tedln
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Why up pot tomato seedlings?

I bought some hybrid seedlings in the six cell, cell packs about ten days ago. The cells are about 1 1/2" wide and 3" deep. The plants were about 8" tall when I purchased them, but had grown to over 12" tall when I planted them today.

I suspect the grower simply planted seed in each cell and never up potted them. They did great.

Why is it recommended to home gardeners to sow the seed in small containers and then keep up potting to larger containers as required. Why not simply select the size pot you want to grow in (like the 8 oz, red plastic drinking cups) and plant the seed. Seems like it would eliminate a lot of potential harm that can be done during up potting.

Ted
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I think it might be more important when the plants are started from seed in one's home. Greenhouse conditions are somewhat more conducive to plant growth. Also, I think the growers use a lot of fertilizer on the seedlings, so they don't have to spend the time and labor of repotting them.

With that all said, I just buy starts at the store, as you did, and plant them in the 14" diameter containers the will stay in for the duration. (I no longer garden in-ground.)
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Ted - regarding the transplanting... First time I read about it in Carolyn Male's book, where she recommends doing it, and have followed her suggestion since with very good success. It reads:

"Transplanting is important because it shocks the plant and forces it to develop roots"


Last year, I realized that I had no early tomatoes of my own. So after work, I stopped by Lowe's and bought a cell pack of Early Girls, same cell pack as you mentioned. Five I gave away, one I planted, same time as my own seedlings went into the ground. All about 12" high or so (including the store bough Early Girls). While the height was the same, my own seedlings were potted 2nd time (first time in small 3oz cup), and lived in the 6" azalea pots for about 3 weeks before transplant time.

Roots of my own seedlings were large, branching out very well, (not root bound), but pretty much filled those 6" pots. Roots of the Early girls were tiny in comparison...

Once in the ground - my seedlings took off like mad, and after a week were at least x2 taller than Early Girls, with far more foliage, and much much thicker stem. At the end, Marglobe, Cherokee Purple and Black Krim were first to have ripe fruit, early girls followed about 2 weeks later.

So based on my observations, (and those who are well versed in the subject - please chime in!), since the plant health starts with the strong roots for the nutrient uptake and resistance to the negative conditions that nature presents (be it less than ideal soil, weather or what ever else), my own seedlings having roots at least 10 times bigger than the 1 1/2" cell Early Girl were stronger performers in every aspect throughout the season. Is it more work - sure, but climbing up the ladder in from late summer to frost to gather tomatoes from 9'-10' indeterminate plants is worth the effort!

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D

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Good question ted but I believe it has to do with space requirements. you can start a whole lot more seeds in a small container than pick the best from that.

I have wondered about why people would keep up-potting from 3 to 6 to maybe bigger pots. But than I realized I don't have the room for this. though it would be the most feasible. Than again I haven't seen any problem from up-potting if fact they almost seem to grow faster after. Now would they grow as fast if put in the big pots in the first place has yet to be seen by me.

Maybe next year if I have room I will do this to late now.

All i know is you don't up-pot them or put them in the correct size pot at first their roots will circle the pot and fight with each other and this is not good.

From quite a few sources I have seen (and it makes sense) that direct seeding is the best way to grow tomatoes. They can grow very long taproots if direct seeded though when transplanted they will have a more lateral root system. The taproot is where it is at I'm sure you know.

If I get to it I will try to direct seed next to a transplant and see the difference. Well more like If I remember to and or have the room.

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This chapter has a lot of good info in it.

https://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/010137veg.roots/010137ch26.html



But basically there are two things to consider. 1) Why plant in pots rather than direct seed in the garden?... Because disturbing/breaking the tap root causes a shallow fibrous root system to develop, keeping the roots in the upper warmer soil early in the season. 2) Why pot up?... Although commercial growers sometimes pot up three times (seed flats, small cells, final cells) the study in the above chapter shows that repotting sets the seedlings back each time. Pro growers do it to conserve greenhouse bench space when starting multiple sets of seedlings for staggered planting times (or they do it because thats the way they always did it on the farm).

I have found that potting up at least once is useful because plants left to grow from the initial shallow seed depth get top heavy and can topple over/pull out the roots if jostled too much. Repotting them a little deeper (to the seed leaves) gives them more stability in the pot.

