garden5
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Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

I have heard of people stripping off all the leaves except for the top two on their plants and planting the plant all the way up to these top leaves. Supposedly, this gives a deeper, stronger, root system.

Has anyone ever tried this, what were your results? Did you get fruit sooner because the plant got more nutrients, or did you get fruit later because the plant had to make up so much growth?

This is something I might try this year. Thanks for any reports.

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rainbowgardener
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Tomatoes definitely thrive by being planted deeper than they were in the pot. The reason is that the extra stem that is planted will put out roots all along the stem (you can see this later in the season the bottom of the stem will sometimes put out little root buds anyway, but in air they don't help and don't grow a lot). So it just gives the plant a way to absorb more water and nutrients with a better developed root system. I generally leave more than just a couple leaves, don't want to stress the plant too much and do want it to still be able to photosynthesize. But definitely plant a few inches of what was stem.

TZ -OH6
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Pinching off the bottom leaf or two is pretty much the standard way to plant tomatoes. This usually leaves two decent sized leaves and the top immature leaflet. Its mainly serves to reduce the water load of the newly transplanted plant which helps it recover faster since translpanting damages roots. It also helps to stabilize the plant by getting some of the stem into the soil.


The best size for transplanting tomatoes is around 6"-12" tall, so they are not really planted deep, and when set out at that size the adventitious stem roots do not develop very well. However, most starts are sold in very small containers/cell packs and may be over grown resulting in a tightly packed rootball which will not grow very well, so deep planting or trench planting to get a lot of the stem underground is necessary for good growth. Most of the roots will come from the stem rather than the original rootball with these plants.

If you grow your own seedlings in 3"-4.5" pots and plant them before they get too big the original roots take off into the garden soil.

At the end of the season when I pull my plants I never see a significant amount of roots growing out above the original rootball for plants that had loose root balls going into the garden. I see the opposite situation for plants that I start early and grow top a large size in small containers. If you do plan on starting early to get tall plants ready for the garden when frost danger is over shallow trench planting is better than deep planting because the deep soil is too cold for root growth, but if you have a late start and get leggy plants from the store in late spring deeper may be better because of soil moisture.

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@TZ-OH6:

Those are some really interesting observations you have. You even answered the question I had about planting the stem deep vertically, or shallow horizontally, before I even asked it.

Due to space restrictions, I will be starting my seedlings this year, in 72 cell 1020 inserts. Each cell is about 1.5 in. x 1.5 in. wide and about 2.5 in. deep. Do you think that this is tool small? I know that many gardeners here start their plants in much larger pots, but I just don't have the space for that. Hopefully this will work.

Last year, I started them in deli containers and, since they were not separated, they went into the ground at only about 2-3in. tall. Surprisingly enough, I did get a fair amount of fruit off them.

I suppose that, despite the smaller cells, the plants will be better this year since they will be separated from the start.

Thanks for your comments.

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I start mine in the little cells like that also, but once they have a pair or two of true leaves they go into the 3 inch pots. The cells are too small to permit much root growth, so your plants will stay very small and shallow rooted. When I transplant the little seedlings into the 3 inch pots, I bury them deeper than they were in the cells and when I move them into the ground, I bury them deeper again.

This thread https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=60396&highlight=seed+starting+operation#60396 has a couple pictures of my seed starting operation. (There were three but one got deleted when I reorganized some things on Photobucket.) It's 16 running feet of shelves/ lights, but it takes up a minimal footprint in my basement and its all materials that were cheap or recycled/free. I built it up a little bit at a time, starting with just the bottom shelf, so I never spent much $$ at once.

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I usually plant 40-50 different varieties, and to get my 2-3 plants per variety I usually dense plant five seeds per cell in 72 cell pack cells, and then once the first true leaves expand and crowd each other I separate the plants into 3" or larger cells/pots/drink cups/ deli containers. Dense planting saves on space under my lights (space equivalent to two shoplight fixtures sitting over a desk next to a window in a spare bedroom), and by the time I need to pot up it is usually warm enough to put the plants outside in the daytime for light (or I run the lights 24/7 and the seedlings go under the lights in two sets- 12 hours each). I keep my pots/seedlings in plastic sweater boxes and bus tubs so that I can water them and move them in and out easily.


I know people who start seedlings (to sell) under lights who dense plant 30-40 seeds per 3" cell and then separate them into individual pots, so my 5 seeds per little cell are spread out pretty well.


