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Using Chamomile Tea to Prevent Damping Off of Seeds

Updated on September 30, 2012
Tea brewed from chamomile is one of many organic treatments that effectively prevent damping off diseases from destroying seedlings.
Tea brewed from chamomile is one of many organic treatments that effectively prevent damping off diseases from destroying seedlings. | Source
Damping off causes seedlings to wilt & die.
Damping off causes seedlings to wilt & die. | Source
Keep seedlings like these young radishes, grown for color in our potager garden, free of fungal disease through good gardening practices & organic dusts & sprays.
Keep seedlings like these young radishes, grown for color in our potager garden, free of fungal disease through good gardening practices & organic dusts & sprays. | Source

DAMPING OFF PREVENTION

Damping off is caused by the fungal pathogens Phytophthora, Pythium and Rhizoctonia. When seedlings are grown in soil and/or water containing these pathogens, water molds attack them, causing them to wilt, rot and die (Smetana 601). Sometimes a white fungus appears, too. These disease-carrying fungal pathogens thrive in humid, wet environments with poor light (Toogood 46).

There are several precautions that organic gardeners can take in order to prevent damping off diseases.

  • Starting seed in sterile potting mix, which is unlikely to contain fungal spores, is one good control.
  • Allowing the surface of the mix to dry between waterings will also reduce the likelihood of damping off disease (Smetana 156).
  • Maintaining good hygiene in the growing area by using clean trays and pots, and removing rotting materials and weeds is also key to damping off prevention.
  • Sowing thinly to reduce humidity and planting seed at the recommended depth are good ideas, too (Toogood 46).
  • Organic treatments, such as weak chamomile tea, are another method of preventing seedling death due to damping off disease.

No conclusive scientific evidence exists as to the efficacy of these organic treatments; however, lots of anecdotal evidence does support the effectiveness of chamomile tea in the prevention of damping off (Hartman).

CHAMOMILE TEA SOLUTION

How to Make a Chamomile Tea Treatment for Plants

Follow the package directions to make a batch of chamomile tea. Then dilute it, using 1 part tea to 3 parts water. Or, simply dilute the brew until it becomes a very pale yellow.

If you make chamomile tea using fresh chamomile flowers, chop the clean flower heads, pour boiling water over them and allow them to steep about 5 minutes before diluting.


How to Apply Chamomile Tea to Seedlings

Paul James, host of the television show Gardening by the Yard, suggests two methods for applying chamomile to seedlings: spooning a small amount to the base of plants or spraying seedlings with the weak tea ("14 Simple Gardening Tips and Tricks").

Chamomile Tea

It's Good for You, Too!

While you're treating your seedlings to a dose of chamomile tea, you might enjoy having a cup yourself. Chamomile tea has a mild flavor and an aroma that's reminiscent of apples. Caffeine free, it has long been used to promote sleep and treat upset tummies (Edible 318).

For delicate seedlings like snapdragons, applying chamomile tea with a spoon seems best, as spray misting can make delicate stems and leaves flop over—or even break them.

Rate of Application

Some gardeners suggest applying chamomile tea to seedlings daily (Shinn); some recommend every other day ("Tea and Fungi"); and others advise a weekly application ("14 Simple Gardening Tips and Trick").

Because the tea solution is mild, it won't harm your seedlings, no matter which rate of application you select.


MORE ORGANIC SOLUTIONS TO FUNGAL DISEASES

Although organic remedies may not be scientifically proven, they often work—as anecdotal evidence suggests.

Plant pathologists at the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture note that in addition to chamomile tea, many other organic treatments reputedly prevent damping off as well as other fungal diseases.

