I just checked my Rutgers (Jersey) tomatoes yesterday afternoon and there was no sign of any green whatsoever. Tonight they are a measured 1.5 to 2 inches tall. Is this too leggy? (Do I scrap them and start over)? They are on a warming mat and in a sunny window. If a person keeps working with seedlings that got quite leggy, do some plants eventually wind up just fine, or are there eventually issues with their health and how big or robust the flowers or fruit?
Just how leggy is leggy?
In my own attempts at seed starting, I don't worry too much about tomatoes getting leggy. They don't mind being planted deep so you can always bury the exposed stem at the bottom. I always plan my tomatoes quite deep to promote a nice, strong root system.
I agree, I wouldn't be too worried about Toms being leggy. I would probably not use the warming mat anymore, that could be worsening the problem. Depending on the seed starting mix you used, that could be a reason too. I have used Miracle Gro mix and other ones from big box stores, in the past and found it made my seedlings too leggy. Probably due to the fertilizer that is in it. Now I use Pro mix and only fertilize once the seedlings have their second set of true leaves.
Thanks to both of you -- I hope to continue to get more pointers and opinions on this issue. For the record, I have been using MG Seed Starter, which I "thought" was a good medium for starting most seeds so I wonder if you mean not good for tomatoes or maybe not a good way to start any seed. I do use the heat map because i start these seeds in a room where we keep the heat down - it's usually only about 60 in this room.
It's not that it is not good. It is from the MG fertilizer that is included in the mix. The seedlings don't need that much fertilizer until they have their second set of true leaves which usually takes at least 2 weeks for me. The lower amounts of light that the seedlings get indoors combined with the fertilizer make it stretch for more light.
I have read so many times that as soon as you see seedlings, remove them from the heat mat, or they will get leggy. Put tem very close to an overhead light. I am having very good starts this year- hope it continues!
Thanks so much - this kind of experienced advice is so helpful!
I have seen so many different opinions on the heat mat. I myself agree and only use it until the seeds germinate, then I don't use it. They just don't seem to get enough light indoors to balance the extra heat they get from the mat. In a few instances I have used it just to keep them a little warmer in my garage in winter. It is only about 40 degrees in there so the heat mat comes in useful in that type of situation where you are only bringing the temps. to an average temp. I don't think they are necessary in a a spot where the temps are between 65 and 75 degrees.
Michaelangelo, I'm a Minnesota gardener too, not too far from you. I would say it's a little early for planting tomatoes, unless you can provide someplace for them to grow later on that's well-lighted, but not much above 60, and about 50-55 at night. That should keep them strong and stocky. A little fan action too helps them grow stronger stems - they need the "exercise."
I'm going to start my tomatoes next week - some heirlooms, which are so popular these days but which take *forever* to fruit. But I'm moving them out to the shop in the garage, once they get going. The hybrids I'll start in mid-March, no sooner, or they'll outgrow the space I have for them before I can put them in the garden.
Haven't had much luck with Miracle Gro soils. When my peppers and tomatoes started to stretch in that over-rich stuff, there was nothing I could do to put them on a diet! I far prefer to keep fertilizer under my own control.
Good luck --
Joanic... nice to meet another Minnesota gardener. I wonder what you would use instead of Miracle Gro for container gardening- especially peppers and tomatoes. I assume you are talking about not only avoiding the stuff for potting up but as seed starter too, yet everything I see for starting seeds has fertilizer in it. I also wonder if you think MG and the like are OK for flowers, as opposed to veggies. And thanks for you helpful info above.
Pro-mix doesn't have fertilizer. That's what I use. You won't be able to find it at a big box store. You'd probably have luck getting it from a nursery that sells seed starting supplies.
Oh and some people make their own. You can search Make your own seed starting mix on google and you'll find all kinds of recipes. Make your own by blending equal parts of perlite, vermiculite, and peat. Add 1/4 teaspoon of lime to each gallon of mix to neutralize the acidity of the peat.
This message was edited Feb 28, 2010 9:31 AM
See, I make my own container medium - once used the recipe you mention (with vermeculite) but last year switched out the vermeculite for bark fines, using Tapla's recipe. (Are you familiar with it?) So what confuses me then is i always thought seed starting mix had to be something special - not the same medium used for potting up. I'm confused about this.
Personally I use the miracle gro potting mix or Scott's or whatever is the best deal, when I'm potting up, only if it is a time of year that the plants can go outside at least for part of the day. Before that I stick to the same thing I start the seeds in. I fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer mixed into the water that the seedlings are watered in, but only after they have their 2nd set of leaves and only when the mix becomes somewhat dry. I usually use less than recommended and only increase it if the plants appear to need more. I can't remember a time that has ever happened. If anything I usually need to decrease fertilizing. I never have anything that needs more than a 3" pot before hardening off time is here though. Last year I used Schultz, it was in a bottle with a dropper and I think for every 1 gal. watering can full of water (which is usually enough to water one flat) I put about 3 drops. My plants seemed to respond extremely well this way. Nice Green healthy foliage. The important thing is you use a soiless mix when growing seedlings, and I personally have not had good results with any pre made starting mixes that had even what they claimed a small amount of fertilizer. i think I already said this before, but the seedlings will stretch from it because they do not need it until they have 2 sets of true leaves. (That isn't counting the cotyledons that the have when they first emerge.) Oh and like others mentioned it is extremely important to keep the lights as close to the tops of the seedlings as you can with out touching any. I usually keep mine about 1" aboe the tallest in the flat. I end up having to switch my packs around according to height due to certain plants growing taller, faster than others.