I do like to start a handfull of plants of early varieties such as Stupice and an early cherry in February (a month before the others) and pot them up into larger containers and grow them under the lights before I start my main set of plants (after that they suffer with window light with the house plants). They go into the ground when flowering or with some fruit started and this way I have a couple of plants providing fruit right away which tides me over while I watch the main season fruits ripen.

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rainbowgardener wrote:I start mine in the little cells like that also, but once they have a pair or two of true leaves they go into the 3 inch pots. The cells are too small to permit much root growth, so your plants will stay very small and shallow rooted. When I transplant the little seedlings into the 3 inch pots, I bury them deeper than they were in the cells and when I move them into the ground, I bury them deeper again.

This thread https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=60396&highlight=seed+starting+operation#60396 has a couple pictures of my seed starting operation. (There were three but one got deleted when I reorganized some things on Photobucket.) It's 16 running feet of shelves/ lights, but it takes up a minimal footprint in my basement and its all materials that were cheap or recycled/free. I built it up a little bit at a time, starting with just the bottom shelf, so I never spent much $$ at once.
Wow, that's a really nice set-up. I like how you utilized your space by going vertical. I have some questions for you.

How much electricity do the grow lights use? Are they simply regular fluorescent shop-lights? Do the grow lights have to be fluorescent lights or will any kind do?

Do you have the lights on during the day or at night? I'm assuming that you only have them on for about 12 to 15 hours daily.

Would plants do better in a basement with artificial lights than in front of a window or sliding door with natural light? This is the reason for my lack of space: I'm trying to keep everything in front of a window or door to get the natural light. I never even considered having the seedlings in a dark basement with only fluorescent bulbs for light. I felt that even on cloudy days, the plants would still get some light since the living quarters are always lit, as opposed to the basement, which is usually dim. I thought they would do terrible in a basement; it looks like I was wrong.

Thanks for giving me such a great idea. Although I might not be able to do it this season, a basement station is definitely something I will consider for next year if it will work. That would give the space I need to "pot up" my toms and other plants so they can achieve more growth and get a better head start.

If I can't swing a setup like yours this year, I will just try my luck with the little cells and see how the plants do.

One last thing, does Feb 1st. sound too early to start tomatoes? That is when I'm starting my peppers (which is literally a whole other thread). Since the toms will probably be kept in the small cells, they might not get overly large.

Thanks for answering all my questions, sorry for large quantity (eager to learn). I can see why you were made a moderator.

Happy starting.

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As far as lights go I own/use/ have used 250 and 400 watt HID lights, a 55 watt T-5 compact fluorescents X8 tube fixture, and regular T-8 and T-12 shoplight fixtures, mostly for growing orchids.

What I use for the tomatoes (at present) is not necessarily the very best, or cheapest way to go, just what I happened to rig up. It is more than I need to get good seedlings. It consists of three 115 watt compact flourescent bulbs, which are honking big curly tubes about a foot long ($20 each online) these are socketed into 300 watt brooder lamp reflectors available at Lowes/Home Depot. I tied the lights onto a board which sits on a box at one end and a coat rack at the other. I have foil covered sweaterbox lids (foil is 80%-88% white light reflective) propped up around the lights to create a light box. With these three lamps I can let taller plants grow up between the bulbs and as long as they don't touch the bulbs they won't burn. This is not needed for a flat of seedlings.


What I recommend for price and flexibility (this will bloom medium-high light compact orchids so is plenty bright enough for strong tomato seedlings):

Get two standard 4ft T-8 shoplight fixtures (2 tubes each = 4 x 32 watt tubes in all) with brand new 6,000-6300K daylight tubes (look for the color temperature-- 6,000K), "daylight" is meaningless in regard to the actual fluorescent spectrum. The 6000K color temperature produces more high energy blue "growth" light than lower energy 5000K daylight or 4000K (warm white) tubes, and they all cost the same, just a little more than "plant unfriendly" industrial cool white tubes. Keep the fixtures 3-8 inches above the seedlings, and twice a day run your hands over the seedlings to bend them and stimulate the stems to strengthen and thicken. You can put a fan on them but that uses electricity, causes high water loss from the plants and prevents you from enclosing the area in reflective material. The more white/foil reflective material you can get close to the plants the more light the plants get. It also helps keep dogs and cats away if you put the setup on the floor. Boxes work well to hold up each end of the shop lights if you don't want to rig up something to hang the lights from.


I flip the lights on when I get up in the morning and turn it off when I go to bed because I'm too lazy to dig out timers for 16:8h light dark cycle. Sometimes I forget and they get light all night. You could also turn the lights OFF when you leave for work, and ON when you get back, to help heat the house at night and to put less pressure on the system.

