Mold and the New Gardener

Mold should confine itself to expensive unpronounceable gourmet cheeses and stay out of my gardening hobby.

foil covering cardboard palm encourages mold

Don’t be this person. The one who covers seed pots with tinfoil – like me.

I may have mentioned that I was starting a second set of cardboard palm seed pots using a different approach – soaking the seeds overnight after an initial shock with boiling water. So far so good, right?

Well, if I had just stopped there, I wouldn’t be writing about mold.

I had in the back of my mind that, given what I’d read about the germination problems of the cardboard palm, I’d give it a space to rest and meditate while it decided if it was going to grow. So…

Mold Thinks Foil is Just Like Underground

So I covered the rack of seed pots with a layer of cling wrap and then, just for good measure, added a nice layer of aluminum foil.

I didn’t stop to think that where there’s a nice dark humid place, mold will grow quite happily.

When I peeled off the foil layer to check on my dark-dwelling seed pots, hoping to see a wee forest of cardboard palm sprouts, I found a nice thick layer of white cobweb’y mold instead (Fig. 2).

Don’t Panic – It’s Mold, Not Godzilla

So, being a well-brought-up Suzy Homemaker from the 1950s, the first thing I reach for is the bleach bottle. In the heavyweight bout of Mold vs Bleach, Mold is going to lose. So will my nostrils – but that’s a sure bet either way the fight goes. I’m allergic to way too many things on this planet, the biggest one being hard work.

Mold on plant soil is called saprophytic. No need to take notes – there won’t be a test later. It grows naturally in unsterilized soil that’s been amended with organic materials like bark and peat. When it gets a nice humid dark home, it assumes it’s underground and it grows like mad. Here’s a few notes from a potting soil provider.

Mold growing happily in dark damp conditions (Fig. 2)

Put away the bleach bottle, though – it’s not needed. You’ve got two cboices:

  • Get some light onto the pots, hold off watering for a few days and let things dry out – and the mold will go back underground where it belongs, or
  • Gently scrape off the mold and discard it, then refill with fresh potting soil. This works best for unseeded soil or pots where the seed is planted very deep.

Bottom Line

Molds are natural and always around us even if we can’t see them. No reason to panic when we can (unless the mold is growing on your wall). Stay calm and put the bleach bottle away.