In regard to the small cells (six packs)... tomato plants get started in the garden/farm field most quickly at from 6" to about a foot tall. The looser the roots are in the pot (i.e. larger pot) the faster/more easily the plants can put roots into the surrounding soil. Letting the plants get larger and congesting the roots in the small cells will force the plants to put out adventitious roots from the stem. This takes time to initiate the change in the stem tissue and then grow the roots. Does all this really matter in a home garden? Probably not, but getting first fruits to market a week earlier than the next guy means increased profits to the commercial grower.

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This is the first time I'm growing my own seedlings. I'm using one of those little pucks that swells up with water(1" across and 2.5 inches high). it's got tissue paper around it to help keep it's shape. Should I try to remove the tissue paper when I up pot it to the 3" pots? When should I do it? like how high or how many true leafs? and How deep should I plant it? up to the first true leafs or just past the baby leaf?

Since I'm gonna ask this later, I'm using one of those fiber 3" pots that biodegrades, when I finally transplant it into my garden should I try to remove the seedling from the pot or just wet the hell out of it and plant the whole thing in the ground?

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GardenJester,

I recommend taking the netting that looks like tissue paper off the plugs before you move them to larger pots. I've never done it, but I think a pair of scissors up one side should do the trick if the roots haven't really embedded themselves into it.

I'm not sure about the biodegradable peat pots. I've never grown anything in them, but I have bought plants already growing in them. I made the mistake of planting them in my garden with the plants still in the pots. For me, they seemed to retard the growth of the plants. They seemed to have a very difficult time working their way through the peat and reaching the garden soil. I didn't dig one up and check, but I was suspecting the plants were root bound in the peat pots before they finally seemed to penetrate it.

When I was reworking the soil in my beds this winter, I dug those old peat pots up. They were broken, but they had not biodegraded.

Ted
Last edited by tedln on Sat Mar 27, 2010 4:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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duh_vinci,

For me, you only need to say "because Carolyn Male says so". I will accept it as gardening gospel.

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tedln wrote:, but I was suspecting the plants were root bound in the peat pots before they finally seemed to penetrate it.
They might not have even made it out of the peat pots. If they did then you're the lucky one. Most cause the roots to rot before they can make it out, other just can force their way out..
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Garden Jester the peat pellets you have I found the nets can very easily e ripped off. I would definately remove them and if you use peat pots totaly remove the pot for best results at least take off the bottom. They claim they break down but in how many years they don't say. :lol: I :lol: If I may add I have shunned away from the pellets and the peat pots I find that a good soil mix in a plastic container works the best.

D_V was posting while i was and I missed his but what he says make complete sense. I have up-potted several times and each time they seem to be like popeye on spinach.

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Jester, I use those pellets and the best thing to do is get the netting off asap. you can tear it and then repot the little guy, but the best thing is to break up the soil that it is in as well, because it stays real wet and can cause dampening off.

If you use the peat pots as what you up pot into, when you are ready to put them in the ground, soak the whole thing for 30 minutes so that the pot is fully soaked then tear it off before putting the plant in the ground. and throw it away, those things are useless!! next year you can use 9 oz plastic cups and reuse from there on out.


TZ and Duh vinci have completely different explanations in their posts from what i can understand.... and since Duh has the proof in the pudding, I am going with his way!!

I will up pot 3 times before going in the ground!
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tedln
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In my spare time this winter, I messed around with making news paper pots of various sizes by rolling the news paper onto different sizes of PVC pipe. Turns out, they are very easy to make and depending on how many layers of newspaper you roll onto the pipe, they can be very substantial and strong. I didn't use any with my seedlings, but I may next year. Since news paper seems to break down so easily when moist, they may make a truly biodegradable pot to simply stick in the ground without another transplant procedure. What experience have you had with the news paper pots? Are they any better than the peat pots?

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Actualy, Duh Vinci and I are saying the same thing regarding large pots. The chapter I posted is where Carolyn got her information from, and she frequently posts links to it frequently. You will see in that chapter a study on potting up which shows the best results potting up directly into 6" pots.


