Tag Archives: dampening off

Urban Homesteader, Baby Killer

It’s astonishing to me that something can be at once so strong yet so frail. Life stirs, cracks open a hard shell by sheer force of will, extends one reach downward into dense earth and another reach upward through layers of matter sometimes a hundred times as thick as its own self. It’s heroic, really. It also gives you a false sense of security.

I started a flat of seeds three weeks ago. Mixed my seed starter with some water, filled the cells with all that rich organic stuff, then carefully dropped a few seeds into each cell: chard, kale, salad greens, marigolds, zinnias. I covered them with the clear plastic topper, placed the flat on top of a warming mat (it was still about 20 degrees out), and positioned it carefully under a grow lamp set on a timer out in my garden shed, next to the chicken coop. The seeds did their heroic superstrength thing, and within a week and a half I had a flat full of tiny green seedlings craning their necks toward the light. Tah-daaaaah!

Ah, but. Here comes the frail part. Once they hit the surface, they are suddenly vulnerable. I think I must have a hungry varmint living in my garden shed, because a couple of days after the seedlings made their grand debut,  the plastic topper had been shoved awry, the soil had been dug through and tossed around, the seedlings munched to nothing.

So I started over, this time adding as second flat with tomatoes, peppers, and basil. And I taped the plastic tops down securely on the flats with a few pieces of duct tape. Ha-ha, varmints! Go munch some kudzu, why don’t you?

The duct tape seemed to have worked, but then we had a warm spell over the weekend—too warm for my seedlings, alas. Especially with the warming mats that I forgot to unplug. And under those plastic tops, it got downright wet and tropical in there. A regular rainforest.

But kale and chard don’t grow in the rainforest. They like a little heat and moisture to get them started, then cool them off and keep the air circulating, thank you very much. Otherwise, you get what I got, which is called “dampening off.” That warm, wet world incubated all manner of pathogens that attacked those vulnerable sprouts, and they just bowed their heads and keeled over. That’s right. I killed my babies.

Time to start over again. This time, less water and more air, and I’ll have to figure out a way to give them these things and still keep the varmints out. I believe I have some net left over from the Squirrel Proof Net Tent that might do the trick.



Filed under Gardening