The 34 watt 4ft tubes will put out around 1,000 footcandles of light. Direct midday sunlight is well over 10,000 fc, which is why you won't even notice the lights are on if sunlight is shining through the window onto the plants. But you have to be careful if you want to take advantage of window light because it can easily heat up and fry the little plants and dry out the pots beyond recovery. Many hours of low intensity fluorescent light provides more energy to the plants per day than a few hours of intense window light. The seedlings can't use all of the intense light energy hitting them and once the sun passes the window the plants are in deep shade again. Plants too large for the shoplights (over 12 inches or so) are OK next to a sliding glass door until they can go out permanently.



If you want to get technical, the seeds germinate better if they are warm (75-85F), but the seedlings will be stockier and flower/fruit better/earlier if grown cold (55F-60F) for two weeks beginning when the first true leaves show. I don't bother with fine tuning things like this. My spare room is room temperature and if the plants don't like it, tough.


I start seedlings as follows:
--Fill cells/pots with potting mix, poke a pencil tip in to the paint line and drop seed into the hole, cover and press down on the soil a little. This depth helps pull the seed coat off as the sprout emerges.

--Sit pots/cells in pan of water until the soil is saturated and then put in a warmish place (either under my computer table or I turn the room temp up in the spare room a little, especially for peppers.)

--Seeds generally sprout 3-4 days later. The trays/pots go under lights as soon as the first sprout emerges. I do not cover the pots with anything to keep humidity high even though the house humidity is low that time of year.

--When dry, the pots weigh next to nothing and the soil pulls away from the side of the cell/pot, and usually just as something starts to wilt, the sweaterbox goes into the bathtub (or I just fill the bathtub a bit and put the pots in) to bottom water the seedlings until they are fully hydrated again -the surface of the soil looks wet again.


This is the easiest, laziest way I have found to safely water seedlings.


The biggest problem I have with seedlings has to do with nutrition. The amount of nutrients in the potting mix is variable (depends on brand) and I find myself looking at stunted plants for a while before I get a clue that they need fertilizer. The easiest thing to do (if the plants aren't growing fast) is to add 1/4 strength evil blue crystal fertilizer once when the seedlings are in the original cells and once or twice after they have been potted up.

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garden5 wrote:
How much electricity do the grow lights use? I don't really know Are they simply regular fluorescent shop-lights? Yes Do the grow lights have to be fluorescent lights Yes or will any kind do?

No incandescents give off too much heat. To be as close to the plants as they need to be, it would burn them up.

Do you have the lights on during the day or at night? I'm assuming that you only have them on for about 12 to 15 hours daily. 16 hrs a day, more or less from 6AM to 10PM

Would plants do better in a basement with artificial lights than in front of a window or sliding door with natural light?

Yes, 16 hrs a day of light directly on them. Right now where I am we are having 9.5 hrs of daylight, but the days are grey, cloudy, very little sunlight. My seedlings will do a lot better in the basement. Also it's 12 degrees out right now. To be close enough to the window to get much benefit of the weak daylight, they'd probably be very cold.

This is the reason for my lack of space: I'm trying to keep everything in front of a window or door to get the natural light. I never even considered having the seedlings in a dark basement with only fluorescent bulbs for light. I felt that even on cloudy days, the plants would still get some light since the living quarters are always lit, as opposed to the basement, which is usually dim. I thought they would do terrible in a basement; it looks like I was wrong.

Thanks for giving me such a great idea. Although I might not be able to do it this season, a basement station is definitely something I will consider for next year if it will work. That would give the space I need to "pot up" my toms and other plants so they can achieve more growth and get a better head start.

If I can't swing a setup like yours this year, I will just try my luck with the little cells and see how the plants do.

One last thing, does Feb 1st. sound too early to start tomatoes? That is when I'm starting my peppers (which is literally a whole other thread). Since the toms will probably be kept in the small cells, they might not get overly large.

A little bit too early. I start my tomatoes about Valentine's day, but as noted, I pot them up when they start to get crowded. I worry about yours in the cells getting too potbound and choking/starving.



Thanks for answering all my questions, YVW !! sorry for large quantity (eager to learn). I can see why you were made a moderator.

Happy starting.

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Thanks a lot, TZ-OH6 and Rainbowgardener for sharing your knowledge.

@ TZ-OH6: Thanks for the in-depth information on the grow lights; it's just what I was looking for. Also, your tip to plant the seedlings deeper to remove the hulls makes a lot of sense. Last year, several of my seedlings had their cotyledons pinned together at the tip by the seed hull.

