When I started growing tomatoes, I transplanted the seedlings into standard 6-pack cells when they got their first true leaves. This worked ok if they didn't stay there too long, but when I found that the plants did better if I waited an extra week after the last frost date to set them out, I found that they tended to become root-bound in the small containers.
I tried several alternatives. Paper cups (8 oz with holes punched in the bottom) gave the roots more room, but were a little wobbly and the bottoms tended to rot out when standing in a tray for bottom feeding. Some 2x2x6-inch hard plastic cells that held mail-order plants had plenty of room for roots, but it was difficult to extract the plants. Ronaash Root-trainers produced excellent root systems, and it was fun to open them and see how the roots developed, but they were spaced so close to each other that when the tomato plants reached a foot tall, their tops became so tangled that I sometimes broke the stems trying to separate them.
One day I was opening a 10-oz can of frozen orange juice, and happened to think that the empty container was just about the right size for a tomato seedling, so I started saving them, and this year when tomato planting time came, I had about 20 of the OJ containers. I punched holes in the metal bottom with an old ice pick, filled them with a good moistened grow mix, and transplanted the young seedlings into them, burying the stems as deep as possible. I put them into two trays, 10 apiece so as not to crowd the plants, and watered them from the bottom. When they got too big for my light frame, I moved them outside into a plastic pop-up planthouse.
A flurry of events caused me to postpone transplanting the tomatoes in the garden until May was half over and some of the tomato plants had reached 18 inches high. Nevertheless, they were all growing well, the sturdy OJ containers held them upright (only one flopped over), and when I set them out, by pulling at the spiral seam on the cardboard sides, the containers unpeeled easily, revealing a good deep root system which was better developed than the extra plants I plunked into 6-packs when I ran out of OJ containers.
If you are an orange juice drinker, I recommend that you try this yourself. I have already started saving the containers for next year. One oddity was that many of the cans developed tiny mushroom growths at the bottom rim where they sat in the watering tray. It didn't seem to affect the tomatoes. Sorry I didn't take a picture, but I was in a rush to get them set out and didn't think of it.
I start out with the largest cow pots or peat pots I can find (4 or 5 inches in diameter) with about an inch or less or potting mix after the seeds germinate we keep adding a bit of soil. As they continue to grow, we add more and more soil, and the seedlings get stronger. We take them out for a few hours to harden them off or keep them in one of the vans where they seem happy. When it is safe, we take them out for all day, and if it looks like it will get too cold, they go back into the van overnight till the frost threat is over.
I tried something new this year. I had been using plastic 16 oz cups from the dollar store but they were too tippy. I used the styrofoam soup cups from Gordons Food service. I could write the names in ink right on the containers, the bottoms pierced easily with an pencil, and they were much less tippy. I started with the 32 ouncers, but that took a lot of soil. I planted most in the 16 ounce size. Saved time of printing labels, and drilling out the bottoms. Figured there was a little insulation for the roots, too.
I started my seedlings this year either on damp paper towels, toilet paper holders, or Burpee trays. Once they had the first leaf I transferred them to 16 oz clear or red cups from the Dollar store. I only filled the cup 1/3 to 1/2 full and kept adding coir and worm castings as they grew. The clear cups are great because you can see the root development. They all did great. The cups can be washed out and saved for next year. Much easier than using the larger pots I used to use since they required so much more soil. I also liked being able to write the names on the cup.
I like the idea of tall and skinny pots, as long as I'm not potting up from one pot size to another too much.
And I agree that "tippy" drives me crazy. The only solution I found was to use relatively small cardboard trays with tallish sides, line them with plasitc bag, and avoid overwatering. If I pack them in tightly, and they JUST fit, the sidewalls keep them from tipping.
But then, remove a few cups, and they tip.
My counter to that was to repalce each removed cup with an empty cup (sometimes turned upside down).
And when I have several different sizes and shapes of pots, I can pack one tray tightly by using some of a different size to "chink" the holes.
