o What is the dreaded damping-off disease? How do I prevent and/or treat it?

Damping off is a fungal disease which attacks the seedlings at the soil line, withering the stem and causing the seedling to fall over and die.

The best prevention is cleanliness! Use a sterile growing medium,preferably one containing milled sphagnum moss,as it naturally inhibits damping-off. Soilless mixes such as milled sphagnum / vermiculite are best. Planting containers should be new or thoroughly cleaned if reused ,wash with hot soapy water and rinse with a solution of 1 part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water.

Avoid overcrowding of seedlings and overwatering ,a small fan in the seed-starting area to circulate the air is useful. Any stress which weakens seedlings , poor light, high temperatures, or improper watering makes them more susceptible .

If only a few seedlings are affected, you may be able to remove them, taking care to remove the soil around them, a fungicide such as captan may be used,but this has limited effectiveness once plants are infected.

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