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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

KNOL: Starting Tomatoes Indoors (In Pictures)

This entry is a copy from a KNOL I wrote found at Google. Google will be discontinuing the KNOL's platform and I am in the process of storing them on my blog. Please enjoy the article. I have about 50 coming over to this blog.

Tomatoes grace just about every gardener's garden. There are thousands of tomato varieties. The best way to tap into the world of tomatoes is by purchasing seeds from catalogs. Perhaps you want heirloom tomatoes or you are eager to try the newest hybrid.  Starting tomatoes indoors is a hundred times easier than deciding which tomato variety you want to grow. Be warned. Once you begin to start your tomatoes indoors, you will need to expand your garden.  It's nothing to start 10 or 20 types of tomatoes indoors. It's another thing finding room for them in your garden.

Starting Tomatoes Indoors (In Pictures)

by Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C
Join My Garden Blog:The Rusted Garden

What do tomato transplants look like?

Here are several varieties of tomatoes under my grow-lights. I will have a future Knol on growing transplants under artificial lights. You do not have to have this elaborate set-up to grow tomato seedlings indoors. You can use your windowsill and the sun.

Tomato seedlings under my grow-lights. April 2009

What supplies do I need to grow tomato seedlings indoors?

You will need:

  1. Starting soil. I have Miracle Grow potting soil with fertilize in the picture.
  2. A container to hold your soil.
  3. Cello trays to plant the seeds.
  4. A tray to hold your cello trays.
  5. Styro-foam cups or other containers to hold your tomatoes once they grow.
  6. Tomato seeds.

Seedling supplies. April 2009

How do I get started growing tomato seedlings indoors?

Fill the cello trays with potting soil to start. Press the soil down in the tray and fill cells again to the top. You want to makes sure the soil is firm. Place 4 seeds per section in the cello tray. Typically, there are 9 section to a tray.

Each tray will hold 36 seeds. That is more seedlings than you will need. You need to label what's in your tray. I use little building sticks. You can place one stick per tray or 1 per section if you plant multiple varieties in a tray. Simply press the seeds down with the tip of a pencil (or something similiar)  about 1/4 of an inch into the soil and lightly cover. That is it for planting.

The cello trays have holes in the bottom of each cell. You will need to water your plants from the bottom. If you water them from the top you will wash the seed deeper into the tray and run the risk of plant disease (damping off). You need to put your cello tray into a container. Fill the container with an inch of water every couple of days. When you buy cello trays at your garden center, I recommend buying kits that come with trays.

Four seeds to a cell. April 2009

What do I do now that the seeds are planted?

You set them by the window and make sure they don't dry out. When the seedlings reach 1 - 2 inches, you will need to transplant them into another container. Tomatoes will germinate within 7 days. They grow quickly.

My Tomatoes and other seedlings. April 2009

My basic transplant station. April 2009

How do I transplant my tomatoes into other containers?

I use 8 oz. Styro-foam cups as my containers. You need to poke 3 holes in the bottom of the cups before you transplant the tomato seedlings. You should continue to water the plants from the bottom. Although, at this point, you can water them from the top and not risk disease. If you choose to water from the top, the holes become drainage holes. So, do not forget the holes.

Gently pull a group of 4 tomatoes from your cello tray (one cell) and tap the root-ball in your hand. You MUST do this when the soil is more dry then wet. You will need to plan ahead and make sure the soil is mostly dry. Wet soil makes it much too difficult to separate the root clusters. Dry dry dry soil.

Gentle hold one tomato seedling and pull another away from the root cluster. If your soil is dry this will happen quite easily.

Gentle separate the seedlings. April 2009

Fill your cup about 1/3 of the way and place your seedling into the cup. Continue holding your seedling and fill the cup the rest of the way. You are planting one seedling per container or cup.

Setting the transplant in a cup. April 2009

Notice you buried over 2/3 of the tomato seedling. You want to do this. A tomato is a vine and roots will grow out from the stem that is below the soil.

Filling the cup to the leaves. April 2009

Don't forget to label your cup or container. I place my newly transplanted seedlings into foil baking trays. You can find them at your local grocery store. Again, I am using my grow-lights but you can keep yours by the window. Since you have been growing them by the window the are ready for the outdoor sun. If it is warm enough, they can go outside for a bit of fresh air.

Transplanted tomato seedlings under my grow-lights. April 2009

When do I plant my tomatoes in the garden?

You can plant them when the nights are mostly fifty degrees. There is no rush. Putting them out early won't matter in the big picture. Keep them into the cups and bring them indoors at night while the nights are forty-five degrees or less. Standard tomato growing weather is fifty degree nights and seventy degree days.


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