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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 17, 2018   #1
habitat_gardener
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Default Shouldn't have bought the seed-starting mix...

I've been growing tomatoes from seed for at least 10 years, but every year is different.

This year, I started my first batch with diatomaceous earth. Great germination, but lots of helmet heads -- probably because I planted the seeds on the surface without covering them!!

So for the next batch -- the really special varieties I'd gotten from Shawn/Carolyn and from Marsha -- I decided to buy a seed starting mix. The local nursery had EB Stone Seed Starting Mix.

Both batches were on a heating pad, covered loosely with plastic to germinate, then taken off heat and uncovered once the seeds had sprouted.

Almost total failure with the EB Stone! Most varieties sprouted, but the germination rate was poor and survival of the ones that did germinate was even worse. (And I still got lots of helmet heads.) Out of 24 varieties I started, I got more than 1 surviving seedling (so far) from only six varieties, a single seedling from 3 more, and no survivors from the remaining 15. Curiously, the oldest seeds I planted (at least 7 years old) were in the group that did the best.

I also did a control of sorts -- my saved arugula seeds ( no bottom heat) in DE vs. EB. The ones in DE did great. The ones on EB did not sprout.

I started a third batch in DE, also 90-100% germination.

Also, I've always used a mix of my own compost, whatever potting mix I'd saved from old plants, even some garden soil, for potting up. This year, I lost quite a few seedlings to damping off (and slugs) before I started using Sluggo and hydrogen peroxide, and bringing them indoors at night. The seedlings have been spending nice days outside, but on rainy days and cold nights they come back inside. I really miss having a greenhouse!

Last edited by habitat_gardener; April 17, 2018 at 02:55 PM. Reason: Typo
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Old April 17, 2018   #2
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Wow, HG, that's terrible! I'm beginning to think that when you find something that works, stick with it because there's some awful stuff out there. Nobody gets more joy from a sprouted seedling than I, so I feel your disappointment.

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Old April 17, 2018   #3
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That's really annoying! I would go back to the nursery and demand a refund! Not that it will help much with the loss of your valuable seeds, but it might make you feel a bit better......

Linda
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Old April 17, 2018   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by habitat_gardener View Post
I've been growing tomatoes from seed for at least 10 years, but every year is different.

This year, I started my first batch with diatomaceous earth. Grest germination, but lots of helmet heads -- probably because I planted the seeds on the surface without covering them!!

So for the next batch -- the really special varieties I'd gotten from Shawn/Carolyn and from Marsha -- I decided to buy a seed starting mix. The local nursery had EB Stone Seed Starting Mix.

Both batches were on a heating pad, covered loosely with plastic to germinate, then taken off heat and uncovered once the seeds had sprouted.

Almost total failure with the EB Stone! Most varieties sprouted, but the germination rate was poor and survival of the ones that did germinate was even worse. (And I still got lots of helmet heads.) Out of 24 varieties I started, I got more than 1 surviving seedling (so far) from only six varieties, a single seedling from 3 more, and no survivors from the remaining 15. Curiously, the oldest seeds I planted (at least 7 years old) were in the group that did the best.
Do you need more seeds?
I also did a control of sorts -- my saved arugula seeds ( no bottom heat) in DE vs. EB. The ones in DE did great. The ones on EB did not sprout.

I started a third batch in DE, also 90-100% germination.

Also, I've always used a mix of my own compost, whatever potting mix I'd saved from old plants, even some garden soil, for potting up. This year, I lost quite a few seedlings to damping off (and slugs) before I started using Sluggo and hydrogen peroxide, and bringing them indoors at night. The seedlings have been spending nice days outside, but on rainy days and cold nights they come back inside. I really miss having a greenhouse!
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Old April 17, 2018   #5
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I've had a similar experience recently. In October I did a germination test that did so well
I grew some out over the Winter. Then another germination test in January and also did
well. Beautiful seedlings with minor care. So I have some of those going along lovely.
Both trays used what was leftover from last season...

