Damping off is the condition referred to when a type of fungus affects your marijuana plant’s seeds. It can occur at 2 separate points; either the seeds will be affected even before they break through the soil or seedlings will be hit after they begin to come up through the soil. The fungus attacks your seeds, preventing nutrients from traveling up through the plant; a process which eventually kills it completely. The effect looks a lot like your plant has been over watered as the plant atrophies, wilts and falls over, although you will also start to see a yellow or brown discoloration near the base of the stem, as well as reddish brown cankers between nodes and lesions on the stem and upper part of the plant.
Preventing Damping Off with Adequate Air Flow
Damping off may be caused by a variety of fungi including Botrytis, Pythium and Fusarium. The fungi like to grow in warm, damp soil with a high level of nitrogen. If your soil is too wet it may encourage the fungus and cause your plants to be attacked. Keep a watchful eye over your soil, making sure it has adequate air flow so that the soil has fast drainage. Perlite and vermiculite can be added to soil to ensure good drainage. Earth worms are also good at creating beneficial air flow in the soil with their movements. They also help to fertilize the soil through their manure, referred to most commonly as worm castings.
The Risks of Over Watering
It is also essential to make sure that the soil isn’t over watered. Don’t water your plant until the surface of the soil is dry. Good drainage will prevent your plant from getting wet feet from the pooling of water. Don’t plant your seeds too deep, as soil is damper the deeper you go. Approximately 1/4 of an inch is good enough. If you live in a place where it rains a lot, make sure to take extra steps to ensure that your soil drains well. Be sure that your seeds came from a reliable source and are not already infected and use sterile tools on your soil to prevent contamination from other plants. If you want to go the extra mile, you can also spray your soil with an anti-fungal solution made from garlic, copper or chamomile tea.
When is Healing an Option?
Once a seedling has been affected it will not be able to be saved. However a more mature plant may be able to recover. Take every effort to amend the damping off by balancing the water levels in the soil. Cut off the damaged areas and apply a diluted solution of hydrogen peroxide to the sores. If the stems are suffering you can also spray an anti-fungal solution to encourage healing.
The best cure is prevention when it comes to this kind of fungal condition. Keep your soil from being too wet or damp, encourage good drainage and airflow in the soil and make sure you provide your plant with good levels of light to help dry out the soil and you should be on your way to growing a strong healthy plant.