Seed treatment prevents disease


December 24, 2000

Q. I plan to plant my first vegetable garden this spring and just received some vegetable seed catalogs. What does it mean that some seeds are "treated"? Treated with what?

A. Seed companies treat some seeds with hot water to kill disease organisms on or inside the seeds. This is very helpful in preventing diseases like black rot of cabbage, anthracnose of peppers, and bacterial speck and spot of tomatoes.

Certain seeds may be treated with a fungicide like Captan to prevent attack by soil-borne fungi. Large seeds, like beans and sweet corn, planted in cool soils in early spring, are especially vulnerable to these soil diseases.

Packets of treated seed are clearly labeled as such and should be kept away from children and pets.

Most seed companies also offer nontreated corn and bean seed.

Q. This fall I took some cuttings from the rosemary and Vietnamese coriander plants I had growing in my herb garden. I followed all the instructions given by plant propagation books, and most of the cuttings rooted.

What should I do with these plants between now and spring? They are sitting on a north-facing windowsill and don't seem to be growing at all.

A. The plants may survive in their present location but would be much happier in a south-facing window or, better yet, growing under a shop light fitted with one cool white fluorescent bulb and one grow-light bulb. A timer can be attached so that your plants receive 14-16 hours of light each day.

Keep the growing medium slightly moist and fertilize lightly, once a month, with a soluble houseplant fertilizer.

Backyard Q&A is by Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist for the Home and Garden Information Center, Maryland Cooperative Extension Services of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507, or visit its Web site at / users / hgic.

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