"Since the root system is disturbed and the development of the plant more or less checked at each transplanting, it might be concluded that plants grown from seed sown directly in pots or other containers would grow more vigorously and give a higher yield than those once or twice transplanted. In fact this has been shown by numerous investigations to be the case. That transplanting in itself does not promote an early crop nor an increased yield has been also clearly demonstrated. In an experiment in Wisconsin..."



The fibrous root formation is what is meant by "forces it to develop roots", which is the first part of the chapter.

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TZ -OH6 wrote:Actualy, Duh Vinci and I are saying the same thing regarding large pots. ...
Exactly!

Besides - TZ has far more experience with growing tomatoes, I've often turned to his advise, and it never fails!

Good growing to all!

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D

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TZ-OH6 or Duh_Vinci,

When a tomato breeder is looking for unusual traits in tomatoes to possibly breed a new variety, are they looking for a tomato with unusual traits or are they looking for an entire plant which displays the same unusual trait in all the tomatoes on the plant. What are the probabilities of carrying on an anomaly from a single tomato versus an anomaly in an entire plant?

Thanks

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Then I guess I am still confused cuz it seemed like TZ was saying there is no need to up pot a couple times, and Duh said there was a need... I will stay confused and keep doing what i am doing lol
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Duh Vinci was comparing similar sized (fairly large) plants from small cells (1.5") to the same sized plants from 6 inch pots, which just happened to be potted up twice.

If you put a seed in a six inch pot and grow it to 10 inches before planting out you will get better fruit production than if you dense plant seeds, separate them into small pots and then pot them up one or two more times (finally to a six inch pot) before planting them out on the same date.

Most home gardeners start seeds in something the size of a jiffy pellet, or dense plant several seeds in something that size and then pot up once to a 3-4 inch pot or larger. Some farmers stress that your should pot up at least 2-3 times before you get to the final pot size, but what I posted was that the scientific evidence shows that the fewer times you have to radically disturb the roots by potting up the stronger the plant will be. The difference in overall seasonal production isn't that great (a few fruits per plant) even though it is statistically and economically significant.


The point is that you want your seedlings in a fairly large pot (compared to the size of the plant) before they go in the garden for best results.




-----------------

"When a tomato breeder is looking for unusual traits in tomatoes to possibly breed a new variety, are they looking for a tomato with unusual traits or are they looking for an entire plant which displays the same unusual trait in all the tomatoes on the plant. What are the probabilities of carrying on an anomaly from a single tomato versus an anomaly in an entire plant?"


Breeders are working with genetic recombinations that affect entire plants. Rare somatic mutations that affect parts of plants are usually accidentally found in large patches of a single variety, and yes the traits (if genetic) will be passed on through the seeds of the fruit from that part of the plant. These mutations are usually single gene traits so you might get a color difference but not a flavor or growth difference.

There are some environmental effects especially in fruit shape so you can get both pointed and plum shaped fruit on the same plant depending on what temperature the fruit developed at, and certain bicolor fruits will develop more or less red vs yellow color

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wolfi,

I will continue up potting until I find what I consider the perfect size seed growing container which I can purchase from a local supplier. I like to use stuff I can always find at a local hardware store or grocery store without placing a special order.

I hope to do what I think the producers of the cell pack seedlings do which is, plant the seed, grow the seedling, and sell the seedling. In my case, it will be plant the seed, grow the seedling, and transplant and grow the plant.

I did do a little more reading about the root structure of tomato plants. If I understand the material already referenced in this thread, Carolyn Male recommends up potting simply because it disturbs the tap root causing the seedling to create more fibrous horizontal, and vertical roots which are advantageous in the home garden. The fibrous root structure makes the plant more adaptable to transplanting and growing in the home garden.

According to some, additional research seems to not reveal evidence that having the fibrous root structure prior to transplanting is advantageous. It seems it could go either way. If I grow once and transplant once, the tap root will have been disturbed, and the fibrous structure will be formed. The method I want to use may or may not delay development of the plant by a couple of days in the garden.

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tz, so what you are saying is it is best to not up pot several times before it goes in the garden correct?
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Correct, pot up once or start the seed in the large final pot (hope you have alot of lights if you do that).


