GrowerC86
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First time tomato grower. Seedling Pics. Need advice

About 3 weeks ago I decided I wanted to start growing tomatoes for myself and hopefully to be able to sell them locally. I planted about 200 seeds of a few different varieties (large red cherry, marion, beefsteak, big boy and giant belgium). I wasn't even sure they were going to grow because about a week had passed and nothing had come up above dirt yet then the next morning they had started growing so I was happy about that. Since then I've just been keeping them in the sun and watering them when the dirt looks dry. They seem to be doing Ok so far but I'm not sure what to do past this point. I want to plant as many as I can in containers such as milk jugs or small buckets but I think I'm going to end up having to plant more than half in the ground. Can anyone look at the pics and tell me how much longer they can grow in their current place before I need to put them in the ground? I want to get as many tomatoes as I can from these.

I also wanted to mention that in the closer up picture of the ones planted in the little pods it seems some of the leaves on several of the plants have slight white spots. I started water them with miracle gro the blue mix. Could that have caused it or is that normal for these? Thanks!
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GrowerC86
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Re: First time tomato grower. Seedling Pics. Need advice

I'm thinking about transferring all of these to those tall red plastic cups because the ones I have in paper cups the cups are starting to turn brown on the sides on some of them and the ones that have it bad the seedlings are dieing. I think they can grow as much as they need to in the plastic cups before they need transferring to a larger container or the ground.

NJ Bob
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Re: First time tomato grower. Seedling Pics. Need advice

I would think paper cups are too porous and will dry out too quickly. Red solo cups or styrofoam cups (both re-usable) will serve you better. The seedlings where you are getting true leaves will be your first priority for re-potting.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: First time tomato grower. Seedling Pics. Need advice

Agreed, the ones in the peat pellets that have true leaves are your first priority. Things don't do well in peat anyway. The tall plastic solo cups will last you for awhile, as long as you put several drain holes in the bottom. When you transplant the tomato seedlings (every time you transplant them), bury them deeper than they were in the previous pot. Tomatoes have the interesting capacity to sprout roots all along any stem that is buried. Not all plants will do that. So by burying it deeper, you give it a more extensive root system.
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applestar
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Re: First time tomato grower. Seedling Pics. Need advice

Did you mention where you are located and when your last average frost is? That would determine when you will be able to plant them outside as well as when you can start keeping them outside full time. The seedlings can actually stay in smaller containers and even the peat pellets for I would say another 2 weeks or even 3 weeks, but the peat pellets didn't contain any nutrients and I can't tell what growing medium you are using to plant the seedlings in those cups. You will need to start fertilizing them weak solutions like 1/4 to 1/2 strength at first.

I prefer to uppot into potting mix that contain nutrients so I don't have to fertilize until they are planted out. This way, they don't grow too quickly. My main concern is conserving space. If you uppot into larger containers, they will take up correspondingly larger space and more trays that need to be moved out and in, watered, etc.

I haven't tried selling my seedlings, but as a consumer, I think I would take them more seriously if they are planted in real nursery pots individually tagged with clear and informative labels, but I suppose this may depend on your venue and customer base.

By 6-8 weeks after they have sprouted, they really need at least 16-20 oz containers and some will be pushing for 24 oz to 1 qt containers, but as long as they get food and water, tomato seedlings can manage to stay squeezed in tight/small containers. What happens, though, is that they are then crammed together with less light and air reaching them, making them grow lanky and susceptible to fungal issues, and they can easily get dried out and then they won't look as well grown.

My observation based on other members posting their tomato seedling progresses over the years is that the seedlings grow much faster if they are grown in green house or cold frame where they are exposed to higher daytime temperatures and sunlight, as long as adequate night time temperatures are maintained.

Btw, the white patches on the seedlings may be sunburn if you are not acclimating them slowly to sun and wind exposure.
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GrowerC86
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Re: First time tomato grower. Seedling Pics. Need advice

Thanks everyone for the replies!

Our last average frost was about 2-3 weeks ago so I think I planted the seeds at the right time. Location is southern Louisiana. Also I wanted to ask if its Ok that more than one seedling is growing in one peat pellet? A few of them actually have 3 or 4 growing out of them from where I guess an extra seed or 2 fell in as I was planting them. I read to place 2 in each. I also heard in a video that you don't have to separate tomato plants as they will still grow and produce the same. Not sure how true that is but the person growing theirs says they do that.