I put my seedlings in various size cups and to prevent tipping I get some cardboard 'vegetable' boxes from COSTCO and drill holes in them with a hole saw and have a tip-free place. another benefit is you can lift the box with all the cups in it and take it outside or whatever.
Drkenai, I cracked up when I read your description about cutting holes in "vegetable boxes" and then opened the pic to see an M & M box. Those are my kind of vegetables! Though I love real vegetables just as much...
Once I read someone’s post on DG saying that they used clear plastic cups for potting up their tomato seedlings. I thought that sounded like a good idea since I could then monitor how the root systems were doing and maybe that would give me some insights into things like when it was time to water them or even when to start hardening off the seedlings in preparation for planting them outside in my raised beds instead of going by the stem size and height of plant. So while at the grocery store this afternoon I purchased a package of 48 - 16 oz. clear plastic cups to try it out. The 16 oz. seemed to be the correct size since they are pretty deep and can accommodate an extensive root system but did seem to be sorta top heavy. So all the way home I was worrying and trying to figure out how to keep the cups from tipping over in the tray I will keep them in. Not to worry, all I had to do was read the latest posts on DG where the topic was being discussed.
Every year I discover little ways to tweak my system to make it a better but it never reaches perfection which of course is my goal. And I’d better hurry up and find that perfect system ‘cause I’m starting to run out of years. :)
Booker - OOPS - now all the vegatarians and sugartarians are going to be upset with me. I thought most of them were from vegatables, and I think the ones in the second picture are. They are really very sturdy boxes and always plenty at COSTCO.
Has anyone tried the "Tomato Pot Makers" that you roll newspaper around it to make a pot. They are made of wood and look like a baker's small rolling pin. I'm half tempted to buy one (arounf $8-10) but would like to hear about their success or failures.
I have tried just about all the gadgets in my 50 years of gardening, and found most to be more trouble that they were worth-including the newspaper deal. If you want to be crafty, save toilet paper rolls, and fold in one end to make a bottom, put a piece of tape to hold it and filla tray with those. The problem with things like that is that they become soggy and unstable after awhile. My favorite is 5oz. clear plastic cups from WalMart with 3 holes in the edge at the bottom- I use an old woodburner tool to make holes. You can see the roots as they grow. To hold the cups upright I scrounge the flats at garden shops that hold the littls cactus plants-the size is perfect.
I've been pretty fortunate in that I saved all those 4" plastic pots that my wife buys in flats of her posies over the years. Problem is that I got to clean all of them before reusing. And it seems that no matter how mannyi have I am always short one or two pots when it comes to transplanting. But the toilet paper rolls do work in a pinch.
I saw some video (You-Tube, I think), where someone rolled newspaper pots using a soda bottle or yogurt cup as a form. She used an open end on the plastic form to fold the bottom "in". It seemed like a lot of excess paper as the bottom.
Then she pulled out the form, and squished and jammed the bottom flat from the top-inside of the pot.
I've never tried it. I haunt Home Depot around the end of the season, until they throw away / give away empty plastic pots, usually a lot of square 4" pots. Then I re-use those until I give them away. When two pots have big crocks, I nest them together with the cracks on opposite sides. Maybe I use a little duct tape also, but not usually. In principle, I would rather give seedlings away in my older pots.
I used to know a nursery where they discarded all pots in a plywood bin that customers could scrounge. I get some big pots there! Of course, all such pots need extra cleaning and disinfection.
I've been saving 20 ounce, 3" diameter "Sobe" bottles because the walls are straight and not wasp-waisted. There are only two shallow grooves visible and I thought I could cut the top one off and tap a root ball out past the bottom one. I would still have a pot 4 3/4" tall.
Unfortunately, when I cut the label off, I found three more deep, square-edged grooves that would mess up a root ball really badly.
