Success Starting Indoor Tomato Seedlings

About 8 weeks before the last frost-free day, I plant my Heirloom indeterminate tomato seeds. I save them from year to year and cannot possibly find room for all the varieties of seeds that I save. Fortunately, tomato seeds last for many years. I plant different varieties; those that I haven’t grown in years just so that I can refresh my seed catalog.

Depending on storage and variety, tomato seeds remain viable for 10 years or more!

I plant my indoor tomato seedlings in trays and use a three-tier stand with fluorescent lights. Using a timer, I give them 10 hours of light per day. If your set-up is in the basement, your furnace keeps them warm in the beginning, but when the warmer weather arrives and the furnace no longs needs to be on, use a heating pad or place a space heater next to the stand. For a non-electrical alternative; keep seedlings warm by placing them by a sunny window.

My seeds start off in one of two mediums. Sometimes I use a soil-less mixture that I purchase from a store, while other years I save my garden soil and over-winter it in a pail so that it can be used for my seedlings. Seeds seem to become familiar with the garden soil they have previously been grown in. Never save soil where tomatoes died of disease, like the dreaded blight.

After sowing the seeds in trays, label every cell. It only feels like you won’t forget what you planted in each cell, but after several weeks you will love yourself for labeling them.

Sprinkle very fine sand over the top of the planted seeds. I use fine dry sand that has been disinfected in 35% hydrogen peroxide with great results. Do not use bleach. Hydrogen peroxide occurs naturally in nature; it is naturally present in rain and using this naturally occurring disinfectant works great . This year, instead of my fine sand, I am used granite dust.

The reason for sprinkling sand over your sown seeds is two-fold.

Firstly; the sand inhibits damping off; a fungus infection that knocks seedlings over, rendering them dead. Sand fools the fungus into thinking that the top of the growing medium is dry. Fungus does not thrive in this dry environment.

Secondly; the sand introduces minerals that would otherwise not be incorporated. For example, the three usual macronutrients you find in most packaged fertilizers are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. While these chemical elements are important, they lack the micronutrients also known as trace minerals. There are articles written about the benefits of trace minerals and you can read ‘Bread from Stone’ to learn more details. You do want plants and fruit as strong as stone! Ingesting their fruit will make you as strong as stone!

Immediately after planting, the seeds need moisture and warmth. Don’t worry too much about light, keep them warm.

Once seedlings emerge they need light. Place a week fan nearby to introduce ‘wind’. The wind strengthens the seedlings and thickens the stem. Running the palm of your hand over the seedlings for several minutes a day produces the same results. If you are a gardener that smokes cigarettes, you must wash your hands because any nicotine deposits on your hands will harm your tomato seedlings the same way your mature plants are harmed by nicotine fingers.

After the seedlings have 3 or more ‘true’ leaves, you can transplant them into larger pots. Handle the seedling by their leaves whenever possible. A simple way to transplant them into larger pots is to add soil to the larger pot and shake the soil until the bulk of it lies on one side of the pot. In essence, you would be holding onto the pot sideways so the bottom of the pot hardly has soil. While the rooted seedling rests in the palms of your hand, slip the seedling to the bottom of the pot. Still holding the pot sideways, you need only add soil to the ‘upper’ half of the pot and you are done. Using a tall cup like this one lets you bury them as deep as you can, right up to the first set of ‘true’ leaves. Tomatoes will develop roots all along the buried portion of their stems. A hardy root system is a great step to a hardy plant.

If your tomatoes are growing too vigorously, stretching tall towards their light source, you should prune them – this is the hard part. Using scissors to snip off half the plant seems so contradictory to our ambitions! Rest assured, other articles online and my own experience, promise you that the plants will regrow, and confines them to stout, strong seedlings that fare well with new growth.

Introduce your seedlings to the outdoors when the days get warmer on a calm day without too much sunshine. A cloudy day minimizes stress caused by unfamiliar environmental elements. Each warm day, allow your seedling to adjust to the great outdoors, first for two hours, then four. Before you know it, they will be acclimatized and able to handle direct sunshine and a natural breeze without wilting. Be diligent, this stage is the most demanding because you must remember to  bring them back in on time!

Finally, planting outdoors and protecting your young plants. Coer De Boef

Plant your tomatoes deep. If you cannot dig a hole deep enough, then place the root ball sideways and direct the top upwards. You are developing more roots along their stems. Give them water and protection. You can protect your plants from hard wind and cold nights by using wire cages and placing blue or clear plastic bags over the entire cage creating your own singular greenhouse.

I hope the weather conditions help you to producing a fine harvest!  Homegrown never tasted so good!

Learn how easy it is to increase your garlic production HERE.

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