Regarding the aluminum foil, do you surround the entire flat with it and have the light shining in through the top? I thought about using foil this year and that is how I would do it.

I have heard about bottom-watering before, but never fully understood it. I now see that all consists of is setting the plant containers in some water and letting the soil draw the water up through the holes in the bottom of the container. How long can the containers be in the water for? Since I am using 1020 trays with cells, couldn't I simply fill the trays with water whenever the soil looks dry? What are the advantages of bottom-watering over top watering? I'm concerned that if I used bad or the wrong kind of soil, it wold not draw properly. Is this possible?

Lastly, for those who, like me , would prefer to stay away from MG, couldn't the seedlings be fertilized with fish-emulsion instead. I'm not quite sure what this is, but I believe its organic.

@Rainbowgardener: Thanks for your reply and for warning me about "stunting" the plants by keeping them in small cells. I think I will follow your lead and plant them towards the end of Feb. if I won't be able to pot-up this year.

Thanks to both of you for your time and knowledge. I learn more from spending five min. in this forum than from reading a book for thirty. Don't get me wrong, though, books definitely have their place.

Respectfully,
Garden5

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garden5 wrote:
I have heard about bottom-watering before, but never fully understood it. I now see that all consists of is setting the plant containers in some water and letting the soil draw the water up through the holes in the bottom of the container. How long can the containers be in the water for? Since I am using 1020 trays with cells, couldn't I simply fill the trays with water whenever the soil looks dry? What are the advantages of bottom-watering over top watering? I'm concerned that if I used bad or the wrong kind of soil, it wold not draw properly. Is this possible?
Bottom watering prevents seeds or seedlings from being displaced by over zealous, yet well intentioned gardeners.

I like starting seeds in latticed 1020 flats with inserts (never had to pay for them, either, never throw them out) and the whole shebang set in a solid unperforated 1020 tray. when I filled the cells, I would leave one unfilled to add water and monitor the level.

I would add water via the unused cell until the cells floated a bit and then kept half an eye on the color of the mix at top of cell. When it went from light to dark, I know the flat was well watered. I would lift the latticed flats out and replace them with flat of 'dry' cells.


Oh, so long as you don't leave the cells in water for, like DAYS on end, you should not have too many problems. rember, we are looking for MOIST not SOGGY, right? :wink:
Same works for if/when you need to transplant up to 3 or 4 inch pots.

no, I wouldn't leave the cells in the water more than a few hours and I wouldn't keep them soaking continually.

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If you leave much water in the tray for long periods it can water log the soil and reduce oxygen levels, so I avoid directly bottom watering the pots in place. In the bathtub etc. I generally fill up the bottom tray/box nearly as deep as the pots are, that way I don't have to worry about the wicking ability of the mix. I remove the pots when the top wicks enough water to look wet. The dry pots/cell flat will float at first. I guess it takes 15-30 minutes depending on how deep the water is to start with., but I have spaced out and left pots soaking for several hours. Letting the water drain back out when you remove the pots from the water pulls air down into the pots.


I can't help you much with the organic fertilizer, I prefer to reduce my petroleum use in other ways, and using lights is definitely not organic growing in my opinion. I really don't know how suitable most organic fertilizers are for short term container growing. Many of the organic fertilizers must have soil microbes work on them before the nutrients are available to the plants (and potting mix is sterilized so it doesn't help), but there are organic liquid fertilizers made for hydroponics that must have the nutrients reduced enough to be immediately available to the plants.


For the foil, I generally just crimp or tape it onto a hard backing such as cardboard or my sweater box lids, and then lean those up along the sides of the lights/pots on four sides. I don't have anything over top of the lights. The shoplights usually have their own little white reflectors, and you need open space here and there to draw fresh air in and up, the convection is driven by the warmth of the lights.

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Fantastic stuff here TZ; thanks for all the efforts...

As for the organis ferts, TZ is correct; if you are just using organic fertilizer without some soil biology to work it over, results will generally be less than sought after. But there are some exceptions; fish is a readily plant soluable form of nitrogen, so liquid fish products would work well here (the potential smell means small amounts on a regular basis would be best). Using vermicompost (homemade or storebought) adds fertilizer values AND biology; two for the price of one and it makes a very nice topdress for seedlings. Nature abbhors a vaccuum and the biology will show up sooner or later; a watering with compost tea will make sure of it...

HG
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garden5 wrote: I have heard about bottom-watering before, but never fully understood it. I now see that all consists of is setting the plant containers in some water and letting the soil draw the water up through the holes in the bottom of the container. How long can the containers be in the water for? Since I am using 1020 trays with cells, couldn't I simply fill the trays with water whenever the soil looks dry? What are the advantages of bottom-watering over top watering? I'm concerned that if I used bad or the wrong kind of soil, it wold not draw properly. Is this possible?

