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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 24, 2018   #1
menken
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Default Can I put tiny seedlings under a grow light?

Hello,

This is my first year growing veggies from seed. I started a variety of tomato seeds this past Monday, 2/19 and it is now 2/24, five days later. Almost all of my tomato seeds have come up and are already an inch or so tall. I have them in front of a south facing window with heat mats. We had a couple of really warm days this week which I think kick-started them - it got to 79 degrees (26C) in the house on Wednesday.

I also planted some peppers and eggplants in the same tray and some of those seeds have started germinating too, but no leaves popped out yet.

Should I go ahead and put them under the grow light now? Is there any need to wait?

Thanks for your help!
Katie
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Old February 24, 2018   #2
Worth1
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They should be under good strong lights BEFORE they sprout.
So yes you can and should.
Worth
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Old February 24, 2018   #3
encore
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they probably won't need the heat mats anymore and keep the lights as low to plants as possible, and maybe a fan blowing on they from time to time, to keep them from getting leggy.
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Old February 24, 2018   #4
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Yes, as close as possible asap. 1-2inches. I use various cuts of scrap wood to
raise up the trays rather than fiddle with the light chains so much. Books and
magazines work also. (I have about 30 trays at various stages of growth so much
easier to deal with individual trays by 'blocking' with wood)

I keep a small fan running on low 24-7.

Be careful of overwatering. Get used to the weight of the tray once they are
established, second set of true leaves, and let the tray dry out a bit. Bottom
water but do not leave the tray in standing water....just let it soak up what it
needs to feel full. Too wet and your roots will not have a reason to search for
water.
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Old February 24, 2018   #5
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Thank you so much for the advice! As soon as I hit reply I will be moving them under the light sans heat mat!
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Old February 24, 2018   #6
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Yes, the heat mat is just to get seeds to germinate, it is not for the seedlings.

The fan supposedly makes the stems stronger, it does not prevent legginess. Legginess happens when they don't get enough light and they get tall and leggy reaching for light.

I don't use a fan myself.
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Old February 24, 2018   #7
encore
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pretty much what i meant, lights as low to plants as possible, and fan softly blowing on them periodically, will promote stockier less leggy plants. is that better?
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Old February 24, 2018   #8
rhines81
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Worth1 View Post
They should be under good strong lights BEFORE they sprout.
So yes you can and should.
Worth
If you have a whole tray of sowed seeds that cannot be separated and 1 or 2 sprout in that tray, OK. Otherwise that is just a waste of electricity, they don't need (and don't benefit from) light until they actually break the surface.

Heat, yes... sowed seeds should be kept between 70-90F, the lower the temperature within the range will usually just result in a longer wait for the seed to germinate. If seeds are in the living space of your house, you will generally not need a heating pad, but you might wait a few more days for the seed to sprout. Peppers are more picky, but still fall within that range - a heating pad will help to get them up and growing within a week, otherwise it might take 2-4 weeks at room temperature to get them germinated.

Once the plant sprouts, tomato or pepper, they need light and a minimum temperature of 60F, higher the better or they will develop slowly. Again if you are growing in your living space, additional heat will not be necessary, but they will need good strong light for at least 8 hours a day (12-16 hrs is much better). The closer the source of light the better because it keeps them from 'reaching' for it. Light source 2 inches away is great. If all you have is a sunny window, they will get leggy, but otherwise that will work too.

People worry too much... if you don't have heat pads, but you are working within your living space (68-72F), just start a week (or two) earlier.
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Old February 24, 2018   #9
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Ok thank you to all of you - I am sort of figuring it out as I go along and you all are helping so much.

I am indeed starting them in my home, and really did not anticipate how quickly they would germinate and grow so I am a little unprepared! Even my eggplants and peppers have started germinating in only five days. I have them under the grow light now and hopefully that will prevent them from getting too leggy. If they are a bit leggy, I am assuming I can plant them a little deep (planning on transplanting to solo cups or similar when the have some true leaves) to help offset that. ahhh! who knew tiny seedlings could be so stressful!
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Old February 24, 2018   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by menken View Post
Ok thank you to all of you - I am sort of figuring it out as I go along and you all are helping so much.

I am indeed starting them in my home, and really did not anticipate how quickly they would germinate and grow so I am a little unprepared! Even my eggplants and peppers have started germinating in only five days. I have them under the grow light now and hopefully that will prevent them from getting too leggy. If they are a bit leggy, I am assuming I can plant them a little deep (planning on transplanting to solo cups or similar when the have some true leaves) to help offset that. ahhh! who knew tiny seedlings could be so stressful!
Yes, bury the stem (even lop off some of the bottom leaves and bury deeper if needed) when potting them up, that will take care of the leggy-ness. Your grow lights should keep them from becoming leggy. Don't stress it.... and if they get too tall, you can even take some scissors or pruning tool and lop off a few inches off the top and they will still grow just fine. Don't stress.
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Old February 24, 2018   #11
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>> and if they get too tall, you can even take some scissors or pruning tool and lop off a
>> few inches off the top and they will still grow just fine.

Really?
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Old February 24, 2018   #12
rhines81
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Originally Posted by Soilsniffer View Post
>> and if they get too tall, you can even take some scissors or pruning tool and lop off a
>> few inches off the top and they will still grow just fine.

Really?
Absolutely
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Old February 24, 2018   #13
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I wouldn't advise to top a tomato seedling. You would be stuck with no leader just side branches and waiting for them to grow out. Usually seven sets of leaves before the first flowering node, sometimes up to ten depending on the variety. If you top it before it gets to the first flower zone, it will have to grow out a side shoot to the point where that shoot has seven (or .. up to ten) leaves before you will get any flowers or fruit on it.
Sure you can bonsai a tomato plant and it will still grow, but you can get a much better stronger shape using the natural leader (first stem).

Just don't worry too much - legginess is not a fatal condition requiring surgery, and seriously, if they're under a light it won't be a problem. You're in Virginia and the weather is nice, you can plant them out before they get too leggy. My seedlings get leggy when they're overcrowded and should have been spread out in the daylight with lots of room, but it was too cold to put them out.
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Old February 24, 2018   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by menken View Post
Thank you so much for the advice! As soon as I hit reply I will be moving them under the light sans heat mat!


Just curious what you're using for lights since you said "grow light" in your first post. The advice to keep the lights down close to the plants applies only to standard household fluorescent and LED lights. If you're using actual grow lights you need to keep the lights higher to avoid frying your plants.

And while people do successfully "top" peppers, I agree with Bower that you should avoid doing so with tomatoes.
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Old February 25, 2018   #15
rhines81
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bower View Post
I wouldn't advise to top a tomato seedling. You would be stuck with no leader just side branches and waiting for them to grow out. Usually seven sets of leaves before the first flowering node, sometimes up to ten depending on the variety. If you top it before it gets to the first flower zone, it will have to grow out a side shoot to the point where that shoot has seven (or .. up to ten) leaves before you will get any flowers or fruit on it.
Sure you can bonsai a tomato plant and it will still grow, but you can get a much better stronger shape using the natural leader (first stem).

Just don't worry too much - legginess is not a fatal condition requiring surgery, and seriously, if they're under a light it won't be a problem. You're in Virginia and the weather is nice, you can plant them out before they get too leggy. My seedlings get leggy when they're overcrowded and should have been spread out in the daylight with lots of room, but it was too cold to put them out.
I should have been more specific, thanks for the clarification. I was thinking more of the late stage growth.
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