Tomato Starting Discussion

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A lot of us that read and post in this newsgroup grow tomatoes and a lot of us start our own seeds. I thought that I would start a discussion on how you start and grow your own tomatoes.
I grow a lot of varieties that are not available as plants from the local places that carry tomato plants. I use a couple of different methods to start them. I like the "bio-dome houses" method that vendors like Park Seeds sell. I also use the "peat pellets" (like the Jiffy-7) for the larger plants. When I start seeds inside (in March) I place the planter on "seeding heat pads". They really help in getting the seeds started faster and result in a much higher germination rate than non heated methods. They also help the plants grow much faster.
After the seed are up about a week they are watered with a 20-20-20 plant food solution mixed at 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water. I generally don't put the tomato plants out in the garden until (at least) the middle of May. Before that I put them out on the porch during the day (in the shade) to get them accustomed to the weather.
How do you start your tomatoes?
--
Bill R. (Ohio Valley, U.S.A)

Gardening for over 40 years
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I buy sheets of six-packs (the kind in which nurseries sell plants). A sheet breaks apart into six 6-packs. Under a dollar for the whole sheet. I use Miracle-Gro potting soil. I put the 6-packs in trays, on top of gravel with heating cables underneath. When the plants are 2-3" tall, I shut off the bottom heat. The potting soil apparently has just enough nutrients that I don't fertilize at all. I bring them outdoors at about the same time you do.
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wrote:

I too start many varieties, all heirlooms, of which local vendors carry only a few of the popular ones, like Brandywine.
FIrst of all, I started sterilizing my flats with bleach solution and heat sterilizing my potting mix after a nasty mold thing a couple years ago. I also sprinkle the the flats with cinnamon after planting, to prevent damping off.
I start them in flats, over a heating pad and when they are a couple weeks old, prick them out and transplant to individual peat pots, which I pack in more flats of potting soil. Having potting soil around the individual peat containers keeps them from drying out. At this time I fertilize with fish emulsion.
I tent them and the lights with plastic sheet to keep heat up. The lights provide plenty of heat.
I keep them under lights until the weather is good enough during the day to take outside, at which time I pack them all in one of those expanded metal garden wagons and wheel them all in and out every day. If necessary, I leave them in the garage and lay the lights across the sides of the wagon. The wagon makes it easy to water them as well.
I usually plant my container cherries after about four weeks and move them in and out also in another wagon. When planting, I always remove the peat pot, though many say this is unnecessary.
Charlie
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On Mon, 24 Mar 2008 11:29:54 -0500, Charlie wrote:

I had never heard of this, Charlie. A quick google verified the efficacy. Thanks!
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Steve wrote:

I have heard of using cinnamon but I have never tried it. I don't have a problem with tomatoes damping off but I have had a problem when starting some annuals from seeds. I'll give it a try. Thanks Charlie!
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Bill R. (Ohio Valley, U.S.A)

Gardening for over 40 years
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I've used cinnamon for years to curtail damping off fungus, works like a charm. I also sprinkle it on the bark my orchids are growing in and have no problem with fungus. Have those pesky little gnats in your potted plants? Sprinkle cinnamon on the surface soil and they are gone in seconds never to return......Cinnamon is a good thing! ;)
Val
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I hear you can use it on food, too.
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Wadda concept!......must Google. ;-> Val
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wrote:

Our house will smell like a cookie bakery by the end of today, not a bad thing.
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I start tomatoes in clean yogurt cups, the kind with a plastic lid. I use Supersoil. Put the lid on and set them on top of the refrig. where it is nice and warm. When germinated, they go onto the bookcase top in the south bedroom window where it is nice and sunny. The cups are set in an old photographic developing tray (yard sale: 25 cents) When large enough plants are transplanted into 4 inch pots which are set on trays (old cafeteria trays, yard sale 10 cents) When its warm enough outside trays are carried out and put in the sun on the patio table. When nights are warm, they stay out under the patio roof in case of a late frost. They are just about ready to be planted out. Emilie NorCal
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Bill R wrote:

I put seed in a small flat of plastic in damp potting soil and seal with Saran wrap. They start rapidly kept on top of the hot water heater. When emerged I transplant into peat pots and put in a window.
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I use those 'clam shells' from the produce aisle. I put a paper towel on the bottom so the soil doesn't all wash out, fill them with seed starting mix and put them on the mat. I do the midseason varieties first, in late February, then start the early varieties later. Each clamshell gets a label. Next year, I plan to put the number of seeds and date planted as well as the variety name. When they have their second set of leaves, I transplant them into individual containers, mostly 3-4". This year I'm also using 1 litre cardboard cream cartons. They're free, they're tall so roots can grow down further, and they pack together tightly. I cut the top off, fill it with a container/vermiculite soil mix and transplant in the seedling, buried up to its little neck to encourage root development. Usually I use a fish emulsion fertilizer, but I had trouble finding it this year. I bought one of those seedling starter blue fertilizer mixes. The NPK is 10-52-10. I'm not sure I like it. I think it should have more nitrogen.
They are under lights for now. I need to figure out a way to raise the trays because they should be closer to the lights and I can't adjust the shelves. As soon as the daytime temperature gets to be about 10C, I will start putting the seedlings outside and taking them in at night. I have a planter with a frame overtop with a rollout cover of plastic sheeting. I am planning to try insulating the cover with bubble wrap, and putting containers of water around the edge of the planter as a heat source. I'll start leaving them out overnight, covered, after a couple of weeks if the night time temperatures are high enough. Then I'll do my transplants after everything has hardened off, probably in late May or early June unless the plants are dwarves or determinate varieties that do well in containers which will be planted earlier. If we get snow in June or something ridiculous like that, I can still bring them indoors. Kosy Kotes/walls of water go around the ones planted in the ground as long as they fit inside. And if they're in the ground, I put them right next to the house to keep them warmer. The night time temperature is usually above 15C only during July, and not reliably, which really affects growth and production. Dora Zone 3a
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wrote:

Great idea!

Same here. What I have been doing is setting the seedling flats, or whatever container, on top of upside down empty flats. For flats I use cheap plastic cat litter trays with 1/8 inch hole drilled in the bottom and stack them in another that isn't drilled, to catch drainage and also to water from the bottom.

Another good idea, the bubble wrap and water containers.

Wow, it's started, that hunger for a real tomato.
Care Charlie
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On Mar 24, 1:42pm, Charlie wrote:

Thanks. After thinking about it a bit I put a plastic tub of Christmas decorations under the drain trays. That should do them for a week or two.Then I'll have to find something about 4 inches tall.

I think it is really important to get them into full natural light conditions as soon as possible, even if it is a little cool. In fact, while they are adjusting to natural light, it being a little cool is probably an asset. The lights only get them so far, and then they need more.

Well, I can't be too impatient. Most of the time they don't ripen until September. I've been told pruning makes a difference, so I'm going to be a bit more rigorous about that this year. I've also been told to cut back on the watering & let them dry out once they are in the fruit production stage (August). It's supposed to make them sweeter. We'll see. Dora
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wrote:

Kinky.
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Not possible with the current setup - maybe next time. Dora
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An alternative to raising the trays is to surround the area between the lights and the trays with reflective material. Aluminum foil is adequate but white opaque plastic sheeting, available in my locale from hydroponics stores, is better. White cardboard will do. That way the light is reflected down onto the plants instead of escaping out the sides.
Andrew
wrote:

Not possible with the current setup - maybe next time. Dora
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When they're small I'll probably keep them raised, but they'll start shooting up soon and it would be a good idea for me to do that. Thanks.
I think I'll go for the white over the tin foil. It'll go better in my living room. Dora
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-snip-

-snip-
I like the 2" rigid foam that is for foundation insulation. It is light, easily cut so adjacent flats can have different heights- and if you're lucky a little dumpster diving at a construction site will get you all you ever need.
Jim
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Geez I threw some out last year. But it's spring. Someone is bound to be cleaning somewhere. Dora
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