In 2013, I grew tomato and pepper plants from seed, starting indoors, 8 weeks before last frost. Can't remember specifics of what I did. The plants did great, planted them into my garden, gave others away to friends.
In 2014, I thought I did the exact same thing, but for some reason, they were about half the size as they were the year before. Planted some, they did OK at best, felt embarrassed to give any away! Looking to find out what I might have done wrong.
So, here was my method-- can anyone find what I did wrong, such that my plants were so tiny by the time last frost hit?
1.) I chose Burpee seeds, of the same varieties I had grown in 2013, but using new packets. Bought from 2 different local stores. Stored them in the slightly-chilly-but-not-freezing basement for the weeks before planting.
2.) I grew the seeds in four 72-cell plastic seed starter kits with the rehydrated coconut coir pellets as soil ("Planter's Pride"-- same brand/type kits I used in 2013). I planted 2-3 evenly-spaced seeds per cell (some germinated only one, but most germinated more than one), and planted the seeds according to the depth on the packets, as before. I started them with the dome on, but once I saw plants popping up, the dome came off.
3.) I watered them daily from the bottom, by filling the bottom of the tray with just enough water to touch all of the cells, maybe 0.5cm deep at most. This kept the soil evenly damp, but not too moist. I had no problems with damping off.
4.) I had heat mats under the trays that I had calibrated to heat between 75 and 80 degrees. I kept these mats on throughout the entire 8 weeks.
5.) They were under four 6500k fluorescent shop lights, with foil surrounding 3 sides (I used the inside of potato chip bags). The lights were placed 2-3" above the seedlings (raising them as they grew), and were on for 16 hours per day.
6.) Once the plants had poked up out of the soil (and domes were off), I had an oscillating fan directed at them for cycles of 4-hours-on, 4-hours-off, throughout the 8 weeks.
7.) Once they got their first "true leaves," and roots began to poke out the bottom of the cells, I waited maybe 4-5 days, then up-potted them into 3" plastic pots in the same size tray. When I did this, I thinned them out to keep only 1 plant per pot.
8.) Once in the larger pots, I watered from both the top and the bottom (the bottom watering wasn't enough to keep the soil at the top damp enough.
9.) Once the plants were about 5-7 days after up-potting, I fertilized. I fertilized the tomatoes with "Jobe's organic tomato fertilizer" and the rest with Milorganite.
In the end, I had good numbers of plants, but they were all ridiculously tiny-- like, some were only 2" tall, over those 8 weeks.
Any insight into my methods? Things I can change to have a more productive time starting seeds?