So now I'm thinking that I will also cut a slit about 80% of the way down the bottles' wall so I can pull them apart apart like a clam shell when I want to pot up.
And I'll sit the 1 1/2" wide bottle cap on the bottom of the bottle, before filling it with soilless mix. Then I can use a pencil or dowel to push on the bottle cap like a plunger. That should eject the root ball in one piec e!
I cut the top off 16 oz water bottles and start my seeds in those. When they get ready to repot, I slit it down on each side and gently remove it and place it in a 2 lt. bottle that the top has been cut off. I can write the names on them. I've been doing this for 3 years ... after trying several things, this works the best for me. At this, they're ready for the garden.
Oh, I forgot to mention, I do punch holes for bottom watering. The water bottles are easy to pierce, though.
Yep. Straight-sided drinking water bottles is the way to go, after starting multiple seeds in 4" seed pots, then, thinning the herd at potting up..
#1 My stash for this season (I only use the straightest sided bottles. Sam's Club and Costco drinking water bottles are the straightest!)
#2 "...a thousand words..."
#3 My trained co-workers' offerings to me, LOL! (I've gotten more car surprises than you could imagine!)
I've grown tomato plants in just about every junky container imaginable. Yogurt is my favorite one, but I also like the small cheese and margarine containers, too. Once I planted one in a giant 40 oz "Super Slurp" that already had baby tomatoes on it. My large extended family knows me well enough to "recycle" them to me as well. Maybe that's because I give them all nice transplants in mid-May..
I like the 2 liter soft drink bottles. And I like it cause it is clear so you can watch the roots grow and tall and slender to bury deep. I always had a problem getting the soil to turn loose from the sides when it was time to transplant. but I recently came up with an idea for that based on someone elses idea but haven't put it to the test. First I want to explain how and why. Giant Pumpkin growers grow their pumpkin plants early in large 1 to 3 gallon pots but they have to get the plants out without disturbing the roots so they cut the pot down in half and tape it back together on the outside only with duct tape. When it comes time to transplant, they remove the tape and pull the the pot apart. I think the same can be done with the 2 liter bottles. Just a thought.
When I'm not using recycled materials I prefer 8 or 9 oz. plastic cups available cheaply at the dollar store. I think they as big as anyone needs for healthy tomato and pepper transplants. Anything larger would be a waste of space and expensive potting soil. This one was about 8 weeks old.
I started about 30 original seedlings in a single cool-whip container, grew them out about 4 weeks, maybe 3.5 - 4" tall (under lights). Then transplanted once into the plastic cups for another 4 weeks or so moving them in and outdoors depending on the weather.
I had 400 plants all together, different varieties, sold for $1.00 each (6 for $5.00) for a charity project. They were completely sold out in an hour.
So, you put them outside right after Potting up to the cups? Hardening off four weeks, as the weather allows, is that correct?
Wow. They'd be very hardy for planting that way!
I'm growing long-season heirlooms that need to be in the ground by February 16th, or else they won't mature before our scorching heat takes em out by the end of June. I'm hoping to create enough warmth under the PVC hoop that they won't stall out.
I don't have a greenhouse to work with, so yes, they are are moved inside and out according to the frost warnings. I do have a large light stand, two large tables, and two useable window sills inside. Our nightly frosts are infrequent in late April - early May, but they are left outside overnight during nice warm weather. The plants are very hardened off before planting in garden last week of May or early June.
Even the seedlings in the coolwhip containers enjoy outside sunlight for a few hours if the weather is nice. A slight wind or breeze will help sturdy up the stems. Be careful if the weather changes too quickly, though.
The tomato plants will stand outside okay as long as it's not freezing or too windy. We also get heavy rains that can damage plants. I guess I get really cautious when the temps are in the lower 40's and bring them all inside. Our temps alternate between quite chilly at night to warm during daylight in May. Best time to plant here is Memorial Day or first week of June. Some folks will plant May 15th using hot caps or whatever, but I can't see where it makes much difference and they take a real risk with late frosts. My seed starts begin around April 1st.