This discussion seems to get revisited evey year on some forums, mainly because 2-3 studies in that chapter get mixed together in peoples' arguements.


The fibrous root study was simply between direct seeding into the garden vs starting someplace else and transplanting to the garden. It had nothing to do with potting up. If you direct plant in the garden the plant tends to grow a tap root deep into the cold soil, which slows growth. This is an evolutionary survival mechanism in the wild where securing a long term water source is the plants first priority. Simply disturbing the tap root by transplanting causes lateral roots to form off of the damaged tap root. This keeps the feeder roots in warm soil early in the season. Life is not always predictable so it is not guaranteed that you will get better results every time all things being equal, but starting indoors in pots (transplanting) also gives you a jump on the season, so both things considered it is not the best choice to direct seed tomatoes in the garden. Many other vegetables hate to have their roots disturbed so we are stuck direct seeding them.


I start my seeds in small cells (1x1.5" six pack things), generally 3-5 seeds of a variety per cell. After they grow true leaves and look crowded they get pulled apart and put in their final pots. I'm not too picky about final pots. Anything from 3"cell flats to 32 oz deli containers seem to give the same results if I time seeding date to last frost date correctly. Organizing my space is more important, and I don't know how strong the seedlings will be because each variety is different. Wimpy Cherokee Purple seedlings really don't need to be in huge pots because they will still be rather small when I plant them out. I do like the convenience of the 3" 18 cell flats for moving lots of plants in and out on warm sunny days, even if they seem a bit small for the stronger varieties.

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This year, I'm starting out mostly in community pots and flats, with a few in individual small pots. But all with at least 3" depth. It seems to me that the seedlings grow better with less stalling out issues in community pots and flats.

There IS the part about entangling roots and some root loss when trying to separate them if you let them grow too big together.... Also, as soon as you uppot in larger community pots or individual pots, you instantly need MUCH MORE growing space :shock: :lol:

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applestar wrote: Also, as soon as you uppot in larger community pots or individual pots, you instantly need MUCH MORE growing space :shock: :lol:
DEFINITELY which is why mid April better come soon you all know what I have and it needs a permanent home fast.

By the way AS I planted 2 today no cover as of yet. That's how I roll. :wink:

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Dono - you really are after those "early" fruits, aren't you? 8)

Heavy rain, near freezing temps tomorrow night, but warm and sunny for the rest of the week, going to risk one extra plant on Wednesday, got to keep up with you!

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D

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This year, I uppotted from the 3" cells in the flat that I was working with. I waited until the plants had their secondary leaves before transplanting.

Just for kicks, I left two in their cells and transplanted the rest. I transplanted into space nearly 5x the size of the small 3" cell I was in.

The two plants left in the cells are nearly half the size of the others. They also still have secondary leaves but nothign beyond that.

The ones I transplanted meanwhile are on their 3rd and one is even on it's 4th set of leaves. They have really taken off.

Everything was watered at the same time, under the same light in order to keep conditions the same.

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RyanDe680 wrote: Just for kicks, I left two in their cells and transplanted the rest. I transplanted into space nearly 5x the size of the small 3" cell I was in.
My kinda guy! Half the stuff I do in my garden is "just for kicks". It seems to make things more interesting and I learn a lot.

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D_V do it if your not sacred. :lol: Plant those maters. I'm with Ted
Half the stuff I do in my garden is "just for kicks".


All I know is that is up in the 70's 80's this week and all kinds of things have been blooming for a few weeks here. I can feel it, all that scientific data by the way side, I just feel it. :wink:

Heck i should be out there cutting my grass right now. Here it goes from winter to summer in a few day's

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Sunny and high of 78ºF and 79ºF forecast for Fri and Sat! I don't know if I believe it! Did you see my panic post about sleet today? :shock:

As soon as it stopped raining, I was going to thoroughly tuck the sides of my temporary, plastic-covered hammock stand "green house" and even double-sheet the plastic per HG's comment. But what's the point if it's going to be over 100ºF in the sun on Fri and Sat? :roll:

I just uppotted my Principe Borgheses and 3rd gen. Sugar Plums, and they're huddled in the corner of the window bench lit by a clip-on 10" reflector CFL light with a bunch of aluminum takeout container covers surrounding them. (Whatever the naysayers may say, with vs. without the reflective materials surrounding the plants makes an ENORMOUS difference 8))

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Low 40's. Rain finally let up about two hours ago. Mom called from the line at Big Orange Box where she had gone to get a sump pump as theirs burned out; the truck with pumps was on it's way with another behind it, but she was fifty people back in a line just for sump pumps and by the time we got off the phone (a minute) it was ten deep behind her. When she called back to say she got the last of four pumps on the first truck (whew what a relief!) the line was no shorter than when she got in it, and sno sign of the second truck...