Any decent potting soil will draw the water up. But the number one killer of little seedlings is over-watering, staying too wet, leading to damping off, a killer fungus. I grow mine in the cells or pots in trays. I add like 1/4" or so of water in the bottom of the tray, just enough to reach the bottom of the soil so it can be soaked up. DON'T fill it -- way too much water and it's a pain to have to lift all the plants out and empty the tray. Putting just the little bit in, I just leave it and let it soak up. I usually do that every AM as long as the tray has totally dried out in between and the soil is starting to dry on top a little. If not, I skip a day. Bottom watering is much safer for baby seedlings, less tendency to over water and less chance of washing soil away from the tiny roots. [/i]

Lastly, for those who, like me , would prefer to stay away from MG, couldn't the seedlings be fertilized with fish-emulsion instead. I'm not quite sure what this is, but I believe its organic.

Fish emulsion is an organic product, fish hydrolysate, high nitrogen and readily soluble and accessible to plants. However, I gave up on using it because I have indoor cats and outdoor cats, raccoons, and other creatures. The fish emulsion drives them wild and they dig up all the plants trying to get to the fish! You can use bone meal, blood meal, kelp extract and other organics.


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Thanks TZ, and MysticGardener67 for the great information on bottom watering. TZ, I believe you said that it is time to water when the soil starts to pull away from the sides of the pot and the top is extremely dry to the touch. I know that the answer to this next question probably varies, but how often do you do your bottom watering routine?

Thanks to MysticGardener67 for warning me about soaking my cells continually, that's the kind of thing that I probably would have done.


Lastly, to The Helpful Gardener, thanks for the idea of watering occasionally with compost tea. I am familiar with the concept, but I'll have to do a little more thorough research on the specifics of it. I have heard many great things about the effects of compost tea.

Thanks, everyone, for the great advice and ideas.

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[quote="garden5"]Thanks TZ, and MysticGardener67 for the great information on bottom watering. TZ, I believe you said that it is time to water when the soil starts to pull away from the sides of the pot and the top is extremely dry to the touch. I know that the answer to this next question probably varies, but how often do you do your bottom watering routine?

Apparently I was just publishing mine while you were writing yours. Everyone has their own ways of doing things. Personally when dealing with baby seedlings, I would not wait until soil is pulling away from the sides. That works for established plants, but the tiny babies are very sensitive. They do want to stay damp (but not wet) all the time. As noted above, I generally add a very small amount of water every morning, as long as they are soaking it up thoroughly and no water is remaining in the tray.

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rainbowgardener, that is exactly what happened. After I made the post and saw that it went through, I logged off without actually checking the thread.

Amazingly, you answered my question before I had even published it!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I would want to keep the plants under the grow lights until probably a week or so before I plant them outside, wouldn't I?

On the subject of the growing medium used, could I use some of my compost instead of potting soil? The compost is young and mostly dirt, but it does have some organic matter in it. I have heard about people starting their seeds in compost with very good results and I'd like to give it a try.

That is why I asked about the drawing properties of soil. Since my compost is mostly dirt, do you think it will still draw if bottom watered? If I use it for my seedlings, I will screen it, somehow, to eliminate the rocks and twigs. This will also make it finer which, I think, will be better for the seedling's roots. What do you think.

Lastly, since I seem to have taken this thread way off-topic, should I start a new one for my seed-starting questions, or would you rather I not clutter-up the forum and, in the future, simply think before I post to make sure I stay with the thread topic.

Thanks for your help and sorry for going off-topic.

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G5, check out the [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=17097]Compost Tea thread[/url] to get a LOT more really good advice (I am happy to say we even have some nationally ranked folks weighing in there now). Just know it is supplementing the natural nitrogen cycle, and Nature does a pretty good job of starting seeds, growing them, and disposing of the remains safely and with an eye to repeating the process again and again. Can't get that in a bottle...

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My typing fingers are lazy today so here are some links for ya! :wink:
Threads where I discussed using compost in seed starting mix:
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=63285#63285
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=62215#62215
(Re: soil blocks -- Despite my raves, I stopped making/using them when I realized that you need at least twice as much volume in soil mix because you need to pack them in to hold the soil block shape and I just couldn't keep up with mixing up batch after batch. I switched to newspaper pots.)

My last year's thread on a no-window, unheated garage Grow Light Area:
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=60193#60193

Overall, I prefer individual pots of some kind rather than trays because it's easier to arrange/adjust by height so that the tops are even under the lights.