Your area MUST be clear of frost warnings before setting tomato plants in the ground. It only takes one night of low temps to ruin your entire crop. They will likely survive temps in the low 40's, but I can't say for sure from here.
A local county extension agent might be able to help with more information.
I can say for sure that they will survive temps in the high 30s but they won't be happy, they just sit there. Also, if the air temps are that low the soil temps are low too. Sometimes we will have weeks of nice temps then a few days of near freezing temps so the soil is still pretty warm. I just don't have time to put the protection on and take it off. I've actually cooked plants bc I didn't have time to take the frost protection off. It's just not worth it, to me, to take that chance.
I knew it would take a commitment to protect them between mid-February and late-March, so I've been preparing the contingencies.
I have perforated plastic sheeting that I won't have to put on and off, and frost blankets that can go over that. I've been considering covering the beds with plastic sheeting, to capture the warmth for nighttime.
We'll have far more sunny, cool days in the 42-48° range toward my target plant out date. We will have probably less than 5-10 nights below 32°.
But, like Al has warned, it only takes ONE night below freezing to wipe out the crop.
I'll be growing 15 plants in one 4x8' bed, and about 5 dwarves in large containers.
My beds are 4 foot wide and I use a 10 foot section of schedule 40 3/4 inch PVC. I know the heater may be expensive to run but I put so many hours into my tomatoes it is worth it. I plant so early because I take two coolers of tomatoes to Alaska on the second week of July.
This has really become a sickness - I have over 200 seedlings and larger under T5 grow lights and I planted more today! I have about 45 varieties I am cultivating. Last year was the first year I grew from seed and I saved some and they sprouted!! From last year a favorite was Juane Flammee,also German Johnson, Cherokee Purple and Big Rainbow.
I will plant these in my 'hoops' the first week of March, and monitor closely for about 5 weeks. Some new ones I am excited about are Purple Russian, Black Cherry, Neves Azorian Red and Pink Ping Pong.
The picture is of some of the tomatoes I took to Alaska last year.
Well it is a long story - I am the chief cook and fishing guide for 6 of my friends and brother each year in Alaska. I do all the cooking, fish filleting and have menus for every meal (almost all include tomatoes). I love to cook and fish so it is a great time - last year we caught 238 sockeye salmon etc etc.
I have 2 4ft. 8 bulb T5s and one 4 bulb 4 foot as well as one 200 watt compact florescent. I got them all from 420 folks on Craigslist for about 1/2 price of new.
I time it to have full coolers to take to Alaska - this year July 11 and the sockeye should be in the 12th or so . . . in Alaska you can trade tomatoes for anything . . . all in jest . . I am Dr. Kenai because that is the river we are about 15 feet from for 3 weeks and they just started calling me Dr. Kenai and so it has stuck. No I am not a doctor but I did stay at a Red Roof Inn last nite so if you need anything let me know!! Ha
I've used different potting mixes, usually Miracle-Gro or Pro-Mix potting material from Lowes or Walmart. I buy the largest bags they have because I use a lot.
After growing about the seedlings in coolwhip containers for about 4 weeks (or about 4" high) I transplant into the plastic cups shown previous. I plant them deeply into the 8 oz. cups, using an old pencil pushed all the way to the bottom before setting the stem as deep as I can.
I use the sterilized pottting mix (not "soil") to both start and transplant. The ones with added trace amounts of fertilizer seem to work best. Probably nothing wrong with using a good "starting mix" like Jiffy as many folks do, but it doesn't have much for nutrients. The potting mixes are a bit chunkier, but work well for me.
I think several people have their own way of thinking on this subject and I'm certainly not one to dispute others. There are many excellent threads and articles here at DG to help.
Pete, are you trying to start peas indoors (as your posts suggest) ?
