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Substitutes for soil are often used for indoor seed sowing. Most popular of these are vermiculite, perlite and milled (pulverized and sifted) sphagnum moss. The latter is especially advantageous when sowing seeds of plants such as snapdragons, which are subject to loss from "damping-off." This disease, caused by a fungus, spreads rapidly over the surface of the soil, attacking the lower part of the stems and causing the seedlings to collapse and rot. When sphagnum is employed as a sowing medium this trouble is eliminated or very greatly reduced. Because none of these soil substitutes provides needed nutrients, it is important to compensate for this either by transplanting very promptly when the first true leaves of the seedlings are well developed or by watering every few days with a dilute solution of a complete, quickly available fertilizer. Any of the liquid brands especially prepared for house plants are likely to be satisfactory.
One other point to remember is that seedlings transplanted from a soil substitute to real soil are called upon to make a considerable adjustment to their new environment. This they do most satisfactorily if the soil into which they are set is decidedly sandy and if it is not pressed too firmly about their roots.