It is not uncommon, especially back in June when the weather was much cooler, for newly planted veg plants to suffer from something referred to as ‘damping off’ which causes a plant to rot at the base of the stem and die off. Damping off is a fungal, soil-borne disease that is worsened when the soil is cool and wet. It tends to affect new seedlings and very young plants. More mature plants are less susceptible. The first sign may be that the base of the stem turns yellow/brown and starts to thin. This in turn will affect the foliage and leaves will start to wither. Within a few days the plant will seemingly just wilt and die.
Here are a few things you can do to minimise the problem:
- When your plants arrive and you soak them in a container of water as per the growing guide, be sure not to let the stems get too wet, and don’t leave the plants sitting in water for too long before planting. An hour or so is ok, a day or so is a bit long!
- Be careful with plant spacing – if your plants have struggled with damping off in the past then it is sensible to leave a little more space between plants to allow air to circulate
- When you plant, of course water the plants in thoroughly, but don’t waterlog the soil. They just need enough to get the uptake of water until they build a sufficient root system.
- Allow the top 2cm of soil to dry out before watering again – this keeps the soil surface dry and prevents the stem and roots from being in very wet soil.
- Don’t over water plants in cool, damp weather.
- At the end of the season, in autumn, add plenty of good quality organic matter to the soil to help it recover before next spring.