TheLorax
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Basic care sheet for tomatoes

A few weeks from now I am volunteering at a nursing home. I'm supposed to help the residents start tomatoes from seeds. Actually, on Monday they are going to contact me to let me know what else the residents would like to try in addition to tomatoes. I did this the last two years for them using an assortment of tomato seeds that I bought at a local garden center. Their seeds germinated and were able to be planted out into the community garden. Their plants actually produced which was very nice for the residents. All I did was purchase little rubbermaid food storage containers, a bag of Schultz seed starter mix, then let them fill their trays and plant their own seeds. I had them set their trays in the windows in the common area and that was that. All they had to do was make sure their trays didn't dry out.

There is a new director who would like me to bring a little care sheet with me to pass out to the residents when I come this year because she would like the residents to take their food storage trays of seed back to their rooms to germinate as opposed to leaving them in the common areas where they may be knocked over. I don't have a basic care sheet. Never saw a need for one.

Does anyone have a very basic care sheet for tomato seedlings that could be shared with me that I could print off to pass out? I'll need to increase the font to 16 to make it easier for them to read so I'd prefer it all fit one sheet of paper if possible.

Any help appreciated.

opabinia51
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Hi Lorax, there is a tonne of information within this forum on that topic that I have posted for people which brings to mind that I should put a sticky up here for people.

Anyway, if you don't have time to search through the threads here, just let me know and I can type something out for you here.

Basically, grow lights and organic fertilzers and pinch all the leaves off the sides of the stem before planting.......

TheLorax
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A sticky would be nice.

I'll take what ever you want to share with me.

I'm really good with some plants but must admit vegetables I've never had great success with. I suck at vegetables. I was very surprised when their tomatoes ended up surviving to be transplanted. I was even more surprised when they actually fruited. They got what they paid for, I was free. No need to say any more.

Might as well recommend a decent fertilizer for us too. I have no idea which one would be best.

editing to add-
Can't afford to buy a grow light for every person growing the tomatoes from seed. They will have to use light available from the windows in their rooms. They do have spacious rooms with oversized windows. The few who have rooms with an inappropriate exposure will have to grow their plants in the common area.

opabinia51
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You can purchase grow light bulbs for a few dollars from (dare I say it?) home depot and they have these little apparati that clamp onto about any shelf unit that cost about 7 dollars. So, shouldn't be out of many peoples budgetory allowance.

Yes, I had forgotten abou the sticky that I had done years ago, you've obviously caught it as well.

Anyway, there are several fertilizers that I use:

I start with the soil,

When I start my seeds and pot the seedlings up I use a mix of potting soil, sifted compost and mushroom manure. Though steer, pig and composted chicken manure would work as well.

I also add a handful of Kelp meal to this. I then turn the whole mixture over a few times to mix everything really well and use as my potting mix.

I always put another handfull of kelp meal into the hole when I plant the seedlings and then alternate each week from Liquid fish the liquid Seaweed fertilizer.

I don't use this one as often as I should but it really works well, so; what you can do is use unsterilized compost and brew an aerated compost tea and use it as a foliar spray on your tomatoe plants.

Finally, I crush eggshells up and use them as a soil ammendment to detur blossom end rot. In fact, I never get blossom end rot when I use the eggshells.

TheLorax
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My fault, I should have added more information. There are currently 24 residents attending. The nursing home gave me a budget of $25. Yup, $25 for 24 residents growing at least 3 different seeds each. So far I've got a nice big bag of non-soil potting medium and 16 three-packs of food storage containers for them to grow their seeds in. I've got to pick up several packs of tomato seeds but I'm waiting to see what else they want to grow aside from some Sarracenia before I go shopping again. Depending on what other veggie(s) they want to grow, I'll have to pick up at least 8 more three-packs of food storage containers at K-Mart (stopped shopping at WalMart a while ago after they repeatedly left broken bags of fertilizer and other nasties in the middle of their parking lots to leach out into our water supply every time it rained). I basically blew my wad with the purchase of the big bag of non-soil potting medium.

Barring me being out of money for this little volunteer project within all of about 10 minutes with the potting medium and packs of food storage containers costing around $3.50 per pack, it is a nursing home and not all the residents are ambulatory. Many of the residents are on public aid and don't have any money even for a little fixture and bulb- hence the budget per activity. There are city and state health and fire codes that are going to put a kaboom on any cords dangling from their window sills anyway. I call them the fun police.

