by Gary L. Pierce
Horticulture Extension Agent, Harnett County
Question: What is causing my cabbage and broccoli transplants to die?
Answer: Spring and fall gardening can be affected by a condition called “damping off.” Newly planted seedlings emerge and grow to the height of an inch or two then wilt and die. Sometimes seedlings wilt and die after they are transplanted. In either situation, the top of the plant looks normal but the stem is brown and shrunken near the soil line.
Damping off is a general term that applies to the onset or attack of several fungal diseases. Water loving diseases like Phytophthora and Pythium occur in all soils, but they thrive in wet poorly drained soils. While all seeds and seedlings are susceptible to these diseases, slow growing plants are more susceptible than fast growing plants.
Prevention, not control, is the best way to deal with these diseases. When germinating seeds use pasteurized soil or commercially available sterilized potting mixes. Be careful not to introduce disease into the potting soil via contaminated equipment and hands.
Plant when conditions are best for the seeds to germinate and grow. Spring gardeners often plant too early. When the weather is not conducive for plant growth the seeds and seedlings undergo constant bombardment from soil diseases. For fall gardens, most people plant in August and September. This year it was hot and wet. Under these conditions be prepared to lose some plants.
Whether you plant in the spring or fall, don’t plant too deeply. This situation over exposes seedlings to disease. Plant in well drained areas. Don’t water too much, and don’t over fertilize. Excess fertilizer makes this situation worse.
If your garden has a history of this problem, try building a raised bed garden. You can also space out your seeds to allow for air circulation. The incorporation of compost will also help.
The terms "cold" and "cole" sound the same but have different meanings. "Cold" of course refers to temperature. "Cole" refers to any of various plants belonging to the Cruciferae or mustard family. This family includes cool season crops such as Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, broccoli, turnips and watercress. All of these familiar garden crops can trace their history to a common ancestry of wild cabbage originating in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor area.
For more info about damping off, visit http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/pp/notes/oldnotes/od14.htm or http://www.hort.uconn.edu/ipm/greenhs/htms/dampofgh.htm For info specifically about cole crop diseases, visit http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/pests/pdf/hgic2202.pdf If you don’t have internet access, then call me at 910-893-7530 or email me at email@example.com
The way we pronounce them, cole and cold are homophones. These are words that sound the same but have different meanings. See how many you can find in the following sentence. The folks in the Capital knead to come to their cents one of these daze soon, calls our patients is running out.