Now winter sowing is another story. I will use miracle gro potting mix in old milkjugs put outdoors. I don't have anything against these products as long as they are used for things that they work well for. In this particular circumstance I think the added fertilizer is necessary because the seedlings are outside - so they get much stronger light than under flourescent lights indoors. Plus this way if I don't get them planted out as soon as I should (wich I usually don't) I know they are fine because they have 3 or 6 months worth of fertilizer already in there.
Just wanted to make sure you knew that Pro-mix is my preferred (indoor) seed starting and potting up mix. I only suggested you could make your own to avoid having to use something with a fertilizer in it if you could not find any available in your area. : )
Oh and I think as long as the mix is soiless it is fine for starting seed. The only thing that really makes the different Pro-mixes available is special additions that are supposed to aid germinating of seeds (I'll have to check the bag to see the term it is very scientific) or just the fact that some are made a finer consistancy which is much better for seed sowing. These finer mixes are a little more expensive though so I usually go with the all purpose ones and pik anything too chunky off the top before sowing the seeds. They are all good for both purposes as they are soiless, however the finer mixes are more expensive so I personally wouldn't select them for potting up.
This message was edited Mar 1, 2010 10:08 AM
I went to check the bag of pro-mix I am using currently. The added ingredient which you won't get from a homemade mix is listed as Endomycorrhizea. It says this is a biological growth enhancer. I am not sure how much of a difference this makes, but I have always had good results with it. The rest of the ingredients are Sphagnum Peat Moss (65-75%) by volume, vermiculite (fine texture), limestone for ph adjustment and wetting agent.
The package says Premier Pro-Mix ultimate seeding mix.
This message was edited Mar 1, 2010 10:14 AM
Thank you for the thorough explanation. It was very kind of you to take the time to write this out - much appreciated! Michael
Your welcome, I love to help others learn more about gardening. And I know I used to get confused about all the different options out there when I first started and there were always wonderful dgers to give a helping hand with my questions. I wouldn't know half the stuff I know if it wasn't for being a member here. I think the biggest thing is trial and error. So I figure even if only one thing I tell you is useful then it is worth it. : )
I so *totally* agree with everything Meredith wrote! Thanks, Meredith, for taking the time to be thorough about it. A woman after my own heart.
Hi Meredith - I'm relatively new to Dave's Garden and have asked a few questions on different forums as I'm very much a novice at seed starting. Long story short - I am using the Pro-Mix you mentioned only because I kept reading about it in my "learn how" research. One thing I did was to pop it in the microwave for 12 minutes to sterilize it (recommended by someone in one of the forums). My seeds went into various flats - some 72 cell; some 6 cell; I made some paper pots (that was fun!) and, I'm also using some of the smaller Cow Pots. Wanted to try different methods. Everything went into a tray with a capillary mat with a wick I made from another piece and placed one end under the cap mat and the other into a tupperware type bowl which I fill as needed. All of this went onto seedling heat mats under lights I got at Lowes advertised as for plants. Much to my surprise everything I planted germinated !!! There are a couple of kinds of Cosmo's; Salvia Evolution; Wave Petunia Starfish; Gazania; and, Cherry Brandy Black Eyed Susans. My question is with the Cosmos - they germinated in just a few days in both the 72 cell flats and the paper pots - I took the cover off and removed the heat mat. They are now 2-3" tall with one set of leaves at the very top. A few have just fallen over. I've kept the lights at just above the plants and have continued to raise the lights as the plants got taller. Everything else has leaves (some with a second set) and seem to be "growing" much more slowly. Did I somehow mess-up with the Cosmos? Is there something I can do now to help them? Thank you very, very much !
I forgot to mention that the flats are in a four-seasons room and the room temp is about 62 to 70 degrees with 67 being the average day and night.
Hm I am not sure exactly why they have flopped over. It could be the amount of moisture, sometimes when my seedlings get a tad too dry they will perk up after watering. However it could also be dampening off which normally isn't an issue if you use sterilized mix. However I think keeping seedlings too wet will promote this to happen. If you aren't allowing the mix to dry out slightly in between watering them, you could be watering too much. If none of these are the reason - it could just be cosmos. Can I ask how thickly you sowed the seeds? Example did you put three seeds per cell or 5, etc. ? There is a chance there isn't enough circulation for them and they may need to be thinned if any are still standing. Also any sudden increase in real sunlight could make them flop. Cosmos do very well when direct sown, so perhaps if you have soe seed left you could sow them where they are to grow.
Just want to let you know I have a few herbs that have done this, but there is a difference between the seedlings that have just flopped temporarily and can pop back up and ones that are dead due to dampening off. Do you have a picture by chance?
Yes they look a bit dry to me. Do you bottom water? You should fill the flat with water and let them sit in it until the top looks like the moister cells in your picture. Then you shouldn't water them again until it looks like the drier cells in your picture. Watering from the top can cause dampening off which is fatal to seedlings.
Cosmos is just a really fast-growing plant. Even in Alaska, we would direct-sow them rather than try to start ahead of time. I think you might have to just do your best to slow them down - cooler temperatures, minimum fertilizer (if any!), as much bright light as possible (maybe extend the lighting hours?) - and get them out as soon as possible. Maybe you could also re-start some more four or five weeks before set-out time in your area, if you really want a head start and have some seeds left.
You don't mention a fan in your growing room (how I wish I had such a place!). Air movement can help strengthen stems and prevent various diseases as well.