First sowing this season using a new bag of the same brand was horridly wet and long to dry out.
Low germination. Picked up a different brand that proved better. (same seeds, new sowing)

The last two trays I needed more mix and they are so fast to dry out and it shrinks so much,
bottom watering is proving difficult as the mix is far from the bottom of the cells...
(yes I dampen the mix and give it a thumb press in the cells from the get go before sowing seed)

Even a trusted brand may change from one year to another...and why I sow multiple trays a few
weeks apart to lower the chance of troubles.
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Old April 17, 2018   #6
habitat_gardener
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Thanks, Marsha, it's too late to start a new batch. Even my April 1 sowing may turn out to be too late. This is a new climate for me and I'm told it can get scorchingly hot by June, so I want the plants to be big enough to survive by then.

Of the seeds I got from you, as of this morning,
Coastal Pride Orange, 2 survived
Garnet, 2 survived
Rebel Alliance, 1 survived

There are only 4 other surviving varieties this morning:
Rebel Yell, from my saved seeds, 1
Fuego Verde, from Fred Hempel, 3
Mushroom Basket, the seeds I got 4 moves ago, 2
Leon Noire, from Shawn/Carolyn, 4

It's down to 7 out of 24 pots sown.

On the bright side, I found several plant sales with acceptable and even interesting plants, so I will have more than enough plants -- I just won't have all the ones I'd planned.

There's always next year!

Last edited by habitat_gardener; April 17, 2018 at 02:57 PM.
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Old April 17, 2018   #7
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Have you tried Jiffy brand seed starting mix? I get really good results with it and its only $5 at Walmart. $5.50 at Home Depot and Lowes. Its a bright yellow bag and its organic too.
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Old April 17, 2018   #8
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Originally Posted by Nattybo! View Post
Have you tried Jiffy brand seed starting mix? I get really good results with it and its only $5 at Walmart. $5.50 at Home Depot and Lowes. Its a bright yellow bag and its organic too.
That brand has always worked well for me also. Believe it or not what I actually like the best is Miracle-Gro seed starting potting mix. And I think that's funny because I hate everything else that's Miracle-Gro.
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Old April 17, 2018   #9
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The Only seed starting mix I would ever use is

https://www.google.com/search?q=fafa...&bih=815&dpr=1

I wouldn't touch DE or baggies with wet towels in them or coir or any other method with the proverbial 10 ft pole.

Carolyn
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Old April 17, 2018   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Labradors2 View Post
That's really annoying! I would go back to the nursery and demand a refund! Not that it will help much with the loss of your valuable seeds, but it might make you feel a bit better......

Linda
I wonder if HG would be better off complaining to the manufacturer.

Nan
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Old April 17, 2018   #11
Nattybo!
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Originally Posted by ginger2778 View Post
That brand has always worked well for me also. Believe it or not what I actually like the best is Miracle-Gro seed starting potting mix. And I think that's funny because I hate everything else that's Miracle-Gro.
lol! That is funny!
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Old April 17, 2018   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ginger2778 View Post
That brand has always worked well for me also. Believe it or not what I actually like the best is Miracle-Gro seed starting potting mix. And I think that's funny because I hate everything else that's Miracle-Gro.
Without mentioning other seedling mixes and fails....
Miracle -Gro is by far the best .
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Old April 17, 2018   #13
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I have gone strictly with Miracle-Gro as starting medium; this year about 98% success.
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Old April 17, 2018   #14
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I started with MG seed starting mix and had good results the first year or two. The last two times I used MG seed starting mix, I had a massive invasion of fungus gnats. Not going for strike three--it was miserable.

It's been nothing but DE then up-potting to 100% coir ever since, and I've never seen another gnat.
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Old April 18, 2018   #15
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Originally Posted by Father'sDaughter View Post
I started with MG seed starting mix and had good results the first year or two. The last two times I used MG seed starting mix, I had a massive invasion of fungus gnats. Not going for strike three--it was miserable.

It's been nothing but DE then up-potting to 100% coir ever since, and I've never seen another gnat.
That's interesting. I have heard of others having fungus gnat problems with MG's other mixes too. I routinely use a few Gnatrol granules when sowing and transplanting, so it's not a problem I have gotten. Each granule forms a colony of BT, which is deadly for fungus gnat larvae.
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