Damping Off is a condition that attacks seedlings. It is caused by fungi, such as Pythium and Phytophthora. The condition moves quickly, causing seedlings to wilt and collapse.
If your African Violet seedlings have this symptom, they are probably suffering from Damping Off.
If your seedlings have been infested with a fungus that causes Damping Off, there is no treatment. However, if you have other seedlings or plants nearby, you must act quickly in order to prevent further spread. Remove the affected plants immediately. Clean up any debris left by the plants and, if possible, rub down your growing area with a 10 percent bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) in order to wipe out any remaining spores that cause the fungus. Finally, dispose of both the affected seedlings and the potting soil in which they were planted. It is also recommended that you dispose of the pot or plant tray as well. Both the soil and the container will continue to harbor the fungus even after the seedlings die off. If, however, you need to keep the container, thoroughly scrub it with a 10 percent bleach solution in order to sterilize it. When finished, make sure you wash your hands before coming in contact with any of your healthy plants.
Prevention is your best bet for controlling the fungi that cause Damping Off. By adhering to the following guidelines, you will give your seedlings the best chance for eliminating any threat of the condition.
Do not overwater. This is the greatest danger to all African Violets, including seedlings. Overwatering leaves the soil soggy, a condition that is ripe for Damping Off. Water just enough to keep the soil damp. Always allow any excess water to drain.
Do not let the soil dry out completely before watering. Repeated, sudden changes in the availability of water can cause the same effects as overwatering.
Make sure your pot or plant tray provides adequate drainage. If you are using a plastic container which has no holes, you can easily add holes yourself with a soldering iron or by simply heating up a screwdriver and pushing it through the bottom of the container. If you are using a terra cotta container which has not holes, you can add holes with a drill. For 4-inch pots, use a 1/8-1/4 inch drill bit and drill from the bottom. Do not press too hard. Go slowly and let the drill do the work.
Use a light, porous potting soil. An ideal potting soil will consist of block-harvested, sphagnum peat moss. Such a potting soil allows any excess water to drain away from the roots.
Maintain good air circulation around your seedlings, and keep your growing area clean.
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