The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Starting more seeds inside

Onion seedlings

I'm thrilled to be able to say that my simple bleach-soak of the seed-starting flats seems to have been sufficient to eliminate damping off.  Just about every seed sprouted, and many of the seedlings are starting to put out their first new leaves.  They're a bit leggy, though, so I had Mark build the youngsters a new shelf near the bottom of the south-facing windows for more constant lighting over the next month or so before they hit the garden.

Sifting compost

Preheating potting soilThat left my warm shelf near the wood stove open and ready for the next round of seedlings --- broccoli and cabbage.  Since I didn't plan ahead and preheat my stump dirt this time around, I sifted out the frozen chunks, filled the trays, and heated the potting soil the quick way on top of two firebricks on a damped-down stove.  I'll let the chunks of soil I removed thaw and then will sift again to remove the nutshells and pieces of wood, which seem to be more numerous in this stump dirt than the debris has been in previous years.  Then the rest of the stump dirt will go toward the next set of seedlings --- tomatoes and peppers.

I try not to start too much indoors, so most of the plants we're sprouting here are backups for others that will soon be started under quick hoops.  But after a cold winter, the ground will stay cold for quite a while, which means it's worth giving extra attention to our indoors starts so we can have a normal first harvest.  Our winter stores are getting a bit slim and we're looking forward to the first new lettuce and other food from the 2014 garden.

Anna Hess's books
Want more in-depth information? Browse through our books.

Or explore more posts by date or by subject.

About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

Want to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.

In my first year of gardening I lost a lot of tomato seedlings to dampening off. Once I discovered powdered cinnamon as a tool in the garden, never had the problem again. I just dust around the base of my plants when I plant out. I've also been known to use it during the seed starting process to ward off any potential fungal problems.
Comment by MamaHomesteader Thu Feb 27 09:56:40 2014
Correlation does not equal causation. As you did not use a negative control for your bleach soaking, you can't really say that the bleach soaking was a fix rather than some other environmental change. ex. humidity, spore level in the air, temp, spore level in stump dirt, etc.
Comment by REBECCA Thu Feb 27 13:38:37 2014
Rebecca --- I know this is far from a conclusive experiment. But what it does rule out is that the stump dirt is problematic on its own (at least this year), which means I don't have to bake it to kill off all the microorganisms. So whether the bleach killed the damping off in the trays, or whether there simply weren't any problematic fungi around this year, I count it as a win.
Comment by anna Thu Feb 27 14:32:45 2014

I thought I would share some stuff I figured out this year. When I was looking through my old photos from previous garden seasons I found my seedlings the first year looked amazing. At that time I started them in 100% sifted compost. The seed starting mix dries out so fast and has to be watered almost daily (and having a busy week and forgetting to water them can be very detrimental to the seedlings early in their lives.) The compost doesn't drain as well but it also holds moisture better. Here's a link to a slightly out of focus photo I took.

Comment by Brian Thu Feb 27 17:12:37 2014

profile counter myspace

Powered by Branchable Wiki Hosting.

Required disclosures:

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a few pennies every time you buy something using one of my affiliate links. Don't worry, though --- I only recommend products I thoroughly stand behind!

Also, this site has Google ads on it. Third party vendors, including Google, use cookies to serve ads based on a user's prior visits to a website. Google's use of advertising cookies enables it and its partners to serve ads to users based on their visit to various sites. You can opt out of personalized advertising by visiting this site.