Richters Free Lecture Series


Common Postgermination Problems

One of the most serious and disheartening problems that people experience after seeds germinate is "damping off". This is a fungus disease that attacks the seedling stems, cutting off water and nutrient uptake. Seedlings can topple over virtually over night. The middle row of seedlings in this seed box has almost completely died out.

[Seedlings Damping Off]

This seed box is almost empty. The original germination was excellent but the fungus killed most of the seedlings.

[Severe Damping Off]

The two feverfew seedlings are the left are extremely constricted by the fungus. The seedling on the right is a normal seedling with a white fleshy stem.

[Seedlings Up Close]

However, if treated, seedlings needn’t end up like the second seed box of feverfew. Chamomile tea applied as a spray is a very effective method of controlling this disease.

[Chamomile Spray]

Make the hot tea just as you would for drinking (1 tsp. of dried flowers per cup of water). Put the cooled, strained tea into an clean spray bottle. Spray the seedlings and soil every day as necessary. Don’t keep the tea longer than 7 days as it turns rancid. This is a very effective and safe way of dealing with damping off.

Here is an example of a seed box that was seeded too thickly. You can see the stems are too thin and weak, and are growing too tall. They will be difficult to separate and transplant. Overcrowding of seedlings is an open invitation for damping off.

[Crowded Seed Box]

A lot of people complain that their seedlings are spindly and weak looking, and they want to know why. Lack of light is probably the most common reason: the seedlings are stretching and reaching toward what little light they have. Here is an example of seedlings not getting enough light: you can see they are not growing straight up -- they are growing toward the light at the side. This flat of solomon’s seal was kept under a bench where there is very little light. The solution is to move the seedlings to sunnier location or provide artificial light. There are many different grow lights available.

[Lack of Light]


Successful seeding is not a mystical art but a skill you can easily master with experience. No, you may not be successful the first time, but with patience and a little bit of luck, you will be able to raise your own herbs from seeds.

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