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Thanks for the great resources, HG and Applestar. They will occupy me for a while.

Applestar, I really look forward to reading about your starting seeds in and unheated garage.

HG, thanks for the compost tea thread. I was about to do a forum search for it, but you saved me the trouble.

Oh, and by the way; Applestar, is that a German red strawberry tomato as your avatar. I seem to remember you saying what it was last fall, but I can't recall the variety.

Thanks, again, everyone.

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You are very welcome, garden5. Looking forward to hearing about your progress, too. :wink:

My avatar is a Pricipe Borghese -- Italian, I believe. A sun-drying variety, though it also makes good sauce. Very productive, and a good keeper (had the last of the picked-green-turned-red-indoors ones just last week :() ... and I STILL have the dehydrated ones, frozen ones, and sauced-and-canned ones :() :() ).
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=89200#89200

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Applestar, I read your threads, really good material, especially the threads about the compost seed starting mix and the garage starting area.

I have a question regarding the seedlings positions under the grow lights. Do the plants have to be directly under the lights, or can they be slightly off to the side?

Say I have a 1020 tray, can I have the tray perpendicularly located under the light, so it looks like a + sign, or do the trays have to be run lengthwise under the lights, so that the long sides of the trays are parallel under the long ends of the lights?

The first way would allow me to have more trays per light, but the end plants might be somewhat far out from the lights. If I go with the second way, I will only be able to get half as many trays under the lights, but the edge seedlings will be closer to the lights.


I'm sorry if this is confusing. Basically, should the trays be arranged side-by side or end-to-end under a single row of shoplights?

Thanks for the opinions.

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Having very quickly used up all available space directly under the lights (despite my mantra) :roll:, I draped long aluminum foil sheets over the light hood (and over the seedlings that stuck too far out) and the reflective sun-shield and the mirror on the wall for the sides, AND recycled aluminum or white plastic take-out trays as bottom trays and lined the table and the height adjusting cardboard boxes with aluminum foil for the bottom. That Grow Light Area was SO covered up that not much light ESCAPED to illuminate the garage :lol:

Also, I think the trick is to keep shuffling them around. Not so easy with a full-size tray (again, I prefer individual pots or small community pots/trays) but maybe keep a section for a tray to be FULLY under the lights and rotate in. Remember, too, that the center of the tubes is brighter than the ends.

garden5
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applestar wrote:Having very quickly used up all available space directly under the lights (despite my mantra) :roll:, I draped long aluminum foil sheets over the light hood (and over the seedlings that stuck too far out) and the reflective sun-shield and the mirror on the wall for the sides, AND recycled aluminum or white plastic take-out trays as bottom trays and lined the table and the height adjusting cardboard boxes with aluminum foil for the bottom. That Grow Light Area was SO covered up that not much light ESCAPED to illuminate the garage :lol:

Also, I think the trick is to keep shuffling them around. Not so easy with a full-size tray (again, I prefer individual pots or small community pots/trays) but maybe keep a section for a tray to be FULLY under the lights and rotate in. Remember, too, that the center of the tubes is brighter than the ends.
Thanks for tip about the middle of the tubes being brighter than the ends.

I looked at some t8 lights and light bulbs, they were really inexpensive.

I think you have it right with the plant positioning: rotate to keep it balanced. Makes perfect sense.

Are there some plants that need grow lights more than others?

Thanks for all your advice. I've learned way more about grow lights than I anticipated.

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I don't usually let my seedlings get so dried out that the potting mix pulls away from the sides. Experience will help you gauge when and how often to water which is dependent on the size of the container, the heat, lighting and size of the plant. I bottom water using a tray that has a small amount of fertilizer once the seedling have several sets of leaves. I use PHC seedling fertilizer and the seedlings do very well. Once transplanted to larger containers, I dilute the fertilizer I will give them during the season.

As for lights and places to grow your plants, it really is about your budget and the space available. I have an unheated room (next to a heated room) and it stays around 65 degrees. I have one set up that I bought heavily clearanced ( 2 shelves with 24" space from lights to shelf) and then made my own adjustable 5 - shelf setup from metal shelving purchased (on sale) at HD. I use 32 watt T-8 6500K (daylight) bulbs in 2-shop lights for each shelf and buy those at HD or Lowe's. My shelves are all 4 foot by 18 inches so I can accomodate a lot of seedlings/plants.