We were battling it here in the basement at home ourselves; I willl have to dry off in my bathrobe tomorrow because every towel is used. The sump pump runs every twenty seconds or so; it was not this bad after the heavy rains last week. THe ground is saturated and can hold no more...

More to the point my garden had standing water in the rows inches deep, still does. But my hilled rows are six or eight inches out of the water, so the best soil is still aerated and not drowning. I'll be good to plant soon. But I wouldn't set a plant out until nights are surely in the fifties and we are likely a month at least to that point. You all are particularly jumpy this year... :wink: :lol:

I like the idea of the least amount of moves. If you have the room to pull it off I think you would develop a better tomato by letting it develop a soil all it's own from the start. Knowing what we know about the soil/plant interfaces of mycorhizal fungi directly feeding the tomato, or the bacterial populations feeding on root exudates from the plant (specific exudate attracting particular species in some cases), and them feeding protista who release the resulting nitrogen (everybody poops) in the immediate vicinity of the plant roots, the weak acids of their metabolisms etching mineral supplements out of the parent material in the soil, well, I think you mess that up a good deal in a repot and new soil, that may or may not suit all that biology your tomato worked so hard to make...

Y'know?

HG
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You could be very right HG and I'm saying you are wrong. Since I have NEVER planted tomatoes by seed in the ground. But the ones I have been growing in the basement are huge and have been transplanted several times, some of them. usually in a slightly different mix of soil.

If the weather is looking to be good for the 15 day( yeah right 15 day forecast is there such a thing) I will do my best to plant some of my seedlings if the there is room with some of my big plants. I would even like to plant some seed and see how they all fair together given my specific circumstances.

Though i truly believe that by seed would be the better performer. You just have to look outside the lines to get these things done. It is not a very popular idea so there again it is society and our learning, bringing up, that may be holding us back. Change is hard for some, this year we shall see it will be a lot different for some of us.

Keep it real people but don't be afraid to live on the edge. :lol:

Oh HG if it makes you feel any better I watered lightly my seedlings at least today. It has been wet as all get out here but it's has finally dried out a bit.
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That's right HG, we're ALL building a HUGE green house for next spring so we can do exactly that! :> ... don't I wish ... :roll:

Good luck in your and your mom's basements. Good thing this isn't happening to Gixx -- he was only talking "figuratively" about letting his toms sink or swim... and he was talking about them weathering the early spring conditions. :wink: :lol:

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It's going to be 70s here during the day and 40s during the night... I am going to set some early girls out tomorrow before i go to work and see how they do, i don't have time to plant them in the ground, got work all day then class tomorrow night so who knows maybe i can plant thursday?? i am eager beaver tho!
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I think I found the perfect pot/pots to plant my seedlings in today. I had pretty well made up my mind that some size of plastic drinking cup would fill the bill because they are easily available, cheap, come in various colors for color coding plant varieties, and a few other reasons.

I actually chose two cups. one drops easily into the other with about 1/4" clearance between the inner cup and the outer cup walls. I found I could cut a small hole in the bottom of the inner cup, fill it with soil, and pour about 3/4" of water into the second cup. When I insert the inner cup of soil into the cup with water, the water rises about one half the way up the outside of the inner cup. The soil in the inner cup wicks the water from the outer cup into the inner cup. It seems to work best if the soil is already moist (molecular attraction I guess). With the seed planted above the water line, it should be self watering, but not wet. The water in the outer cup may act like a mini wall of water between the soil and the air if you want to sit it outside for a little sunlight. I'm trying it out right now on some of the seed from Brad Davis.

