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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 February 20, 2006   #16
carolyn137
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And yes, Craig had called me this afternoon and I could not imagine what had happened to him when he did start laughing, shall we say strongly.

Everything up to that point was clear and understandable as we reviewed and chatted about what was happening here and there after his week up in Philly.

But then he lost it totally.

He tried to explain to me but not having seen the picture, as I did just now I absolutely had no idea what had him in stiches and just heard random words like molotov cocktail, birdfeeder and Grub, and just couldn't put it all together.

Well I could had I wanted to, but Grub, I'm not going to tell you what associations I would have made.
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Old February 20, 2006   #17
veggiecanner
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I use this method too and only occasionally break a seedling. I transplant mine just a little quicker though. Nice pictures. Thanks.
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Old February 20, 2006   #18
Mantis
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Great thread Craig, if we ignore the second last post. I have grown that thickly before with no problems transplanting. Looking good, keep us posted with the progress. Love all those peppers.
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Old February 20, 2006   #19
Mantis
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Oops how did they get in there. I now mean about 4 posts back
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Old February 20, 2006   #20
Grub
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Manto,
If you want to correct a thread go to the thread you wrote, click edit and you can change the type. Best function ever.
Cheers, Grub.
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Old February 20, 2006   #21
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Craig, I saw your seed-starting method on your web-site, which I stumbled across 2 weeks ago. I am still in shock over seeing this! Why haven't I heard this already?

Anyway, please help me understand your timetable if you will? I really want to try this. Did I read correctly that you have no greenhouse? So you put them out on your driveway immediately after potting? I assume that you time the start of the seeds so that when you transplant, the weather must be warm enough for the plants to go directly outside. Then they need to grow a bit to get ready for market, right? So, right to the point, how long from sowing to selling?

I operate a VERY small CSA and sell produce at market. I'd love to add plants sales, particularly heirloom tomatoes, but hesitate to build an expensive greenhouse. Now that I've seen your method, I think there is hope.

Thanks,
Lisa
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Old February 20, 2006   #22
nctomatoman
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Hi, Lisa -

Here's the scoop - it is easy since I use one month milestones.

roughly speaking -

Plant seeds Feb 15
Transplant to 4 inch pots March 15
Plants ready to sell Aprl 15

Some substeps - Feb 15 plantings will need to go under lights by Feb 25.

I tend to harden my seedlings when still closely packed in their cells - just ease them into full sun, slowly at first.

Once I start potting up, I have to watch the weather. I leave newly potted transplants in my garage for 2-3 days to acclimate, then out they go. Seedlings can take it down to 34 degrees with no problems. Some years they have been blasted with cold rain and wind, they look terrible - but recover nicely once the sun comes back out and it warms up. They end up being very tough plants! If it gets closer to frost potential, they either go into my garage, or I cover them with frost cloth (Reemay).

Hope that helps! Been doing it this way for 9 years now, and it has worked like a charm!
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Old February 20, 2006   #23
veggiecanner
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Let me get this straight, the plants dont go into 6 paks before they go into 4 inch pots? Do I have this right?
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Old February 20, 2006   #24
jerseyjohn61
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Craig, do you use any fine tools such as tweezers
or toothpicks to separate those delicate root
clusters?

Also, when replanting, do you back fill on the
seedlings? Thanks....JJ61
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Old February 20, 2006   #25
nctomatoman
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No, they go directly from the dense planting cells into 4 inch pots. I let them get quite large in their cells - to the true leaf stage. If I am getting behind and they are getting really crowded, I just pop out the cell and put the entire cell into a 4 inch pot.

Folks, these plants are tougher than you realize! I just pop out the cell, gently squeeze the root ball then tug the plants apart - sure you rip a few roots, but the plants do not mind. I dry fill the 4 inch pots - we have a system - fill about 150 pots on our bench top with dry soilless mix, then use our index fingers to push a deep hole in each. I ease the plant into the hole with my thumb as deep as I can, then shake the pot gently to bring the soil around the base of the plant - usually they are deep enough so that they are up to the cotyledon leaves or even deeper. I do this for peppers and eggplant as well.

Then they get their first watering with warm water, we insert the plastic identifying tag, go into basket trays, which fit 15 plants - then one more watering and they are good for their month or so tenure acclimating to their new enviroment and putting on size.

In about a month, the tomatoes are 6 inches or more tall. Peppers grow much more slowly, esp. the Habs and ornamentals, needing heat to really get going.
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Old February 20, 2006   #26
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Craig, I am amazed that you can keep the seedlings crowded for 4 weeks, but I do believe you and I am going to give it a try. Do you fertilize them before you transplant? I would guess not.

Thank you for your patience in answering my questions. A few more: what do you use for labels? And, do I go to far in asking how much you sell them for? That's alot of work!

Lisa
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Old February 21, 2006   #27
michael johnson
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I think a lot of the reason craig gets such good germination is the sarin wrap he uses, which sounds the same as what we call cling film over here in the UK, it keeps the moisture droplets very close to the compost surface and seeds- bathing them in a constant shower of tepid water from the condensed droplets.

What I cant quite understand though, from craigs methods and pictures there appears to be no form of heating under the seed trays, is it just he heat of the sun through the window or is there some form of contant temp from central heating in the whole house, if so what sort of temp is present on the germination trays to get that sort or germination in six days, all the ones I do takes from four to eight days depending on variety at around 70/72 degrees F.

Sarin wrap is great for general germination- the only problem that I have found with this is that sometimes they dont all emerge at the same time, so you end up having to remove the wrap straight away for the majority but for those few that dont come through at the same time I have found that if you cut little cell size squares of the same wrap and place these individualy over any late emergers for a few days more it usualy does the trick.

Just one more thing- in the pictures the little white flecks in the mix, is it vermiculite or perlite as I cant quite make out which.
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Old February 21, 2006   #28
nctomatoman
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Some good comments and observations. Once a few cells are really up, I do need to remove the plastic wrap, otherwise it would be detrimental to those emerging. I use heat mats under peppers and eggplant but this year did not do it for the tomatoes. The sun coming through the window, when it hits the plastic wrap, must cause some good heating - esp with my seeds so shallowly planted.

However, once I do remove the wrap, any cells that are not yet up do emerge. This year it was not a problem since all but a couple were up when the plastic came off.

The white flecks are the flecks of what feel like styrofoam that is immersed in the Fafard 3b mix that I use.
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Old February 21, 2006   #29
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Ah, the first chance for my babies to catch some rays! Near 60 deg this afternoon, so giving them their first hour in the sun. 5 flats - 1 hot pepper, 1 hot and sweet pepper, 2 tomatoes - and a small flat of herbs and flowers. One flat of eggplant still on the heat mats in front of the window (a few stubborn varieties), one flat of tomatoes will plastic on top, should be up in a few days. Two more flats of tomatoes to go.

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Old February 21, 2006   #30
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very niiice Craig ~ looking sweet down there ~ Tom
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