Most experts say to start them outdoors in early spring. I'm far from being an expert, but I have not had any trouble in starting snap peas and snow peas outside the last week in March or the first week of April. You might want to wait a week later since you're a little farther north.
>> Pete, are you trying to start peas indoors (as your posts suggest) ?
>> Most experts say to start them outdoors in early spring.
Yes, I agree that most sources say something like "early spring".
- "as soon as soil can be worked"
- "about a month before the last frost date"
- "as soon as the soil can be worked, however an early planting will not necessarily germinate any earlier
than if you wait for the ground to warm. Peas are a cool weather crop, but they don't like soil that is cold or wet.
However, that doesn't always work well for everyone. This is the advice that I think I( need to focus on:
- "Never sow in cold, wet soil"
I have to start my snow peas in late spring, if I want any to emerge. For me, snow peas started outdoors much earlier than late April / early June seldom come up.
I speculate that they are rotting faster than they are sprouting in the early, cold, very wet heavy clay soil. I even tried covering that part of the bed with plastic before planting out, but I'm sure that water seeped in from other parts of the bed. Spring seems to warm up very gradually around here, and we get lots of overcast and drizzle, which may cause the soil to warm up slowly as well.
Then I read a suggestion from someone: for very early Sugar Anne snap peas, start them indoors on paper towel, and transplant as soon as the root tip emerges. He suggested checking the paper towels twice per day, and transplanting before you had many mm of root.
Hi Don, I got started late in the season since it said on the pack that they'd grow well into the fall,
and what grew were quite cold hearty. I was concerned that they would not germinate so yes I
did start them indoors and I'm sure that I overwatered. I was in a rush and did not do much
reading, a friend said that they were very easy to grow, lol.
I will take your advice and try them in the ground, early April this year.
Honeybee - yes I think most of them rotted.
Rick - It was HOT, May or June when I started them. The package said something about
planting them over time to get yield into early fall or something like that. I think I will try them
on paper towels - it sounds interesting! Thanks for the link, I might try that gutter method.
I did get about 15 plants to grow and they didn't stop, surviving several frosts.
We had a few storms that damaged several of the plants so I only got a couple
dozen pea pods but they were quite good - crispy and sweet.
I tried 3 different varieties and am not sure which one was the best.
They germinated better, grew a stalk that was twice as big as the
other one that germinated. I think, based on the picture from the
package that it was these, they were plump in such a way that you
did not see the individual peas:
Here's the link: http://www.botanicalinterests.com/products/view/3089/Pea-Snap-Sugar-Snap-Organic-Seeds
Claimed to be award winning on the package.
Purchased at Ace Hardware
I do love Botanical Interests! I've bought more flowers from them than veggies.
They also seem to expect soil to be pretty warm before the last frost is over!
"When to sow outside:
RECOMMENDED. 4 to 6 weeks before average last frost
or as soon as soil can be worked.
Soil temperatures must be above 40° F"
For Snow peas, my favorite is Oregon Sugar Pod II. Sweet and crisp even when the pods get huge and fat and the peas are big. Bear heavily and for a long time. That may be a local-climate preference, they were developed in Oregon!
This one was very pretty, and climb ed tall str5ings, like 6+ feet, but tasted awful the one year I grew them: not sweet, like cardboard:
Golden Sweet Snow Pea Pod
OP heirloom from India
two-tone purple blossoms lemon-yellow pods
Three mangiatutto snap peas I to have room for next year are:
'Carouby de Maussane' OP Snow Pea/Snap Pea, 5' vines, "robust flavor varies from plant to plant"
(also called Pisello Rampicante Gigante Svizzero)
'Cascadia' Edible-Pod Pea 65 days, short bush, very thick, fleshy walls
'Sugar Ann' Snap Peas , 56 days OP.10 days earlier than other snap peas, 18-24" bushy vines
Also, Joseph sent me some pole snap peas adapted to short-season conditions in Cache Valley, Utah.