I forgot to mention the inner cup is clear plastic while the outer cup is colored. That allows me to lift the inner cup at any time to look at the root development of the plant.

Ted
Last edited by tedln on Wed Mar 31, 2010 1:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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wonderful ted!
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tedln wrote:I think I found the perfect pot/pots to plant my seedlings in today. I had pretty well made up my mind that some size of plastic drinking cup would fill the bill because they are easily available, cheap, come in various colors for color coding plant varieties, and a few other reasons.

I actually chose two cups. one drops easily into the other with about 1/4" clearance between the inner cup and the outer cup walls. I found I could cut a small hole in the bottom of the inner cup, fill it with soil, and pour about 3/4" of water into the second cup. When I insert the inner cup of soil into the cup with water, the water rises about one half the way up the outside of the inner cup. The soil in the inner cup wicks the water from the outer cup into the inner cup. It seems to work best if the soil is already moist (molecular attraction I guess). With the seed planted above the water line, it should be self watering, but not wet. The water in the outer cup may act like a mini wall of water between the soil and the air if you want to sit it outside for a little sunlight. I'm trying it out right now on some of the seed from Brad Davis.

I forgot to mention the inner cup is clear plastic while the outer cup is colored. That allows me to lift the inner cup at any time to look at the root development of the plant.

Ted
Ted can you post a pic of your contraption. Sounds cool. When I was little I used to plant seeds in mason jars to watch the roots grow.

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Sure Sarah,

I can take photos, but I need to figure out a way to make two cups look like a contraption instead of just two cups. :D

I'll see what I can come up with.

Ted
I simply enjoy gardening!

The Helpful Gardener
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Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Colchester, CT

Thanks for the thoughts; I am done crying about the little bit of water here (the pump is holding up and running once a minute or so now), but Mom thought she had a handle on it and went to sleep with the new pump off and awoke to several inches of water; heading over tomorrow to help with the recovery... R.I. is where the damage really got done; keep a thought fro the folks just east of me. It's bad in places; an old highschool friend was helping people just down the street sand bag their house against the river...no luck... :cry:

Dono, I know you have some big furry plants now, knuckle draggers. Just remember what Fukuoka-sensei said when he was asked about his smaller rice plants, if they were going to be okay?
I do not try to raise tall fast growing plants with big leaves. Instead I keep the plants as compact as possible. Keep the head small, do not overnourish the plants, and let them grow true to the natural form...
Will I be the first one with maters this year? Not likely, but I won't be too far back. Bet I can get a lettuce crop in in that tomato space before I put them out... :wink:

HG
Scott Reil

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gixxerific
Super Green Thumb
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Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 9:42 pm
Location: Wentzville, MO (Just West oF St. Louis) Zone 5B

I didn't try to grwo knuckledraggers, it just happened. I havn't put a bit a fertilier on them just good soil. Tell be quite honest i wish they weren't so big. :shock:

The Helpful Gardener
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Posts: 7493
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Colchester, CT

The easy way to make sure that doesn't happen is to not start them so soon... :wink:

HG
Scott Reil

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gixxerific
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 5889
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 9:42 pm
Location: Wentzville, MO (Just West oF St. Louis) Zone 5B

The Helpful Gardener wrote:The easy way to make sure that doesn't happen is to not start them so soon... :wink:

HG
Give me a break I'm new to this seed starting thing. :P Plus I was trying to keep up with the Apples. :lol: Live and learn next year it won't be so soon nor so many. :shock: . I was off work and bored can you blame me though really. :wink:

To tell you the truth it's actually got me a bit depressed (yeah I got it bad, the green thumb syndrome, that is). I just keep thinking that they are too big and won't produce and I'm gonna be screwed, but I'm sure it will all work out. I hope.

2 more weeks and it's party time.

The Helpful Gardener
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Posts: 7493
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Colchester, CT

A big plant won't necessarily make less gixx. My point is that it will not likely make more, which is what a lot of people assume. My neighbor juiced up a Brandywine on chemicals last year so it was eight feet tall, and he did get one huge mater off of it, but only a few others. We ate off my Brandywine for weeks, loads of maters from a four foot plant...

Bigger is not always better...

HG
Scott Reil

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