Starting seeds

I have had (in the past) excellent tomatoes from seed. However, my timing isn’t very good and I need help with it please. I can plant my seeding the first week in May. When is the best time to start my tomatoes and cukes? I’ll put my melon seeds right into the ground. My tomatoes were quite leggy until they got into the soil, is there any way to avoid the ‘legginess’? I only have southern exposure windows to work with. By the way, I have been using the combo of Osocote Plus and the Dyna-Gro fertilizers on my citrus and they have never been happier. Just a bit of leaf loss and thats it. Will be making key lime tarts this week! Oh yum. Thanks for the help on the seeds.

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I go by 4-6 weeks before you wish to plant out.

How tall are your tomato plants when you set them outdoors to harden off?

If your tomato plants become leggy, you know they will grow roots on the stem, so you can bury stem, even bend it sideways and cover it. Leave about 6 inches. The rest can be buried down deep, or sideways.

Drew that is very interesting. I will try that! Thanks

I think they need more light to grow thicker. I had extremely leggy tomatoes in past years, then added a grow light last year. It made them much better, but still on the thin side, so that didn’t completely solve it. It made a big difference though. Previously, I’d just used South facing windows.

Figured that had to be it. Just trying to keep my gardening costs down. LOL! Looks like a trip to Home Depot is in order. I noticed last week that all of the bags of potting soil and seeds are in. I am getting my seed from Italian Tool and Seed Co., Baker, Territorial and Cooks Garden. Should be good. I buy my seed potatoes locally. Unless you all have a better suggestion.

The compact fluorescent grow lights are low cost and may be all you need for those maters for supplemental lighting. Position the lighting as close to the seedlings as you can in order to reduce the amount of stretching toward the light that they can do. I always plant ours at least up to the first set of leaves. Sometimes I even remove those to plant them deeper. I believe deep roots give ours a better chance of surviving longer with our summer heat and lack of rain.

I always keep a fluorescent light right on top of the plants and a small fan close by to simulate wind. If you make them reach for the light they become leggy. If you harden them off with the fan they wont need to harden off when they go outside. The soil will dry out faster.

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If you are trying to keep costs down, buying small plants is probably cheaper :slight_smile: It just means you have less choice about what you plant, which isn’t a factor to me, as I plant them for my wife who wants me to cook with them (Big Beef works great and is very productive). I may do that this year for tomatoes- they are less than $1 each for the small ones and I don’t plant more than about 10. The cheap small ones are way better than I used to grow, and are probably similar to what I grow now with the light.

Now potatoes are another story, as they are for me :wink: . I ordered a bunch of interesting varities from Main Potato Lady last year and there are a few I really liked. #1 was Magic Molly, a purple fleshed potato with a rich nutty flavor. My #2 was All Blue, which as you can imagine, is All Blue (inside and out, though there is a bit of white mixed on the inside). Pic here

The most interesting one from a horticultural standpoint (as opposed to culinary) was Papa Cacho, a Peruvian landrace variety. They grow very strongly and seem resistant to anything nature throws at them. Mine grew 3’+ high, then were knocked over by a heavy rain storm, at which point they started growing up another couple feet. They lasted for a very long time, and I got quite a bit of production out of them. I dug 16 pounds of them in September (and probably 2-3 pounds earlier in the year), from just a 7-8’ row. They make crazy shapes and look almost like a sweet potato. The one problem- taste. I eat most of my potatoes baked and they tend to be dry, starchy, and plain that way. I finally hit on a way to use them, where they are pretty good- potato pancakes (shred potatoes, mix with eggs and fry on pan). Pic here

Now, if you want to keep spending down, Stop and Shop organic golden potatoes are pretty good. And you can plant quite a few from a 5 pound bag. Another option would be to get fingerlings at a place like Whole Foods or another specialty grocer. French Fingerlings are pretty good. I also had a purple potato called Fiesta which were very good (I only saw them once :cry:). Recently, I got some very good ones called Crimson Goldfinger (from Cinacia Organics, which also sells French Fingerlings, and Russian Banana). CG are very tasty, with dark yellow flesh, but most of them are very small. I may save and grow a few of the small ones, to see if I can size them up better.

I also saved a lot of potato seeds (not seed potatoes- they all got eaten) from Magic Molly and All Blue. I’m going to try to grow out a bunch of seedlings. I’ve never done this before, so I’m not sure how it will play out, but it’s worth a try to see what I can get. I’ll probably start the seedlings indoors, maybe sometime in the next month or so.