As to positioning the lights, they should be no more than 2-4 inches above the plants. I usually use the 2" distance and adjust the plants according to height- meaning that when one variety gets much taller, I stack blocks of wood under the shorter ones so that they are all about equal distance from the light. I also have the lights on a timer and run them for 16 hours from 6 am-10 pm. Plants need those 8 hours of darkness to make use of the light and nutrients they took in during the day.

I use the lights until they go out to my small unheated green house in late April/early May. Just a few weeks of that sun and heat performs wonders and helps in the process of hardening the plants.

It isn't at all complicated to grow seedlings. It's caring for them and keeping them healthy until planting out. When we try a new type of plant, it might test us just a bit. (The onion family is new to me this year and I've been looking/asking for good info on starting from seed, when to up pot and when to put them in the ground. It all sounds so complicated but I expect it will be just fine.)

I think it is great that you are asking so many questions because, in the end, it will help you become more successful with your gardening. When I think of the first 3 tomato plants I grew and felt so proud of, I am reminded what it feels like to new to veggie gardening.

wordwiz
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For those of you whose space and lighting is at a premium, take a look at Oasis Horticubes. 104 cells fit in a standard 1020 tray and they will support plants that get 10-12" tall. I can grow more than 1750 plants in 32 sq. ft. The negs: they are more expensive than nursery flats but not much after considering potting mix, needing fewer trays, etc., and they need watered daily. I keep mine in water - that doesn't hurt them.

Mike

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A good way to learn about watering is to observe critical conditions (let some plants wilt under observation [rather than neglect]). Check them twice a day (lift up the pots to feel the weight) until some start to wilt. If you are worried about wasting seeds save some junk seeds from a grocerystore tomato and plant them the way you plan on planting your good seeds. Let them go for several days to see how fast the soil dries, and how long it takes before they start to wilt. Learn to water in that relatively long period (few days) between "these pots are heavy with moisture", and "these plants are wilted".

My main point on watering is that when growing under fluorescent lights you don't have to be so scared of keeping the plants/potting mix noticably moist/wet. That can lead to overwatering problems like damping off. Roots are really good at pulling water out of soil particles, and the less water they have the more the roots are encouraged to grow ...to a certain dryness point.


It is a lot safer to start plants under flourescent lights than with window light because you never know day to day how hot the plants/pots will get and they can get cooked and over dried when you are not looking...I just did that to some houseplants when the outside temp was less than 20F. They would be goners as seedlings. I have cooked some germinating peppers in that window in previous years thinking that it was a good way to keep them warmer.

We have warm springs here with intermittant frosts so I usually begin moving my seeding outside starting a few days after they are potted up (true leaf stage) so that I can use the space under the lights for starting more seeds. On warm days (highs in the 60s) the flats go along the east side of the house... protected from wind, and can get a half day of sun. They only go out into the open yard full sun if I'm there to move them to safety because we have variables winds that increase at certain times of the day and either beat up the plnats or pull water out of the pots, quickly wilting them.

On cold/rainy days (and at night) the plants go inside on the floor under the dining room table etc in fairly low light. Its not the best way, but even with 2-3 days in near darkeness they still do OK.

I blame a lot of the anxiety about sprouts/seedlings to those mini green house covers they sell with peat pellets... They make it seem like the sprouts are much more delicate than they really are. I totally understand though as I am a reformed ovewaterer/plant babyer.

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rainbowgardener
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Indeed, way more little seedlings have been killed with too much water/ humidity than too little. I learned the hard way to be very sparing of water for them. Only bottom water and only a little.
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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

garden5 wrote:I have heard of people stripping off all the leaves except for the top two on their plants and planting the plant all the way up to these top leaves. Supposedly, this gives a deeper, stronger, root system.

Has anyone ever tried this, what were your results? Did you get fruit sooner because the plant got more nutrients, or did you get fruit later because the plant had to make up so much growth?

This is something I might try this year. Thanks for any reports.
+++Deeper planting seems to work better when the ground is warmer. If its done too early the plant will be slower! I prefermaking the hole deeper with a pipe but only planting the roots down 6 inches with the hole elow going down much deeper so when the plant is ready it can extend its roots without having to push through hard soil! I have heard of plants from sothern states being sent out with only the top leaves and a foot of stem. I would usually lay the stem down parellel to the surface 3 inches deep. but since I started making the hole below the tomatoes deeper I had better over all results!
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I actually plant maters with a post hole digger; no foolin...

I do strip them down to just a few leaves, and plant a 16" tall seedling with about four inches or so exposed (Two sets of leaves).

I have found this to give me deep strong root systems that even out the sometimes spotty watering my maters get (life of a salesman). It serves them well in hot droughty weather (last year was a great example). And my maters are usually taller than most in the neighborhood, so I lose nothing there.