I didn't even think about sunburn being the white spots on the seedlings. That does make sense because for the past few days it has been very sunny and around 70-80 degrees here in south Louisiana. What I did was I would set the trays on top of my shed's tin roof early in the morning and let them sit all day and even all night if there was no rain in the forecast. I did this because I read that they need lots of sun doing simple internet searches, but I guess I overdid it on the sun part. I hope I didn't damage them to the point where they won't grow anymore. I forgot to poke holes in the bottom of the paper cups, but I am getting a pack of those red plastic drink cups tomorrow and will start putting the ones in the cups and square trays into the plastic cups.

In the paper cups I used a bag of miracle gro potting mix for those seeds. In the tray and some of the cups I used (I forgot the brand, will check tomorrow) potting soil which doesn't look or feel like dirt at all but rather chopped up pieces of wet hay. I actually didn't know whether or not to use these because I couldn't find anything that said not to so I used that in the tray and sure enough seeds grew in it.

I actually am hoping to sell the actual tomatoes that I get from these instead of the plants because I think I can make more money selling the tomatoes than the plants. Also to applestar's point that people may rather buy tomato plants from a nursery than from a stranger. As for tomatoes, I see people all the time selling them in boxes and bags on the side of roads and in town so I'm hoping I can do the same.

If you need anymore information let me know!

imafan26
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Re: First time tomato grower. Seedling Pics. Need advice

It looks more professional to plant them in nursery pots. You may also need a license to sell so you need to check with your state. It is easier to sell plants if you have some information on the varieties or a sample of the fruit. Unless you are planning on trying to unload them all at once. It is better to plant only a few and space the plantings so that you can have them for sale longer. You have to choose a location with good traffic and know what your customers want. You need to be prepared to answer questions about how to grow tomatoes. I usually have information on sheets about each variety and can answer questions about planting, fertilizing, staking, harvesting. Tomatoes are best sold when they are 4-6 inches tall and usually they have to be sold before they flower or they won't do well. I only have a sale at the garden one day a month. Tomatoes are not good sellers and they cannot keep for another month so I usually only plant 10-15 plants at a time. I try to limit varieties because if they get mixed up, I can't tell the seedlings apart. I have other things that I sell so I have a lot of variety of maybe 20 different herbs and edibles. I grow more herbs because many of them can stay in pots for a while and be good for another month. Until you know your market you should start small.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

GrowerC86
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Re: First time tomato grower. Seedling Pics. Need advice

imafan26 wrote:It looks more professional to plant them in nursery pots. You may also need a license to sell so you need to check with your state. It is easier to sell plants if you have some information on the varieties or a sample of the fruit. Unless you are planning on trying to unload them all at once. It is better to plant only a few and space the plantings so that you can have them for sale longer. You have to choose a location with good traffic and know what your customers want. You need to be prepared to answer questions about how to grow tomatoes. I usually have information on sheets about each variety and can answer questions about planting, fertilizing, staking, harvesting. Tomatoes are best sold when they are 4-6 inches tall and usually they have to be sold before they flower or they won't do well. I only have a sale at the garden one day a month. Tomatoes are not good sellers and they cannot keep for another month so I usually only plant 10-15 plants at a time. I try to limit varieties because if they get mixed up, I can't tell the seedlings apart. I have other things that I sell so I have a lot of variety of maybe 20 different herbs and edibles. I grow more herbs because many of them can stay in pots for a while and be good for another month. Until you know your market you should start small.
Well I'm not sure what people like in Hawaii, but here in Louisiana tomatoes are the most popular vegetable and most eaten. They are expensive in groceries because they're hard to keep in stock. As far as needing a license, thats only if you're planning to run a produce stand. This is literally something I plan to do as I have the tomatoes and a good amount to make it worth the time so maybe once or twice a month if that. As far as the "being prepared and answering questions go" I really doubt that is going to be an issue here. I live in a small and simple town. Everyone knows what a good tomato looks like and they love finding tomatoes for good deals, like yard eggs. Basically around here the words, "home grown" goes a long way in explaining pretty much everything.

imafan26
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Re: First time tomato grower. Seedling Pics. Need advice

Tomatoes are popular here too, but they are not easy to grow, especially the larger ones. I need a tomato that is heat tolerant and resistant to nematodes, 3 races of fusarium and tastes good. That can be elusive, and tomatoes require a lot of effort to get a good crop.

