Why are my seedlings falling over?
This is a common question we get from gardeners starting seeds.
It could be Damping Off.
Gardeners often run into damping off – where their seedlings mysteriously start to wilt, flop over and die. Besides letting them dry out, the most common cause of seedlings dying is by damping off. This invisible seedling killer is caused by pathogens that kill seedlings after they germinate. The affected seedlings will usually have shriveled stem bases, and it will flop over and die very quickly.
Damping off usually occurs in damp, cool, still-air conditions – and it can be easily prevented. Without a doubt, here are two easy ways to keep your seedlings happy and healthy:
1. Provide Air Circulation & Movement
After germination, it is very important for seedlings to have air circulation and movement. Put a small fan on the seedlings for a few hours a day, or you can brush the seedlings daily with our hands. This helps the seedlings grow stockier, thicker stems and provides air circulation and movement that prevents damping off. Movement also stimulates seedlings to grow thicker, stockier stems so they don't get leggy.
2. Don't overwater!
Really! Seedlings don't like to have soggy feet.
If the growing medium is always soggy, you can have problems with damping off, mold and even those darned pesky flying fungus gnats! You don't want your seedlings sitting in a puddle of water with soggy roots, that will surely end up in their demise or at the very least, stunted growth.
3. Provide Good Light
A sunny window is not usually enough to grow healthy vegetable seedlings indoors – it's good to supplement with light so that they can grow strong and not so leggy. While lack of air flow and movement can lead to leggy seedlings, so can lack of light. You don't need fancy lights, even an old standard fluorescent white light will do the trick. There are also now lots of LED lights that will help your vegetable seedlings grow strong before planting outdoors. Check out the Best Light for Seedlings »