Tomato Starting Discussion

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Bill R said:

I start tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants in jiffy-9 pellets. I put the pellets in old deli/take-out trays that have clear plastic lids and get them hydrated the day before I plant. These are placed on a heat mat until the majority of pellets in a container have germinated.
I plant two seeds per pellet, and at least twice as many pellets as I need for planting out to the garden, sometimes more if the seed is older or I've noticed poor germination in the past. This allows me to select the best seedlings when I pot them up for phase 2. (It's not usually a hard choice to pick one over another.)
The pellets are marked with a number (matched to a list I make each year) to indicate variety (12 different tomatoes, 6 peppers, and 3 or 4 eggplants, in recent years). The marker is a wooden toothpick with a little numbered flag on it.
The plants are transplanted into 32oz yogurt tubs when they have at least two true leaves. (These have holes cut in the bottom for drainage and are numbered on the side with a Sharpie.) Most of these are reused from year-to-year after washing in a mild bleach solution.
Light is supplied by a high output metal-halide fixture suspended on pullies. The plants are surrounded by a temporary 'light box' made with mylar sheets on cardboard with a couple of fans set up to move the air through.
For the last few years I've been ordering transplant mix from Gardener's Supply company as what I've been able to get locally is very mixed in quality and often contains styrofoam pellets (!?!) and other weird ingredients. I add a tiny bit of Osmocote to the transplant mix and water at least once with PHC for Seedlings (A Gardener's Supply Company product) added. (Outdoors it's compost, and/or alfalfa plus Tomato Tone as fertilizers along with a kelp drench at transplant and foliar sprays during the growing season.)
The tomatoes are taken outside by early-mid May (the peppers and eggplants stay inside under the lights for a extra week or so).
All the plants go out into dappled shade (to start with) and are gradually exposed to more direct sunlight. At night, they are either put inside the garage or tucked up under the overhang of the house. After a week or so of that (with an eye to the weather) the tomatoes get planted and the peppers and eggplants go outside for the same routine.
I haven't finalized my planting list for this year. Should be getting around to that soon. I don't start any plants until the second week of April. They sprout very quickly and grow on quickly once they are in the yogurt tubs that I would be in trouble if I started earlier.
These days, the only other plants I start indoors are my Benary's Giant Zinnias, which I plants in recycled 4- or 6-pack cells (which fit nicely, one pair in each deli tray) at a window with supplementary flourescent lighting. (Which is where my orchid spends the winter.)
Pat in Plymouth MI ('' is comcast)

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