HELP! Damping off!

Desirai(7B)March 11, 2013

Help! My seeds have been growing great, until the past couple days they have all started to wilt miserably. It must be damping off... how can I save them? Is there anything I can do?

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Sudden wilting can be caused by several things. So are you just assuming it is damp-off? It has very specific symptoms - the main stem of the plant shrivels and pinches in right at or just slightly above the soil line - so it should be easy to ID for sure.

So first you need to discover that the problem really is. Post a picture and provide all the details on age, type of plant, potting mix used, feeding if any, watering regiment, etc. etc.

But if it is damp-off then no, there is nothing that can be done to really save the plant. It can be prevented but not cured.

Studies have been done on infected plants and show the plants, even if they can be transplanted deeply and new roots developed, are still infected with the fungus and eventually die.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 5:43PM
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I personally believe air circulation is important for prevention. I have a fan on a timer (something like 1/2 hour on, 1 hour off) and I haven't lost any plants this year to damping off. I use this schedule particularly after I water them for 6 to 8 hours. The fan is across the room so the air flow is gentle. I believe those clear covers you put over the started trays are totally BAD NEWS. They stop all air circulation. I buy the starter trays but never use the clear covers. Outside, in the garden, what happens? Yep.

I am just a little saddened to read digdirt's comments because of my experience below. Is there a particular pathogen or mold that causes dampening off?

I had germinated some "slow seeds" using coffee filter & baggie method. The seeds developed mold on the coffee filters and I was concerned. (I didn't use chlorinated city water, would that have help?) The moldy seeds went into the soil; the clear tray cover went into the trash; the fan went on... And the plants came up and are growing great so far.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 7:56PM
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PS - I had about a 65% to 70% success rate. 40+ plant from 60+ seeds. Which I believe is way better than last year.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 8:16PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

hi Clay - there are 4 specific fungi (not a mold), that cause damp-off. With seedlings the most common is Rhizoctonia solani which is a common fungus in most all soils (one reason why sterile seed starting mix is recommended) and only requires the ideal conditions to exist for it to develop.

Those conditions are excess soil moisture, overly warm air temps, excess humidity, and inadequate air circulation in the area - which is why fans work so well.

Even when sterile mix is used, transfer of that fungus to the mix is easy if using outdoor tools or tools/containers that haven't been disinfected or hands that have been in dirt.

Not that molds are a good thing, :) but unlike molds which primarily grow on the surfaces and can be eradicated, R.solani can invade the roots and the circulatory system of the plant.

But again there are several possible causes for sudden wilting other than damp-off. Off hand those causes are fungus gnats, exposure to excess heat or cold, contaminated water or soil, over-fertilization, root rot due to over-watering (probably the most common), rootbound plants, mechanical or herbicide injury, etc. to name only a few.

I agree with you about the plastic domes but some insist on using them. And I'd encourage you to use your fan even more. They can do no harm if left on 24 hours a day as consistent, adequate air circulation is vital for healthy plants.

Enjoy your plants.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 9:19PM
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Hey all, I forgot to check back on this thread.
Definite damping off..I lost over a dozen seedlings right above the soil line. :( luckily I still have more seeds but... grrr :(

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 5:01PM
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Informative discussion. Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 1:17PM
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Got some cinnamon. Sprinkle it on the soil. Cinnamon has antiseptic properties and will stop damp off.

Other things like Chamomile and garlic do too. This is something I like to have on hand. For damp off and slight mildew problems I keep a spray bottle of tea made from chanomile tea bags on hand. Steep a couple of bags in boiling water to cover them. It will be a deep brown. Dilute it to a golden brown color with cold water and put in a spray bottle. At the first sign of mold or damp off spray the soil

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 4:57PM
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Check carefully and see if you have any mold growing.
If you have I usually try to skim the mold off with a plastic spoon being careful not to damage the seedlings.
I don't attempt to get all the mold off, just what can be had easily. I hope this helps.
Some people spray the 3 per cent hydrogen peroxide solution to cure dampening off, but i would not consider that organic gardening and could affect your spiritual aura.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 3:42PM
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There is no cure for damping off once a plant has become infected with the pathogen. Purge all the infected plants and place them in a trashbag. DO NOT throw them in your compost pile. While you pruge the infected plants, DO NOT touch any healthy plants. This will spread the pathogen. Sanatize any tools you use around the new plants, and really clean your hands well after handling the infected plants. Once you have that done, having a clean, healthy environment for the healthy seedlings will help keep damping off at bay. Stable temp around 70* or so, good airflow over top of soil with a fan or two, monitor your watering so you do not over water. All is not lost, but it is very important that nothing that has touched the infected plants touches the healthy ones.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 1:02PM
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