Homemade apple cider vinegar solution is another organic treatment for fungal diseases.
Homemade apple cider vinegar solution is another organic treatment for fungal diseases. | Source

Other Organic Solutions

  • Apple Cider Vinegar Spray
  • Baking Soda Spray
  • Chive Spray
  • Clove Tea*
  • Compost Tea
  • Corn & Garlic Spray
  • Couch Grass Rhizome Tea
  • Elder Leaf Spray
  • Garlic Oil Spray
  • Ground Cinnamon Dusting*
  • Horseradish Spray
  • Horsetail Spray*
  • Hydrogen Peroxide Treatment
  • Manure Tea
  • Milk Spray
  • Powdered Charcoal Dusting*
  • Seaweed Spray*

*specifically for prevention of damping off

(Hartman, Vincelli and Nesmith; Shinn)


WORKS CITED

Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the World's Food Plants. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2008. Print.

Hartman, John, Paul Vincelli, and Bill Nesmith. "Home Landscape, Lawn, and Garden Fungicides." UK Ag. Department of Plant Pathology, University of Kentucky. 2 July 2012. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.

"14 Simple Gardening Tips and Tricks." HGTV. Scripps Networks, LLC. 2012. Web. 29 Sept. 2012.

Shinn, Meghan. "Preventing Damping-Off." Horticulture. FW Media, Inc. 8 Feb. 2011. Web. 29 Sept. 2012.

Smetana, Jeanine, ed. The Maryland Master Gardener Handbook. University of Maryland, 2008. Print.

"Tea and Fungi." Tiny Farm Blog. 26 Feb. 2008. Web. 29 Sept. 2012.

Toogood, Alan, ed. Plant Propagation. NY: DK Publishing, 1999. Print.


Source

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The Dirt Farmer has been an active gardener for over 30 years.

She first began gardening as a child alongside her grandfather on her parents' farm. Together, they would plant acres of vegetable gardens, setting tomato, eggplant and bell pepper plants; sowing row after row of beans and corn; and building up mounds of soil for white squash, pumpkin, cantaloupe and potatoes.

Today, The Dirt Farmer gardens at home, volunteers at community gardens and continues to learn about gardening through the MD Master Gardener program.

Copyright © 2012 by The Dirt Farmer. All rights reserved.

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    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Hi frogyfish. The apple cider spray treats black spot, mildew & scab. It should work, so long as other things don't encourage reinfection. (Is your rose bush in a sunny, weed-free spot and pruned so that it enjoys good air flow?) After trimming away & removing infected stems and leaves, spray the bush with 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar (at 5 percent acidity) mixed with 1 gal. water in the mornings. I'd remove the old mulch, too, add fresh compost, and re-mulch. The fungal spores can overwinter in the ground. Good luck to you and your Mirandy! Jill (:

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 

      5 years ago from Central United States of America

      Thank you for the useful tips here. Do you think your apple cider would finish off the fungus on my Mirandy rose bush? It was better this year but I had to use a commercial anti-fungal several times to keep it down...not totally gone.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Hi Connie! Good to know the article will be of use. Thanks for sharing it & commenting. Take care! --Jill

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Great stuff, Jill! I have had this problem in the past, and now thanks to you I know what to do about it. I have bookmarked this and also pinned for future reference. By the way, several of your articles have been repinned quite a few times. That 's how very useful they are! Voted Up and Useful and Interesting as well.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      A whole flat! Aagh! That's awful, donnah75. Hope this hub does help you in the future. My issue is with seedlings is getting the moisture right. I tend to want to overwater, which sets them up for damping off. (I guess it's like overfeeding the dog because you love him so much.) Good luck with your next batch of seedlings! --Take care, Jill

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 

      5 years ago from Upstate New York

      A couple of years ago, I lost a whole large flat of seedling to damping off. I didn't know what it was until I had the problem. I am pinning this for future reference. Voted up, useful and sharing.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Hi Tuesdays child! Thanks for your comments and your vote. Take care, Jill

    • Tuesdays child profile image

      Tuesdays child 

      5 years ago from In the garden

      I really enjoyed this hub and its very useful information. Thank you! I voted it up!

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