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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 April 3, 2015   #31
joseph
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Originally Posted by ContainerTed View Post
Below are three pictures of some of my current seedlings. Almost half of those you see were helmet heads. Which ones should I have tossed??
I would not have done even one second of extra labor. Technically, they are not quite large enough for me to be wanting to pot them up, but if any were still helmet heads in a couple days when they are big enough to pot up, then i'd cull, cull, cull.

My helmet head rate is about 1 in 100. Could be differences in soil, environment, or technique. Could be that I have spent the last 6 years growing my own seeds and consistently culling helmet heads.

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Old April 3, 2015   #32
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I am curious if you have seen a progressively lower percentage of Helmut head germination since you have been doing this.
Culling is so automatic to me that I don't even notice. I have a flat of tomato seedlings with about 600 seeds in it that I'm growing for a frost tolerance test. A couple days before this thread started I had culled helmet heads out of it... I'm cussing myself about the timing of this thread and that I hadn't paid closer attention... I remember that just about all of the helmet heads in the flat were from a mix of varieties that has only grown one year in my garden (Brandywine types).
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Old April 3, 2015   #33
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Do you ever find little old ladies at farmers market specifically request tomotoes from helmut head survivors?
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Old April 3, 2015   #34
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Sounds like Attila the Hunn.

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Old April 3, 2015   #35
joseph
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Sounds like Attila the Hunn.
Especially when I start doing frost tolerance tests...

When I did frost tolerance testing on corn corn I threw thousands of seeds into the ground to get 42 survivors. Hmmm... Now I'm scheming about how to do something similar with tomatoes. Only testing 600 seeds seems downright chintzy.

I've been watching the weather closely the last week or so... Trying to find a forecast that would be expected to kill most of them, but not all. I suppose that I could make more accurate real-time decisions by getting up at 5 AM.
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Old April 5, 2015   #36
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I wish I could see your pictures. For some reason I can't see certain people's pictures on here, and my husband (the ITT guy) has just been too busy to look at my still-young laptop to figure out why it's doing this...

I'm having problems with helmet heads on my ghost peppers this year. Of the four seedlings that have popped up, the cotyledons were not visible on three. The last one came up perfectly normal, no clinging seed coat. This is my first time growing superhots, so I don't know if maybe ghosts are just prone to this sort of thing or perhaps I messed up somehow (probably the latter, peppers are a challenge for me). Only one out of four Trinidad Scorpions came up with helmet head, and I planted them just the same as the ghosts. I'll be restarting the ghost peppers today, along with a couple other varieties that just didn't germinate well.

For tomatoes, I usually don't do too much for helmet head seedlings. I let them go. If it's not too bad, they will put out true leaves and I'll "clip" the end of one of the cotyledons to give it more space. In my very few years of doing this, I haven't had a problem with it. I toss seedlings that are worse off because it's just not worth the effort to me. I like to start a lot more plants than I can put in my garden, and I will inevitably end up with far more healthy plants than I need, even after culling. While I didn't like thinning seedlings at first, now it's just second nature. I usually only get a handful or so of helmet heads every year, so it hasn't been a big deal. If half my seedlings came up with it, on the other hand, I'd be right in there with the tweezers!
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Old April 10, 2015   #37
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This is the first time I am seeing some helmet heads in my starter trays... Does a helmet head mean the seeds were buried too deep or too shallow?

Since I have no heart to toss a seedling, I think I will just let them all grow and see how long they'll survive... I cannot imagine a seedling not becoming a plant and producing fruit - so contrary to its purpose, lol!
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Old April 10, 2015   #38
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This is the first time I am seeing some helmet heads in my starter trays... Does a helmet head mean the seeds were buried too deep or too shallow?

Since I have no heart to toss a seedling, I think I will just let them all grow and see how long they'll survive... I cannot imagine a seedling not becoming a plant and producing fruit - so contrary to its purpose, lol!

Honestly, I think there is more than one factor to helmet heads. The older the seeds the more likely it is for me to see it.
You still need to get the seed coats off. Most often they don't grow through the coat. Dab saliva on the coat if you just have a couple. Let them sit for a couple minutes and gently hold the stem and give the seed coat a very gentle pull. do not tug on it. if it isn't coming off wait a minute and or dab some more saliva on it again.
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Old April 10, 2015   #39
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Will try. It would be a pity to have to re-sow those seeds again - in fact I don't even remember how I placed the varieties ..!

Last year, I sowed and planted over 50 tomato seedlings... and lost none to this phenomenon. Hope that it is just a few ones that have this struggle...
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Old April 10, 2015   #40
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Honestly, I think there is more than one factor to helmet heads. The older the seeds the more likely it is for me to see it.
You still need to get the seed coats off. Most often they don't grow through the coat. Dab saliva on the coat if you just have a couple. Let them sit for a couple minutes and gently hold the stem and give the seed coat a very gentle pull. do not tug on it. if it isn't coming off wait a minute and or dab some more saliva on it again.
There is more than one variable that is involved with helmet heads appearing'

Saliva had always worked well for me but after putting it on the first time I'd leave it for at least an hour. The reason is that saliva has a high content of enzymes that can break down the outer shell of the helmet head so that saliva needs time to work, and I don't think a few minutes is enough time.

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Old April 10, 2015   #41
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I have more than I have ever had in my recollection. What I could pull off (per instructions above), I did. The others, I'm just going to sit back and wait. I planted a bit deeper (per Worth) after that to see if it makes a difference. But I was very surprised as to how many HHs I had this year.
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Old April 10, 2015   #42
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Donna, put a drop of water or some saliva on them at first opportunity. It softens the shell and makes it easier for the little seedling to push off the seed hull. I've tested this theory and it really helps. Of the ones I didn't add moisture, only a few succeeded on their own. Of the ones treated, including the most difficult and hardened ones, only a couple didn't make it.
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Old April 10, 2015   #43
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If it's a variety for which the seed is rare, at least to me, them I make every effort to help. What I've had help the most, if just a drop of water on the head at frequent intervals doesn't do it, is to put a tiny little plastic wrap top on the moistened helmet -- just to make the moisture last longer. I don't fasten it at all, just sort of drape the *tiny* bit of plastic wrap over the helmet each time I moisten it.
This is what I do too. But I use saliva under the plastic "hat". Our house is very dry, and any water or saliva uncovered dries up in a few minutes, which is not enough time to soften the really difficult helmets. For the small, tight hopeless cases, leave it on overnight.

This year I had several rare varieties that I only had a few seeds for, and in one case only a single seedling came up, so losing those seedlings to an easily solved problem was not an option.
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Old April 13, 2015   #44
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I managed to salvage a couple of hh's - two others, the cotyledons broke and left me with tiny left overs - but instead of dying, those seedlings seem to do their utmost to prove me they shouldn't be tossed. They are pushing their first true leaves with more vigor than the 'healthy' seedlings...

We'll see when the time comes to bloom - the bottom line is, are they able to produce fruit or did the damaged cotyledons hinder their reproductive abilities. Blooms = all clear. No blooms = off to the compost bin...
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Old April 13, 2015   #45
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I believe I saw a commercial on TV for a "Save the Helmut Heads" foundation. Your charitable contribution could make a difference in the life of a neglected seedling.
You've been hanging out with Worth.
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