I could afford to buy a lamp and bulb for every resident but I don't want to because I don't work any more. I hate to sound mean but the costs of this $25 project really add up fast when there are 24 people attending. What kills me is I did this project last year at the same place and I asked them all to please save the food storage containers I bought so we could use them again this year and they all forgot and pitched them after they planted their seedlings outside. They tossed 72 food storage containers that could have been washed and re-used. That's darn near $100 worth of food storage containers once you add sales tax.

I'll buy the kelp meal for them to mix in. I'll also buy liquid fish and liquid seaweed fertilizer for the activities director to share with them weekly but I don't know if it's practical to invest in spray bottles for each resident to keep in their rooms to be able to spray their seedlings with compost tea. Me personally, I'd love to know what your recipe is for compost tea. Never knew the trick of thwarting blossom end rot (damping off?) by using crushed egg shells. I can start saving those from breakfast and will have enough by the time I need them. Aprx how much crushed eggshell per tray? About one?

Thanks for allowing me to use your FAQs. I'll just remove all the start up info as I'll be doing that with them and print out ongoing care until they can be planted out. Would you like me to add your user name and a url to the forum at the end of the information?

opabinia51
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I'll start from the bottom of your previous post and work up;


You don't need to feel obliged to mention my name but, you can if you'd like. That would be really nice. I'd prefer that people use the information to grow delicious tomatoes.

You know, I've never measured the eggshells, I just add them as I go. I always save my eggshells as I eat my eggs. I used to go crazy and collect them from my local cafeteria but, now I just save my own. So, I'll say probably a couple of eggshells per tomatoe plant.

Might be of benefit to add them directly to the hole and then sprinkle more (as time goes by) around the plants.

Ah yes compost tea; well here's the trick, use non sterilized compost (which is free if you make your own, if you worm compost, worm castings are amazing.), I use 5-9 gallon buckets and you can usually get those for free from paint stores

Fill the buckets with water add several handfulls of compost (this part will cost a few dollars) and use a small aquarium pump and let the pump run for a few days while the tea brews.

And I don't use a spray bottle myself, I just use my watering can and water the leaves as I water the plants with the compost tea. I am supposing that your residents don't have watering cans though but, I'm sure that they could figure something out.

Something they could use to grow their tomatoes in (though, the tomatoe plants won't get very big) is old 2 L (1/2 Gallon) milk cartons. Also try local nurseries for the discarded tubs. I've found a plethora of them over the years.

Let me see, what else? Egg cartons work great for starting up your seedlings and make it really easy to transfer them to their pots or the soil as well.

I hope I've answered all your questions and good luck with your project! Sounds like it could be a lot of fun!


One last note: Perhaps a local nursery would be willing to donate some pots for the seniors. You never know. :wink:

TheLorax
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I’d really prefer to add the URL because there are a few residents who know how to use a computer. Let them log on and go to where I picked up the information. I would also prefer to add your user name. I didn’t write their care sheets.

OK, got it on the crushed egg shells. Sort of like baking, toss in what looks good.

Got it on the compost tea. Please skip my request for a thread in my last post. I won’t vermicompost because of the area in which I garden but I definitely have an active composter. I’m always tossing something or other in that. I can try making some tomato compost tea for myself. Don’t know that I’ve got the time to go into production to make it for 24 other people though. I do have a left over whisper pump from a 10 gallon goldfish tank we once had many years ago and I certainly have 5 gallon buckets around here so that’s doable. Thanks for mentioning it.

Nope, no individual watering cans. They use paper cups. That’s why I’ve been having them create little wells in the corner of the food storage containers. They can water into their finger wells without totally disturbing their seed.

No plastic milk jugs like that here at my house.

I have a couple questions given some of these people suffer from Parkinsons. Are you referring to Styrofoam egg cartons or cardboard? We did a project at a school once and the kids used cardboard egg cartons to start their beans. The section of the cardboard that contained the bean sprout was torn off and planted straight into the ground. Sort of like a real cheap jiffy pot. I had forgotten about that. If I used egg cartons, what do you use as a tray underneath them that is cheap so the wood from the window sills doesn’t get destroyed? If I use Styrofoam egg cartons, would the seedling slip out easily enough to be able to be handled by shaky hands? I think you may have hit on something here. I don’t know that I have enough time to round up egg cartons this year even if I asked my friends and relatives to save them for me but I can give it a go.

