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Natertom92 March 11, 2018 11:11 AM

Best techniques to grow by seed
What's the best technique to grow by seed. Is there a secret to growing tomatoes by seed. I looked up Pinterest and I couldnt find the best way to grow by seed to tomato. Every time I try by seed or by buying plants.. it's the same failure results. So what am I doing wrong. The soil mixture or fertilizer in the seedling soil mix.

Worth1 March 11, 2018 11:40 AM

Hard to tell what you are doing wrong if you dont say what you are doing with great detail.
I do find that many people tend to over care for plants, like too much water and so on.


Al@NC March 11, 2018 12:04 PM

If your having trouble with plants you buy then you have some fundamentals wrong and just need to keep reading here on T-ville. It can be overwhelming to start growing tomatoes, etc. if you've never grown anything but that's how I started as well. Keep reading and watch youtube videos and you'll get the hang of it.

That's a really vague question but I think alot of people including myself probably started with some type of dome/greenhouse like below...

It's really quite simple if you follow the directions! You can go wrong though by watering too much or too little (like Worth said) and putting the seeds too far down in the pods.


Black Krim March 11, 2018 12:19 PM

A soil or soilles medium that holds too much water is a problem. A recent purchase of peat w/ vermiculite is so fine it packs hard and holds too much water. A long time between waterings. IMO that has contributed to poor performance of my seeds.

Larger particles mixed inwould fix the above mentioned potting mix. Adding more vermiculite was not succesful.

I mix in azomite and long release orgainic fertilizer into my commericail potting mix, as there is no fertilizer in the brands available nearby to buy.

oakley March 11, 2018 12:21 PM

1 Attachment(s)
The 101 basics are similar across the board. Some tweaks here and there.
But yes, a simple kit that has what you need is pretty easy to follow.

Here is a simple video that is basic 101,

Must be a seed starting tutorial here but not sure where.

Before the internet I just had one simple book, Rodale's, and a magazine subscription.
These are the only gardening books I have now. All good.

Al@NC March 11, 2018 12:29 PM

Here's a decent video which shows some good info:

From seed to tomatoes in one video! Actually he even shows how to save seeds and more.


mikemansker March 11, 2018 12:30 PM

I'm with Al@NC. If you are having issues starting seeds, get a seed tray with the peat disks. Use warm water to expand the disks, pull back the sack a little and plant your seeds at 1/4" or less. Put the tray in a warm location with the cover on where it will get some light and basically forget about it for 5-7 days. With the lid on, it will retain moisture so you don't have to water and you should have some seedlings by then. When the seedlings have emerged, take off the cover and just keep the soil damp.

Nan_PA_6b March 11, 2018 01:21 PM

Welcome, Natertom! Where to begin. Below is a bare-bones overview, with questions at the end.

1. if you're having trouble with plants and seeds, forget the seeds and first focus on buying plants. There's less to go wrong.
2. Get your plants. Find out what your last frost date is where you live.
3. When the temperature is above 50, put your plants out in the sun for 1/2 hour one day, 1 hour the next, 2 hours the next day, etc. as best you can. When you have them out for 5 hours a day, they're ready to be outside. See step 5 before putting them out.
4. Anytime your plants start to droop, water them. While they're still in the pot, if the soil feels too dry, water them.
5. Find a spot in your yard that gets 6 or more hours of sun daily. After your last frost date, and after doing step 3, plant your plants there. Plant them 3' apart. Plant them a few inches deeper than they were in the pot, removing some leaves to do so. Water after planting.
6. Water if they droop.
7. Stick a stake in the ground a few inches from the plant. Cut strips of rags or get twine. As the plant grows, tie it to the stake so it grows (somewhat) straight.
8. If something starts eating your plants, get wire fence and surround your plants, to a height of 6'. Make sure fence goes all the way to the ground. This will stop deer, ground hogs, rabbits.

Now, please tell me what normally goes wrong for you with plants bought at the store? Like, at what step are they dying/disappearing/failing to thrive?


Jetstar March 13, 2018 12:47 PM

I also agree with AL@NC Gary Pilachek knows the right way to grow from seed and he explains it in plain english.

SueCT March 13, 2018 02:45 PM

I grow 75-100 seedlings/year and give away all but about 15. Many are to people who have never tried to grow a tomato before but would like to try. The most common reasons I see for people failing with purchased plants (or free ones, lol) are not enough sun, planting in containers that are too small or in containers using heavy soil from the ground or bagged soil not potting mix, and poor watering practices. In ground, not preparing a large enough space and just digging a hole in hard ground and putting a plant in it instead of preparing a planting bed.

I disagree with the peat pots and discs. I have found them more difficult to keep evenly moist but not overly wet and the plant roots don't break out of them easily after planting. I used them and found if they dry out once they are difficult to re-wet. I like to use a shallow basin like you might soak your feet in, put in soil starting medium, wet and mix with my hands and let it sit a little while to soak up the water and become evenly moist. Then test it, if at that point it is too wet you can still adjust by adding more soil and mixing it in, if its too dry, add a little more water and mix again. It should be lightly moist not WET, holding together when you queeze it in your hand but not dripping out water.

