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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 14, 2015   #46
SharonRossy
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Just chiming in here. Ii also had a lot of HH this year. More than usual. Margaret Curtain had one on every seedling and they were big! I also did the saliva thing or spritzed them. So far so good. They have their first set of true leaves and I'm hopping they're ok because I really don't want to reseed. Ii was quite surprised at how many I had.
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Old May 19, 2015   #47
seaeagle
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Just wanted to revive this thread to make a couple of observations.I make compost in 55 gallon barrels.I had one barrel that was almost completely composted and it must have been over a thousand tomato plants that came up, and I looked carefully and not one singel helmet head.Which got me to thinking, of all the volunteers I have ever seen in my garden, I dont remember ever seeing a helmet head.My conclusion is I guess I have to agree with the posters who say it is the way we germinate seeds,save seeds or even the age of the seed that causes helmet heads.
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Old May 19, 2015   #48
NarnianGarden
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I feel the urge to mention that those 'helmet heads' that popped up were all vigorous and strong, and made up for their damaged cotyledons by pushing new and strong true leaves so beautiful that no one would believe the start was somewhat less than perfect.
I have several plants with damaged cotyledons due to my failed attempt to rescue the hh's, and they are all very well. Khurma, Sweet Million, Gold Nugget...
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Old May 25, 2015   #49
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I would generally agree with you, but sometimes you only have a few seeds left/ or the only sprouts were helmets/ or the genetics are just to important to you to lose that seedling.

I'm glad to here about the 'spit' method. I've tried slicing the edge off of the seed coat so it will further split, but without great success.

Thanks!

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Originally Posted by KarenO View Post
I leave them to it and let nature take its course. I watch my seedlings closely and put them under lights as soon as the very first seed is up. Cover off. I use moist sterile seedling mix and keep it moist as I think failure of the seed coat to come off is a lot more common in dry conditions and with old seed. I also think heat mats contribute by making the plants germinate too fast before the seed coat is soft enough. I do not use a heat mat for germinating tomatoes. I do not see a lot of "helmet heads" but the few that do come up with the seed coat still on I just leave them alone. A vigorous seedling will grow and break itself out of its seed coat on its own and if it doesn't manage to do that then it's failed its first important test and gets culled there and then as a dud. Most will get out on their own. I am a ruthless tomato mommy and don't mess with weak/ abnormal seedlings any more. Plant two seeds if you can for every one plant you want and plan on selecting only the best and that will remove the temptation/necessity of nursing along weak seedlings.

KO
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Old May 25, 2015   #50
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Well, obviously neither Joseph or Kurt would have ever found the "Dwarf" genetics that have led to this forum's development of new varieties.

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I agree with the culling of unwanted,weak,slow ,under preformers.I call it the "Kennedy Teeth Syndrome".Drives the wife crazy when I mention it.
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Old May 25, 2015   #51
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Last week I planted about 30 varieties of okra... I potted them up yesterday into individual pots. All of the helmet heads got culled. One entire variety got culled because it was more helmet heads than not. The helmet head trait tended to run in families with some not affected at all, and some heavily affected... No way to determine if that is genetically driven or environmental.
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Old April 28, 2017   #52
tarpalsfan
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This season,my first trays of tomatoes and peppers came up fine, with just one or two minor 'helmet heads'.
.
But my second round little tray-every darn double seeded peat came up with 'helmet head'. The only seedling with even a little seed leaf showing-I accidentally killed trying to remove the darn 'helmet head'.
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This is my third attempt at my round two tomatoes. I'd like to know what causes the 'helmet head' and how to prevent it.
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Thank you carolyn137 providing the 'saliva method' to remove the dang 'helmet heads'. The Safer Soap sounds good too as I have both...
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I used to just leave the seedling alone, IF it had any seed leaves showing, then remove the seed hull after the plant started to produce true leaves, I'd just pinch the hull off. The plant did just fine.
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The last two seasons, every evil plant murdering thing imaginable has attacked my veggies-I do mean everything...thank goodness there is some wood to pound on...

Last edited by tarpalsfan; April 28, 2017 at 03:38 PM. Reason: author is illiterate
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Old April 28, 2017   #53
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Let me get technical for a moment. Nature depends on that seed casing becoming wet and soft. That allows the pressures generated by the growing and expanding seedling to "BREAK" the casing and eventually shed it. It sounds like you are allowing the humidity of the tray to get too low during the "shedding" time period.

Sometimes, I will spend an hour each day taking my squirt bottle seen in previous pictures in this thread and squirting a drop of water onto those helmet heads and allowing the little seedling to push the casing off. If you get too impatient, you'll decapitate the little thing. But, this time spent allows me to do a detailed check on the emerging seedlings. Constant water drops for about 10 minutes usually does the job. Tweezers with needle points allows for gentle assistance for some of them. Human spit works well because it's "super wet" and stays there for a lot longer than plain water. The dilute HCL probably assists a bit as well.

So, my advice is to get you an eyedropper or something that will allow you to put a drop or half a drop of water on the helmet head and help the little plants get out of the casings.

I must comment that this year I had fewer helmet heads and I feel that the reason is that I kept the clear plastic dome on my trays much longer than normal. I plant seeds very shallow and this leads to the seedlings not being able to allow the growing medium to "encase" the seed casing so that the seedling can simply pull itself out of the "Helmets".

I see working on helmet heads as a necessary evil that one must do to reduce seedling loss.
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Old May 1, 2017   #54
tarpalsfan
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Hi,
Thank you, Ted for the reply.
.
I don't like to say it, but I can't use the tweezers on my little plants, as I would indeed decapitate them, I'd have to be able to see better to do that.
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I will try the water drops and saliva too. I have a squirt bottle, and can get an eyedropper at the pharmacy or vet.
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I too, in the past have left my seedlings to handle helmet head if it wasn't to bad.
.
best from tarpalsfan
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Old May 1, 2017   #55
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If you keep the helmets moist enough you can put the squeeze on them to pop them off.
If they are dry you risk decapitation.
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Old May 1, 2017   #56
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Also plant deeper. I aim for 1/2".
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