Prevent Damping Off by Adding Tea to Your Seedlings

A cup of chamomile tea
Diane Macdonald/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Damping off can be very frustrating to deal with when it comes to your organic gardening attempt. It occurs when you meticulously plant your seeds. If you're like me, you check them daily to see the first signs of a stem. Sometimes, they don't germinate, so nothing comes up. Sometimes, they do germinate, but they look yellowish, sickly and weak. Or, perhaps most heartbreaking of all, they look perfect, until all of a sudden, they fall over. The base of the stem will look shriveled and discolored. This is damping off, or damping-off disease, and it is one of the harsh realities of gardening. If you add tea to seedlings, though, it may be able to help. Average chamomile tea can make a world of difference to keep your seedlings growing strong.

I've gathered some insight on how to prevent seedlings from damping off using tea.

First off, use sterile seed starting medium and clean pots. Encourage good air circulation by not planting seeds too closely. If possible, use a small oscillating fan to provide additional airflow to your seed starting area. You want to ensure the temperature is ideal as well. 

Then there's the idea of adding tea to your seedlings. Yes, tea. 

A weak solution of chamomile tea, misted onto the soil surface with a spray bottle two to three times per week, will help protect seedlings from damping off. How does the tea prevent damping off? Chamomile tea contains anti-fungal properties that offset any pathogens in the soil, making it an ideal solution to maintain healthy seedlings.

How to Add Tea to Seedlings to Prevent Damping Off

These tips will help you brew and add tea to your seedlings, so they stay healthy:

  • First, brew a weak batch of chamomile tea. To do that, only put one tea bag in two cups of boiling water.
  • Some people brew the teabag in four cups of water and give it a day to steep. In this case, you would not add the extra water to dilute the tea mixture.
  • Allow the infusion to cool, then dilute it with more water so that it is a pale yellowish color.
  • Add the cooled, diluted tea to a spray bottle and apply it to the plants as needed.

The tea mixture will be good for about a week. Spray the seedlings regularly until they are planted out into the garden to ensure that you don't have any problems with damping off. 

Fun fact: Dave’s Garden states that damping off involves a "variety of fungal problems that lead to sudden seedling death. It occurs when pathogens attack the stems and roots of the seedlings. As a result, some seedlings will look like they were pitched at the base of the stem and others will simply topple over.