Local nurseries aren’t that generous around here. And they know people pick through garbage so they’re even careful when they throw out certain types of products lest somebody grab anything usable. More fun police! Seems as if the good stuff ends up in the dumpsters of the nurseries the morning of garbage day when the business is open and I certainly don’t want to get caught by an employee rooting around in their garbage although I’d love to. My personal friends have been very generous. I had one girlfriend give me a couple hundred pots with drip trays that were discarded behind a nursery once. Used those up real quick. The people at nursing homes don’t care if their pots are pink or decorated with purple polka dots. I also save pots from plants I buy myself so it does help. Still can’t get over them tossing $100 worth of food storage containers last year.

opabinia51
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I believe you are asking for this URL:

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=7008

it leads to this thread but, here is the URL for the above sticky as well:

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=6809

Yes, I don't actually use plastic milk jugs, I was referring to the cardboard milk jugs.

Either type of egg carton works great, I don't actually like jiffy pots so don't use the method that you described but, that could work. Now, a cheap drip tray..... that's a good question. I usually use lids from various things but, something that would fit an egg carton...... you have me stumped there.

The one thing that comes to mind are the drip trays that you can buy from nurseries, they cost about 99 cents each but, I'm trying to think of something that you can get for free.

Oh yes, the seedlings would be very stable. The main tenet when growing tomatoes from seed is to wait until the root ball fills the entire pot (in the case egg case) and then pot it up or plant in soil.

If the local nurseries aren't game try the big box stores, and speak to a manager not the individual staff.

TheLorax
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I use 2-liter pop bottles to start woodies. They seem to accommodate the tap roots of some species far better than readily available pots. I cut off the top and take the red hot tines of a fork and poke drain holes in the bottom. Even better if I can get the crates from a vendor that hold 8 2-liter bottles. Then I can set the whole crate of 8 down into one of those washing machine drip trays that are like 4' x 4' so that water to the seeds can wick up. I love using this method.

Using 2-liter pop bottles for their project would still leave me stuck buying drip trays to protect the wooden window sills at $1.49 each. Ugh, what's that old saying... darned if you do and darned if you don't!

The cardboard egg carton would be great if I could think of some sort of a tray to place it in. It's just the right size to fit lengthwise on their window sills and they'd be able to easily tear apart a compartment to plant straight in the ground. Wish I could get my hands on about 24 of those old aluminum ice cube tray bottoms that nobody uses any more. Remember the ones that used to have the insert that when pulled separated all the cubes? Wouldn't that be nice to have those right about now to use as drip trays. I'm pretty cheap and try my best to save money and I can't come up with anything to rest a cardboard egg carton in other than the old fashioned ice cube trays. The thought of using the top of a Styrofoam egg carton as a tray is coming to mind. Wonder if that might be the free drip tray sitting right in front of our faces?

The affordable drip trays from nurseries are too wide for even a deep window sill. Bummer because one of those drip trays could easily hold 2 egg cartons.

Right now the top contender is your idea to use the Styrofoam egg carton. What you say makes sense about waiting to transplant until at such time as the root balls have filled the pot so no need to worry about disturbing the roots too much. If this is timed properly, the whole seedling will come right out with a gentle pull. I may not be able to gather up 24 egg cartons for this workshop but I can certainly start buying eggs in Styrofoam cartons and saving them for next year's workshop. Besides which, ten to one odds they pitch all the new food storage containers I have bought again this year.

I am going to add the url of the home page of the forums (font size 18) to the top of the handout I'll be passing around. That way anyone who knows how to use a computer can get to the site and to where all the tomato information is. I know one of the residents there is a retired horticulturist and he knows how to use a computer. He always jokes around with me and throws dirt at me claiming it was an accident- ha ha ha, not an accident. If he can throw dirt at me, he can get on the computer and read right here in this thread that I'm onto him ;) Anyway, from there I'm simply going to cut and paste your whole post of the FAQ. Underneath the body of what I want them to read, I'm going to add "Tomato seedling "How To" created for xxx xxx Residents by Helpful Gardener member opabinia51". I was going to use FAQ but I don't know that they'd be familiar with that acronym.

editing to remove name of nursing home. I don't know if I was allowed to share the name of where the residents are.

opabinia51
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Good luck with your project and be sure to let us know how it works.

By the way, if not overwatered, your workshoppers could get away with just drizzling water over the soil and not poking holes in the wells.

TheLorax
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I was out and about picking up tomato seed for the project and I stumbled upon something that looks real interesting. Who knows how to post photos who would let me e-mail some pics to them that they could post in this thread for me?



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