Whitish, Web-like, Fuzzy Growth on My Seed Starter Mix
I started some seeds in Ferry Morse Compressed Peat Pellets and in Ferry Morse Sterilized Seed Starter mix on 2/12/2004. Today (2/18/2004), I noticed a whitish, web-like, fuzzy growth on the seed starter mix and on some of the peat pellets. I'm using the rectangular, black, plastic trays with the clear lids that create a humid greenhouse atmosphere.
What is this white, fuzzy stuff?
Is it a problem?
If so, how do I get rid of it?
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It is mold.
If one planted soil/peat pellets reduce watering to allow soil to dry out some. After you start watering again bottom water them, meaning pour water in tray and allow it to absorb not watering from top of soil. Some people also fnd it useful to add a small fan to aid in circulation, this also can make seedlings stronger.
If you have this on soil that is not planted yet, sterilze it. Thsi can be done in the oven in a shallow pan at 200 degrees for 20 mins. Let it cool before planting with it.
There's no way to know whether the mold is a pathogen or a beneficial mold feeding on a pathogen. I would leave well enough alone and take my chances that it is a beneficial. Most mold (by far) is beneficial. I have friends in organic gardening and ranching who are going to extremes to grow mold like you are describing in their compost.
If it turns out to be a pathogen and your plants do not sprout or rot out soon, then next time prepare your seed bed with corn meal tea. Corn meal has been proved (by Texas A&M University at Stephenville) to suppress all the "popular" peanut pathogens. Turns out the same ones popular in peanuts are popular everywhere else, too. You can make corn meal tea by putting a half cup of corn meal in the bottom of a sock (or hose) and soaking it overnight in a gallon of dechlorinated water. Squeeze the water out of the sock and water the soil with the tea. What happens next is one of those microbial miracles. The corn meal tea will help grow a super beneficial fungus called Trichoderma (try-ko-DERM-uh) which eats pathogen fungi for lunch. The tea will kill existing fungus and will prevent future fungus infections for about 90 days. It takes about 3 weeks to kill existing fungus disease but protection from future disease starts immediately. The reason it takes so long is the whole process is a biological process. Creatures have to breed, multiply, grow up, feed in mass quantities, and die before the disease fungus is killed. But it works every time (unless you have already used a fungicide in which case the Trichoderma will be killed out and will not work at all). But in any case, you have done no harm by using corn meal or corn tea.
When you are finished with the corn meal from the sock, you can sprinkle it on the soil around your plants to protect them from fungal disease or toss it in the compost pile. I scatter a heaping handful under each plant in my garden at least twice a year. It is also a great organic fertilizer for lawn and garden. All the expensive organic fertilizers contain corn meal. I get my corn meal at the local feed store in 50-pound bags for $4.50-$6.50. Fifty pounds will cover 5,000 square feet of grass.