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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Starting Tomato Seeds

Here are a few pictures that show what we did to start our potted tomato plants yesterday (Mar 6):

We found the easiest method was peat pellets. Yes, we know that peat is not a renewable source, but until we become much better gardeners (remember that this is only our second year), we'll use what works best.

Note: Just picked up a pack of 25 peat pellets (without the little greenhouse) for $2.00 - at Wal-Mart. Not a bad deal.

So... this first picture is the "Jiffy Greenhouse 72" that we bought at the end of last season. At that time, we didn't know we'd be moving. So, since we can't plant a big garden like last year's, I just took 6 of the pellets from the "greenhouse" and placed them in a dish.

Whatever dish you use to rehydrate the pellets, make sure it is shallow enough for you to manipulate the pellets, and that all pellets fit well. Fill a container (I'm using my kitchen measuring cup) with WARM water. For some reason, cold water doesn't seem to work well. Don't flood the dish. Just pour a little at a time. Keep an eye out. I had to go back and pour some more into the dish twice, and the last time, the pellets barely took any in. The pellets, as they rehydrate, will "puff" up, becoming taller. Discard the unused water.

Note that the pellets are basically peat moss (I think), compacted, and surrounded by a netting. As they puff up, the netting holds the in place.

When they have rehydrated as much as they are going to (about 1 inch to 1.5 inches tall), gently take the top and move the netting away from the very top. I just take my two index fingers and pull the netting away from the top. Then I take the same fingers and push in the middle of the sides to fluff-up the peat. This will "un-compact" the peat even further, so when you place in the seed, it won't have to struggle to throw down roots. I tried to take a picture of me doing this but it just didn't come in very clearly.

This third picture shows the six peat pellets that have been rehydrated, and placed in yogurt cups. I'll add a little water to each cup as needed (using a mister is best).

Then I wrote on an index card what seed will be put in each pot. We're only doing 6 tomatoes this year. Probably. Maybe change it later.

I cut the labels and taped to the yogurt cup. Then I placed one seed in each pellet that corresponded with the label. I just barely moved the peat aside, placed one seed, then barely covered it over. If you've never seen a tomato seed, you should know that they are very small and need to be fairly close to the surface.

Then I took the pellets-in-yogurt-cups into a "shoebox tub" and covered it to keep the moisture in. Now I'll check on them every day. Usually I check 2 or 3 times a day because I love this part!

This last picture shows a couple of our tomato pots from last year (2008). Notice that we placed a marigold and basil in each pot to help keep bad little critters/pests away. It worked very well.

NOTE: I can NOT emphasize enough that you need to label your seedlings. And keep those labels with the plants after you transplant them. We didn't do a great job of that last year and half the time, didn't know what tomatoes we were eating! I still can't tell you what tomatoes are in this last picture!

We had the same problem with our squash but that's another story.

p.s. I can't get the spacing on this post to work out correctly because of the pictures but you don't really care, do you?


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