Newly Germinated Seedlings Dying
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Nan Cook
Posted on: July 8, 2000

I am growing the seedlings on top of my fridge. This is the first year I’ve grown them from seed & my first spring in the house. I live in zone 5. It doesn’t make sense: clean peat pot, brand new ones. It’s very frustrating.

I wonder if the plants get enough light on top of the fridge. Most herbs are high light plants and need strong light as soon as they germinate. If they are grown too dark, the stems get long and skinny and very susceptible to any disease spore brought in by the air.

What soil do you use? Even soil bought at the store is often full of damp-off fungi, because it had been pasteurized (killing most fungi and bacteria that had been in it) and then allowed to sit in the store for eons! The most common spore around would be some of the virulent damp-off fungi and if even one spore gets into the bag it has a great time growing in it unopposed. It would be best to resterilize any soil before use by putting it into a deep oven-proof dish, moistening it well and then cooking it at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for one to two hours- depending on how much soil you have. After it has cooled sow the seeds in or on it. The smell of the cooking soil is horrid, so make sure you are not entertaining while cooking the soil!

Once spring has arrived it is often best to sow the seeds outside directly into a seedbed, because the mix of micro-organisms in healthy soil will keep damp-off fungi in check and more seedlings will survive as long as competing weeds are kept down. Also light conditions will be better out of doors and there will be less chance of skinny light starved seedlings. The challenge in out of door culture is usually the struggle to keep the seed bed evenly moist. If the seedlings’ soil dries out, they die. If they are kept too soggy wet, any damp-off spore landing on such soil will grow like topsy and soon overwhelm any competing micro-organisms and ultimately the seedlings.

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