In short, I wouldn't do it any other way...

HG
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Putting all my tomatoes in this week with my deep funnel shapped holes using a 1 inch steel rod or shovel handle. I usually make it a foot down and move it in a large circle so that the top of the hole is like the top of a funnel. I feel the top of the hole with some good soil and my tomato is planted about a foot deep. It seems that the one inch hole below the tomato holds water and stays wet for a long time with my type of soil! It is so easy and fast that I can plant 20 tomatoes in 15 minutes! The top of the hole is about 4 inches in diameter! Try it you will never do it any other way once you master it for even other plants like peppers!
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i wasn't able to watch the local PBS "Garden Line" a couple of weeks ago (hosted by SDSU horticulturists). DVR'd it and watched it last night. one of the hosts showed what to do if your tomato plants happen to get a little "leggy" before you are able to plant them in the ground. she actually put the tomato plant in a horizontal position in the ground (maybe couple inches deep) and gently bent the area so to expose that part above ground. not sure if there would be any benefits to that, then say "burying" it straight into the ground and leaving top exposed.

just thot i'd pass that along.

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If you bend a tomato over and touch any part to the ground it will grow roots there! You can take the top and bury it and have to ends of the tomato growing roots! Tomatoes are something!
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Bobberman
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Hanging tomato new twist!

How about lets take a hanging tomato and hang it so it touches the ground. Now lets burr the part that reaches the grounf. I would think that it would grow very nicely with two sorces of food! What do you think? Has anyone tried this?
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Garden5,
I didn't have the time or patiences to read 33 replies to your guestion.
The best I can tell you is we'll see this fall.
I have two Jetstars that have not been planted yet.
Both started from seed at the same time.
Both are the same hight.
I will plant one with the roots a few inches below the surface and I will plant the other one with the roots a foot deep.
I'll get bact to you this fall with the results.
If a disease doesn't kill them and a bug doesn't eat them there may be something left for you.
Zone 47 Sector C

garden5
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Thanks Johnny!

I wanted to do this myself last year and this, but the plants were so small that the difference between deep and not deep was only about 2 in. :lol:.

Looking forward to the results.
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SPierce
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Just going to pop in quickly, as I went the "deep planting" route this year!

Does anyone else notice that deep planted tomato plants tend to grow out horizontally and get wider, instead of taller? I have several plants where I planted them regularly (with some of the stem above around) that are growing really tell and need support- but the ones i planted deep, up to almost the first set of leaves, are way ahead of the ones that are taller- more tomatoes and everything!

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I generally bury my transplants about 2/3 of the way down depending on variety, give it a try this season on a plant or two and see how it works. Good luck

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Gary350
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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

Tomato plants have the ablilty to grow roots any place soil touches the stem. You don't need to strip off the bottom leaves it just makes them easier to plant with no leaves. Now you dig a hole deep enough to get the whole stem covered in soil.

Another cool trick to make tomatoes grow fast and produce lots of large tomatoes is dig a 10" flower pot size hole about 4" too deep. Throw a small hand full of 15/15/15 fertilizer, egg shells and some lime pellets in the hole. Pour 1/2 a gallon of water in the hole then come back in about 15 minutes after the water has gone down. Put about 4" of soil in the hole then plant the tomatoes deep with leaves removed soil touching the whole stem.

Water the plants a little bit every day in 2 weeks they will suddenly take off growing super fast. You don't need to water them anymore. They will grow about 1" per day, as the plants get larger they will grow faster.

I get several bushel baskets of tomatoes from 18 plants enough to CAN 100 pints and 20 quarts of tomatoes in mason jars the first 2 weeks tomatoes are ripe.

You can stop cut worms by sprinkling corn meal around the stems of your tomato plants. If it rains or the corn meal gets hard replace it with new corn meal. Cut worms will eat the corn meal not the tomato plant. After tomato plant hardens off about 2 weeks corn meal is no longer needed.

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ElizabethB
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Re: Planting tomato plants deep: does it work?

I kind of got lost in the replies to your question. Kind of got off tract. Back to your question about deep planting tomatoes that is a big yes. Bury 2/3 of your start either vertically or horizontally. I only plant indeterminate tomatoes because I have a limited amount of space and grow them vertically. Friday G came home with 2 tomato plants one better boy and one big boy. From the bottom of the pot to the top of the plant they were 12" tall. After planting only 3" of the plants were above the soil line. I grow my tomatoes vertically so a deep root system is important.

Yes plant deep.

Good luck
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When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

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