Bob This is Fantastic. Thank you so much. I’ll go to every site you mentioned.:heart_eyes:

I usually start tomatoes 8 weeks from May15 which is our latest frost date.

Copied that! I’ll start my tomatoes around March 15 since we’re in the same climate…

Thanks to IL847

Thanks all. My tomatoes will be in the ground by May 15th; by the first of May so I start my seed two weeks earlier than you do. Gotcha. thanks guys!

MrsG, I grow my tomatoes in the basement under the luminescent lamp. It serves as a regular light source most of the time, but during the growing season I put it lower to the table. I sow my peppers about 10 weeks before planting outside and tomatoes about 8 weeks. Tomatoes become leggy when they grow too fast, the main factor is high temperature. The best temperature for tomatoes is about 60 degrees, this is why I grow them in the cool basement. On the south facing window it gets too hot on a sunny day. The light is actually less important, the regular luminescent lamp will be fine if it is positioned close to the plants. Next important thing is to water them less often. In the cool basement I do it about once a week. I think tomatoes will grow fine outside in a cold frame if sown in the beginning of April, I may try to grow them this way just out of curiosity. I believe that many small 1$ tomatoes a sown in the beginning of April in a simple tunnel or frame, this is why they are so cheap.
As for cucumbers, I sow them in the beginning of May in pots. When they open their baby leaves I bring them outside. At this stage all cucumbits are quite resistant to the sun and do not get burned. After a couple of days they are ready to be planted on their permanent place if the weather is warm enough.

Antmary, all of your direction is so re-assuring. I get it. I have never grown anything in my basement as it is not heated except for the fact that the hot water heater is down there along with the huge oil tank and a well that is covered with cement. My house is so old the only thing my basement is good for is mold and doesn’t get above 52 degrees. Perfect for wine. Can I grow in these conditions? 8 Weeks seems to be the number of weeks I should start my seeds. I will follow your direction, as your garden is a marvel. Thanks so much! Mrs. G

That’s interesting. Maybe having a fan helps in 4 ways then:
1- Keeps the warm sunny window cooler
2- Helps hardening them off (per Clark)
3- Helps keep them dryer (per Clark, which also feeds into your “water them less often”)
4- Simulates the wind so that it forces the plant to put more resources into building structural support (ie thickening). This is the reason which my brother (who is much more serious than me about starting a garden by seed- he dedicated a room in his house to it…) gave me.

Even if only a few of them are right, it seems like something I should try :smile:

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The fan does make them stocky plants. A timer is a good addition as well so you are running things only at the time you want to.

I usually sprout tomatoes and peppers on the heat mat in the sunroom. But room temperature will be fine. When sprouted tomatoes should immediately removed from the heat mat or they get very leggy. Peppers will benefit from sitting on a heat mat for a week or so after sprouting. I hold tomatoes at room temperature until they show the first true leaves and then they go into the basement.
Last year I used pro-mix organic soil and I liked the results very much. The plants, especially peppers, which are very finicky, looked very good. Before that I used miracle grow mix and I needed to apply soluble fertilizers to keep them going.
My basement is unfinished and it gets 50-60degrees in winter. I would replace luminescent bulbs if they are older then two years old just in case. I’ve read that tomatoes grow twice as fast when using special grow lights, so they should be planted later if you are planning to use the specialized lights. I water from the bottom of the tray about once a week. I keep the milk jar filled with water for several days before I use the water, to let chlorine to disseminate. Waterlogged plants will stop growing and may rot, so watering should be very moderate. Other plants (eggplants, peppers, onions, herbs etc.) in general receive the same treatment as tomatoes. All cold hardy plants go into the low tunnel as soon as possible. If the weather is warm, tomatoes also go into the low tunnel after some hardening outside. Last year a volunteer tomato grew under the low tunnel with lettuce and the other greens. It went through the frosts and cold weather and it looked really good in the beginning of the May with 2-3 pairs of the true leaves although it was smaller then my special ones. I gave it to my neighbor. Since it practically costs nothing to grow tomatoes this way, I’ll try to repeat it this year with the early tomatoes.
I’ll try to use fan for tomatoes, I think it is a good idea, especially a week or two before they go outside.

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