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New to growing your own tomatoes? This is the forum to learn the successful techniques used by seasoned tomato growers. Questions are welcome, too.

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Old March 22, 2018   #16
Greatgardens's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Indiana
Posts: 777

Lots of good practices around, but here are a few things I have found useful:
-The New Seed-Starters Handbook by Nancy Bubel.
-Good Coir mix starting mix with added perlite. Burpee bagged Organic Seed Starting Mix is very good.
-Bottom heat for starting the seeds. 80-85 works very well.
-Good lighting, and at this point that still leans to T8 daylight florescent.
-A very thin layer of vermiculite topping -- .060" ish. Mist daily, and prevent drying out.
-Don't bury the seeds, but instead press them into the mix.
-After sprouting, give 14-15 hours of light daily.
-Don't over-water!!! This probably causes more damage than everything else combined.
-Give the roots room to grow. 3-4" pots work well. (Transplant gently after apx. two sets of true leaves.)
-Grow the transplants at cool temps -- 60-ish is good.
-Harden the plants and set out when the weather is warm and settled. A cold frame is very useful for transitioning.
-Practice makes perfect. Keep notes. If you are like most folks, you'll forget things from year to year.
-If just starting out, I'd recommend sticking mostly to proven hybrids. Big Beef, Early Girl, Jet Star, and Supersonic are good to start out with. "Hybrid Vigor" is not a myth. Some of the new Dwarf Project varieties are quite excellent, and easier to grow than full-size indeterminates. Consider an EarthBox/earthtainer to ease the watering issues.

Last edited by Greatgardens; March 22, 2018 at 03:12 AM.
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Old March 22, 2018   #17
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Plantation, Florida zone 10
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All the above suggestions are good, maybe don't use the dome because it doesn't allow air circulation, and you are asking for damping off to happen.
This thread has videos by our own Craig Lehouillier, author of Epic Tomatoes, showing step by step in very good detail.
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Old March 22, 2018   #18
Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: Philly
Posts: 517

I plant "like" varieties in 4-6 cell packs, this makes removing from the tray easier due to different germination rates.

1) My Mix is Miracle Grow Moisture Control Potting Mix, to this I add some perlite.

2) I fill the cell packs and press firmly with my thumbs right in the bag, then top off with more mix but don't compress mix but touch lightly with my finger to create a very slight depression.

3) Place the cells in a tray with water, mark cell pack with a garden stake, grab my seed packet, then,... the next part I do 2 ways;
. A) ,
using a pencil put a few divots in the mix, pick up a seed with a wet toothpick, drop a seed in each divot, top with more potting mix and maybe a few drops more of water.
. B) I like trying new things so I tried this for my tomatoes this year, place the cells in a tray with water,
pick up a seed with a wet toothpick, drop a few spaced seeds on top of the mix, sprinkle with a very thin coating of vermiculite, spray real well with a water bottle.

4) Then it's off into a domed, heated tray until sprouts appear.

5) When sprouts appear and depending on the sprouts, I may leave them another day for a greater germination rate, then remove and put directly under lights for 16 hours about 4" from the light and use a timed fan that cycles three times a day for an hour to half an hour.

6) I bottom water to keep potting mix moist, then about a week after the first set of true leaves have appeared, I will up pot to 16 oz or 20 oz cups, continuing to bottom water, alternating with a my own mix of fertilizer (20-18-38). I have also up potted with just the cotyledon leaves showing with no problems.

7) About a week before going outside, I stop fertz.

8) When it's time to harden off, I take the tray outside, place under my deck for about a week, maybe two. Under the deck gets late afternoon sun. I leave them out there and don't bring them back inside, unless it is going to be anything under 40°, This is what I call my, "Sink or Swim" period.

I have only had one plant dampen off in the the three seasons I have done this

Last edited by SQWIBB; March 22, 2018 at 01:36 PM.
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Old March 22, 2018   #19
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Connecticut
Posts: 1,353

We haven't heard from the OP again at all. I wonder if he/she is even following this any more. NO response to questions about what king of problems they were having.
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Old March 23, 2018   #20
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Location: Pittsburgh, PA
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Natertom 92, are you out there?

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Old March 31, 2018   #21
Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: New York
Posts: 3

Looks like we may have lost our original poster.

Just wanted to let everyone know that another novice gardener really appreciates all the great information here. Thanks!!

Last edited by rbaltazar; March 31, 2018 at 10:43 PM.
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Old March 31, 2018   #22
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Connecticut
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I copied this from my post in Show your seedlings. It is even applicable here. Of all the different techniques and products used to start seeds, and we all have our favorites as well as the ones we don't like at all, but they are all producing nice healthy plants. Just goes to show you, while most people will find some ways easier or cheaper for them, whatever works for you is fine. No matter what other people do. I love that about gardening. When you are cutting up that tomato for your first tomato sammy, no one cares if you used peat pots or seed starting mix, individual cups or sprinkled all your seeds in a big tub.
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Old April 1, 2018   #23
Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: Kansas
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Thanks everyone. After years of trying to figure out how to grow tomatoes by seed on every technique I've found the excellent solution for it.
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Old April 1, 2018   #24
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Location: 25 miles southeast of Waterloo Texas.
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There is no best way.
My way others say is the wrong way and it works fantastic for me.
It is hard to explain just exactly what a person does in words alone or even a video.
A Falling Knife Has No Handle

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Old April 1, 2018   #25
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Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Wichita Falls, Texas
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There are lots of ways and reasons for starting seeds, but one way I use is from the following, nctomatoman's dense planting. You may or may not find it useful.
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Old April 2, 2018   #26
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Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: NewYork 5a
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...and Craig on GrowingAGreenerWorld I just posted elsewhere.

I usually start 3-5 seeds per cell in 1010 36 cell trays.
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Old April 2, 2018   #27
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Calgary, Alberta Canada
Posts: 71

I use Jiffy seed pods with heating mats only on during the day and get 98% germination. Its a dry climate here, though.
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