I use plastic generic dixie size cups like you would use in the bathroom, you can get a bag of 50 or 100 for a dollar or two at Walmart so you don't have to invest in expensive kits to start out. Put your money into buying the correct seed starting soil. I use a nail to put 2 or 3 holes in the bottom of each cup. I can use a long nail and do about 6 cups at one time. Fill each cup, press down lightly, you can write the name of the variety on the side of the cup with a sharpie, again no money spent on things to label with. I never fill it to the top, I leave at least a half inch from soil to top of cup. That way, you have room to water later. Place seeds on top, sprinkle a SMALL amount of damp soil on top of the seed, firm down lightly. Place in a warm spot in the house with a piece of plastic wrap loosely laid on top to keep them damp. Since you haven't put soil all the way to the top the plastic will not touch the soil or seedlings. If they aren't too wet in the first place you won't have trouble with mold. I use a spray bottle with water to keep the tops just damp as needed. I don't water and never bottom water because the soil gets saturated all the way down the cup that makes it too wet, and there are no roots yet to use up that water.
As soon as they sprout, they are removed from under the plastic, and they go under lights that are only about an inch above the plant. I check them usually twice a day to see if any are sprouted. Since they are in individual cups, you don't have to worry about when to move them. You only move the cups as they sprout and leave the ones that have not sprouted yet under the plastic. I put 2-3 seeds in each cup evenly spaced and remove the cup from under the plastic and put it under the light when the first sprout appears in each cup. They usually all end up sprouting, but since I only need one seedling per cup, once I have a seeding I don't worry about the rest and just take care of the seedling.

That is just my method. I ended up buying a heating mat and a thermostat for it but was just as successful before I bought those more expensive items, it just speeds them up a bit and I get a little bit better germination percentage from my seeds.

Let me just also say, you are going to find a ton of different techniques here, all of which are successful. Pick the one that seems most comfortable and simplest for YOU. There is no one RIGHT way. My way was developed over the last 5 years as I learned to start my own seeds. Before that I always bought plants, for maybe 20+ years. So I remember the confusion I had with all the techniques, how it seemed that after buying all the supplies I spent as much as if I bought plants already started, and I wondered if would be worth the extra work. I had questions with the trays, like what do you do when only a few have sprouted, but many have not? Do you keep them under the dome or plastic or move them to under lights? At what point? The germinated plants needed different things than the ungerminated cells.

So that is my advise. If you find another technique more to your liking, go for it. You can always come here to get advise if you run into problems with any technique you use. If you want, once you get the seeds planted, post a picture and see if the experienced people here can make any suggestions to decrease your chance of having problems.

FarmerShawn March 13, 2018 03:29 PM

SueCT gives great advice. The only thing I'd add is a reminder to NOT put the plastic-covered seed cups anywhere they will get direct sunlight, as that could quickly cook them. Warm is good, but not in the sun.
Good luck!

bower March 13, 2018 07:28 PM

I like the sound of your method Sue CT even if it is different from mine. :yes:
Total agreement about peat pots and plugs. I can't work with these. They are too wet or too dry for me, all the time. Also grossly overpriced. Finding a potting mix that works is key for starting seeds. Don't water too much once the seeds have germinated, if the temp is cool.

I do use a heat mat to germinate toms and peppers but ymmv in a warmer climate, you may not need that. They will germinate anyway with patience, just a little later if it's cool.

I use cell packs to start tomatoes, either a six pack or a four pack depending on the amount of seeds going in. Space them out as well as I can in the cell (at least a little space in between). Give them a nice shallow cover of "soil"/ media, and mist the surface heavily at least once a day for a couple of days. IME covering the seeds helps the seedlings to shuck their seeds and fewer 'helmet heads', but they will germinate better and faster if it's not too deep.

I like to keep the environment covered and moisture sealed in until they germinate. Bakery clamshells that fit two cell packs are ideal in my environment. The 1020 covers don't seem to seal moisture in as effectively, and resulted in slower germination for me, than using a bakery clam that seals with snaps. They have to be opened at least once daily to let air in, even if they look wet (which they should on a heat mat) you need to aerate by opening and check soil surface moisture. Usually I have seedlings up within 3 days. Older seeds can take up to a week. If nothing is up in 4 days to a week you have a problem.

I transplant my seedlings into individual cells as soon as they get their cotyledons out of the seed, then two weeks later into bigger cups. But I think there's merit in putting them straight into bigger solos as SueCT does. I'm always thinking about better methods, and you will too once you play around with it, find out what works best for your environment.... good luck!! :D

SueCT March 13, 2018 10:38 PM

Bower, I don't put them directly into solo cups. I use small 2 ounce plastic Dixie cups with seed starting soil. I pot them up to Solo Cups with potting soil instead of seed starting soil when they have at least 2 sets of true leaves. Like I said, what works for one, might not work for anther. If you start hundreds of seeds for resale, doing individual cups might be out of the question. Also if you already have seed trays and they work for you why change? :)

SueCT March 13, 2018 10:47 PM starting in Dixi Cups by Susan Albetski, on Flickr in Solo Cups by Susan Albetski, on Flickr

zipcode March 15, 2018 06:27 AM

You say 'Every time I try by seed or by buying plants'. So buying plants is also a failure? I'm guessing then it's not at the seedling stage.
Where are you planting these plants? In soil, pots, etc?

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