The appearance of mold can be distressing for gardeners and plant owners… But mold is not necessarily harmful, just misunderstood!
So, if you’ve ever been worried about mold on your soil or plants, we’re here to put your mind at ease. We’ll take a look at what mold is and why it might appear to be growing on your indoor garden soil. For good measure, we’ll also talk about dealing with mold in potted plants.
What exactly is mold?
Mold is essentially a type of fungus. It consists of small organisms that can manifest themselves in various colours such as white, green, purple, black or orange. Mold can reside both indoors and outdoors. It thrives, however, on moisture and can reproduce through spores that travel through the air.
Whether we realise it or not, we’re exposed to mold on a daily basis. In most cases the amount is so small that it’s harmless to us. Damp spots that appear in your home, however, could potentially cause sickness and it’s worth getting these checked by a specialist.
Mold in the garden, however, is not necessarily harmful. Most kinds actually help to break down materials in nature and transform them into compost for new growth. Spores that produce mold are actually present, to an extent, in various gardening mixes such as bark, peat, and moss. We can’t see them until the conditions are met for spores to reproduce.
Tackling mold in your indoor garden
Plant pods that grow in our indoor gardens contain smart soil, which is unlike regular soil. Smart soil goes above and beyond to create an environment that plants can truly thrive in. It does this by releasing nutrients in sync with the plant’s life cycle and by helping to keep the soil pH balanced. Smart soil also employs small oxygen pockets to ensure the plants have enough nutrients and room to breathe even when the soil is wet.
Harmless mold on smart soil
Smart soil is an extremely clean and plant friendly environment, free from fungicides. The fact that it’s such a life-affirming environment for plants to grow in also means it’s a tempting environment for mold to grow in. It’s important to remember, however, that mold on your smart soil is neither harmful to you nor your plants.
Another reason why mold may appear on your smart soil is if your indoor garden has been overwatered. Mold needs moisture to grow. When your garden receives too much water, it naturally provides more of an opportunity for mold to appear. The best way to ensure you do not overwater your garden is by checking the level of the water float. When watering, the float should not rise above the surface level of the garden.
Adding water to the Smart Garden 9’s reservoir
It’s also important to ensure that the room temperature is suitable for the plants you are growing in your smart garden. As a general guide, the ideal average room temperature for growing plants is 18 to 24C (64 to 75F). To check the ideal room temperature for specific plants, head over to Click & Grow’s plant pod page and then click on the desired plant. Once you are on the page, click on the ‘plant care’ tab and there you will find the ideal temperature range.
In addition to this, it’s important to keep the plant pods’ u-shaped lids on at all times during the plant’s growth cycle. These help to protect the surface of the soil and stop mold from thriving.
In the unlikely event that mold appears to be growing aggressively on the smart soil’s surface, it can be removed by gently scraping it off. Take care not to harm the plants or seeds when scraping the mold off. You could also add a little cinnamon to the surface of the soil as this can work as a natural deterrent. Plants should be completely fine to grow and use once the mold is removed.
- Smart Soil is a life-affirming environment for plants which also makes it a tempting place for mold to appear
- It’s important to avoid overwatering your indoor garden - water float should not rise above surface level of the garden
- Check the room temperature is suitable for the plants you are growing
- Remember to use plant pods’ u-shaped lids to protect smart soil
- If mold does appear, it can be removed by gently scraping it off your smart soil
- Adding a hint of cinnamon to the surface of smart soil can work as a natural mold deterrent
Tackling mold in potted plants
If you notice white mold growing on the surface of your potting soil, it is most likely a harmless saprophytic fungus. Saprophytic fungi do not cause disease to plants or humans. In fact, they help to break down and recycle dead plant and animal material.
There could be several reasons why mold is appearing on the soil of your potted plants. Mold spores can be carried through air or soil as well as through direct contact with an infected plant. Plant pots may develop mold inside them due to an infected plant in the container or leftover soil that still contains spores.
To help prevent the disease from returning, try sterilizing the soil and containers before you reuse them. While sterilization does not completely remove bacteria, it can certainly help to reduce it. Heat treatment is a popular method of sterilization used by home gardeners. The soil’s temperature is usually raised through steam or dry heat to a point where the fungal spores can no longer survive.
Mold in potted plant (image: wallygro.com)
Another big contributor to mold is consistently damp soil. For this reason, it’s important to ensure your soil has adequate drainage. Before planting, it’s worth pasteurizing your soil. Bagged potting soil from a garden center is usually pasteurized. Pasteurization is commonly done by heating moist potting soil to 140 degrees F. for half an hour.
In virtually every case, you can remove mold by gently scraping it off the surface of the potting soil. After doing so, place the pot in an area which is well-ventilated to help the soil dry.
If you plan on reusing pots for new plants, it’s good practice to sterilize the pot first. This can be done using a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. The pots should be soaked in the solution for approximately 15 minutes, after which they need to be rinsed and allowed to dry. Sterilizing plant pods is worthwhile because mold can live invisibly in an old container even after the plant and soil have been removed.
Above all, before purchasing potted plants, check that they are healthy! Avoid buying a plant if you notice its leaves are pale, yellow or brown. Look for plants that appear to be sturdy and display a full, bushy growth. If you are growing your own plants, take care not to overwater them and remember to keep your tools sterilized.
- Mold helps break down and recycle dead plant and animal material
- Mold spores can be carried through air, soil or through direct contact with an infected plant
- Sterilize soil and containers before reusing them
- Ensure soil has adequate drainage
- Mold can be removed by gently scraping it off the surface of the soil
- Always check that potted plants are healthy before purchasing them
Got an indoor gardening question you’d love to ask? Our friendly, expert gardeners are happy to help! Contact them today using our Ask a Gardener forum.