate. Once seeds start sprouting I cut back on the watering following the wet / dry soil cycle.

I do not fertilize seedlings until they have several sets of true leaves - and then I fertilize with only a diluted solution at most. I fertilize full strength only after plants are established in the ground.

Folks may disagree with me and of course I respect that, but what I mentioned above has worked for me for the past 19 years.

Best of luck to all,

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 1:30PM
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loribee2(CA 9)

I water my tomatoes and peppers overhead, keep them in an unheated workshop, use plain old potting soil and I've never had damping off. But while we get foggy mornings, California isn't typically as humid as states east of the Rockies, so maybe it's the natural climate here that is helping me out, or something I'm unwittingly doing that is offsetting nasty habits.

I do find it funny that some people do things other people swear against and come up with the same results. The more time I spend on these forums, the less I'm finding myself using terms like "must". Not to say there isn't a ton of experience to learn from on these forums. There most definitely is.

Here is a link that might be useful: my blog

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 3:04PM
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susan2010(6 Massachusetts)

I never have a problem with damping off. Here's what I do. YMMV. First, I plant in plastic (6-pack) cells. I fill the cells with a good quality soiless mix (no particular brand - but labeled for germination). I water the mix (in the trays) with boiling water. When they are thoroughly wet, I put them aside overnight before planting. This allows the mix to become uniformly moist. If there is any water left in the tray, I dump it out (rarely happens). The next day I plant. I cover the seeds with bird gravel and lightly water. I cover the trays with a humidity dome, propped open and put them on an unlit shelf until germination (except for those that need light to germinate). It is usually a few days before I need to water them again, but I check thm daily. Make sure the humidity domes are propped open to allow for good air circulation.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 7:09PM
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