I just spent a whole day in a hot house with about 450 tomatoes pruning, clipping, tying up on a line trellis, watering and feeding them. The hot house isn't full yet. When all the buckets are planted there will be about 700 of them. I cut off all the leaves with the worst of the downy mildew and some of the older tomatoes have white flies and nematodes so I took them out. I harvested about 20 lbs of heirloom tomatoes from the old vines. The new tomatoes have started to set fruit.
I have to do this again next week.

At home I don't like to do that much work. I plant my tomatoes in cages, but I only have three of them and that is enough for me.

Most people here may like to eat tomatoes but have no concept of the amount of effort it takes to get a crop. If they have to do more than plant it and water (maybe) than it would be too much work.
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GrowerC86
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Re: First time tomato grower. Seedling Pics. Need advice

I'm getting discourage now. In the past 2 days I already had about 25 seedlings die and I don't know why. Several of the seedlings in the pellets are starting to show brown/shriveling leaf tips and don't look too healthy. I water them with a diluted miracle gro in water so I don't know what is causing that. I planted nearly 200 containers of tomatoes and had nearly double that sprout up. If I can't get at least 20 of these to fully grow and produce tomatoes then I may not do this again in the future. I did everything right I think. The seedlings spend half the time in a small green house and half the time outside in the sun. Did I plant the seeds in the wrong soil? I used miracle gro potting soil. For one tray I used Earth Gro potting soil and those sprouted but didn't look near as good as the other ones. I've transferred as many as I could to plastic cups until I get more. I'm trying to save as many of them as I can. Its just very discouraging seeing a lot of them die and not know if any will even make it to fruit producing age. What should I do? Are there easier ways to grow tomatoes?
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GrowerC86
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Re: First time tomato grower. Seedling Pics. Need advice

I read putting a penny in the soil with the tomatoes will protect them from blight and other fungus and bacteria. Is this true?

imafan26
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Re: First time tomato grower. Seedling Pics. Need advice

I have had no luck with peat pellets. You are good to get them to grow in those things. I find they stay too wet and eventually cause dampening off. I think it is time for those seedlings to be transplanted out. Brought out slowly into more light , fertilizer and a potting mix that is not always soggy.
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GrowerC86
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Re: First time tomato grower. Seedling Pics. Need advice

imafan26 wrote:I have had no luck with peat pellets. You are good to get them to grow in those things. I find they stay too wet and eventually cause dampening off. I think it is time for those seedlings to be transplanted out. Brought out slowly into more light , fertilizer and a potting mix that is not always soggy.
What would you use for potting mix for these seedlings? I have a few farmer's markets local so I'm sure they would have a variety. I want to do as much as I can to help them grow, but I am very tight on money so anything I can improvise is good too. I heard wood ash is good for the soil as well. Is that true?

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applestar
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Re: First time tomato grower. Seedling Pics. Need advice

Yes, it's time to uppot. See how their leaves are extending beyond the diameter of the pellet cylinders? I believe what is happening is that they are getting disastrously root pruned due to drying out too much too fast, so that the leaf areas that were being supplied by the roots that died off are suffering. When they are naturally root pruned without drastic death of tissues, they will form branching root systems within the pellets. Your growing conditions must be too dry or too much direct sun.

Wood ash is not something you want to use without knowing what kind of soil you have and only for plants that prefer alkaline soil. Not really for tomatoes at this stage. Maybe a pinch in the bottom of the planting hole covered by soil, then plant so roots are not directly touching the ash.

Soil mix -- equal parts soil, compost and sand would work. You could add a little more fertilizing elements, but I think at this point, you might be better off just getting them Uppotted. Then experiment with different fertilizing options. You said you already have miraclegro -- not my favorite choice, but that's Ok. Other members with experience in its use can advise you.
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imafan26
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Re: First time tomato grower. Seedling Pics. Need advice

Get potting soil and pot up into 4 inch pots. Solo cups will work if you put enough holes in the bottom. I like Miracle grow POTTING Soil. Make sure it is potting not Garden soil, the bags look alike. It has enough fertilizer in the mix to get it through till you can get them in the ground.
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applestar
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Re: First time tomato grower. Seedling Pics. Need advice

Yes, I changed my mind. Especially if you are new at this, spending for good quality potting mix at this juncture will probably save you from a lot of problems in the long run. Just try to get them in large quantity bags.

If you are not selling the plants, you could economize on containers. As you may have noticed, I use mostly recycled materials and hardly ever buy new. This year has been an exception with cheapest plastic cups I could find -- not solo actually. I just recently read that a dedicated gardener saves all the solo cups from barbecues and other casual social gatherings.
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