Seed Starting Methods 2012, Part 2

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

We came from here:
Seed Starting Methods 2012

This season, Hornstrider used Root Riot Seed Starting plugs instead of Jiffy Mix to start his tomato seedlings, and his results thus far have been outstanding. Hornstrider reports that he has the biggest, thickest stemmed, healthiest, greenest tomato plants he's ever started!

Since this info could be helpful to people who have not started their seedlings yet (like the folks up north), we opened up a lively discussion on seed-starting methods. Feel free to join us. Catch up on the first thread, then come back and share your own methods here, and post plenty of pictures!

Godspeed, and Good Harvest!

This message was edited Apr 3, 2012 9:17 AM

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SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

There is some REALLY, REALLY, REALLY good information on this thread!


This message was edited Apr 3, 2012 9:18 AM

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Thanks GG. Jeanette

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

me: what goes wrong with your seed starting method? tx_gardener: It's been so long I don't really remember -- I'm talking jiffy pellets, I think, which I don't like and will not use again.
- - -
I know lots of folks really like pellets but I've never had good luck with them. My current favorite method is to start seeds in small cell packs (the ones you buy a six-pack of small plants from the nursery) filled with Roots Organics, or any other good potting soil. Bottom heat, a dome of some sort (or just a plastic bag twist tied shut over the cell pack) for humidity, flourescent shop light overhead. As soon as most of the sprouts have popped the surface, the humidity dome comes off and the lights are lowered. Bottom water with a weak solution of cammomile tea made with bottled water (the reverse osmosis kind you can fill jugs with at the grocery store) and a splash of hydrogen peroxide. I keep a small fan going on the seedlings to help the stems stregthen. Do not add any additional fertilizer to your seedlings, this will kill 'em for sure. Wait for two sets of 'true' leaves, then only a very weak solution of liquid fertilizer, if any. I like Roots Organics because of all the good stuff already in it and find I save money on fertilizer because I don't need to add anything additional until they go out into the garden.

Hope this helps and encourages you to try again. - Adding my favorite 'seedling' picture.....this plant looks like a small tree!

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Brady, TX(Zone 8a)

Thanks MaryMc, since I live in a small town I don't have access (except to order and pay freight) to products other than the ones I don't like (miracle gro, jiffy, etc.) I'm contemplating (probably for next seed-starting season) ordering the 'ihort' plugs that Hornstrider likes so much (and skip that dinner out LOL). My fixed income needs fixing.....

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

OIC - that makes sense. Keep us posted on how your method works for you.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

I got lost, but thanks to David, I'm found!

I purchased a different "sauce" tomato this year, but it's performance is "spotty" so I sowed some seeds saved from last year. So far, last year's left over seeds, (plus my own saved seeds from last year) are doing better than this year's seeds.

Anyone else having problems with 2012 seeds?

If the older seeds and my own saved seeds were not sprouting, I would say there was something wrong with my growing methods, but I'm using the same "recipe" for everything!

Hutto, TX

TX_gardener, and Earnie...........There are some things that GG did not post about what I did w/ these plugs. I only watered from the bottom. I would fill the trey 1/2 way w/ rain water, and let them soak up the water, and then poured the water out of the trey. I don't know if that makes any difference, but that is what I did. I watered the IHORT plugs twice as much as the RR plugs because the RR plugs would stay wet so much longer. The IHORT plugs would need almost daily watering because of the air flow around the plug. All of my plants survived the hardening off process, and are doing well now. I also tried something that you are not supposed to do. I planted carrot seeds in the IHORT plugs (one little seed per plug) seemed to work as the picture shows below.........Also pictured are some of my mater plants started w/ the plugs.

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Vista, CA


I did not know you were not supposed to plant other seeds in the RR plugs, and i planted some Winter Squash seeds in some, and most of them have sprouted. I have not bothered to record the days it takes as it depends on the ambient temp, since i do not use heat. I have those ten plugs in a section of the tray they came in, and the group in a plastic container that loose spinach comes in from the market. It has a little bit of water in the bottom and soaks up through the plug. Incidentally, i use my Bandsaw to whack off some of the cells from the 50 cell tray they come in. It is all so much cleaner and neater than fooling with the starter soil it is just no comparison.

I planted my carrots and turnips and beets and beans directly in the garden, but it crusts so bad here, i then sprinkle a 1/4 inch of sand on top instead of covering the seeds with dirt. It looks like nearly 100% germination in the ground using the sand, versus maybe 50% last year covering with dirt. Ray Der Phan gave me a variety of tomato plants to try this year, so i have not started any tomatoes yet.


Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Hornstrider, I got a bag of the RR plugs but haven't done anything with them yet. I did this before you posted the IHORT plugs info. Ok, what if I somehow loosened up the RR plugs so they get more air? Yes, coir is very water retentive. Or moisture retentive.

Whitmore Lake, MI(Zone 5b)

Hi everybody! I was looking at this thread to see what people were doing because although I've been stumbling around a garden for a few years, I've never done seeds. I have the jiffy "greenhouse" thingie with pellets, and I got to planting (zone 6a) or "sowing" for those of you who don't like the planting word :) this past week. Here's my issue - I have never had a light or mat or any other toys, so I was wondering, am I doomed before I even get going? Right now I have the greenhouse thingie in my Florida room, where it's been 80 degrees due to our weather. PROBLEM is, I have no light, just the sun, so am I going to get "leggy" and useless plants? I have a variety I'm doing but I wanted to mention that I'm doing Black Krim and Sungella tomatoes... My green envy zinnias are already a couple inches tall (four day germination!) and they're kind of leaning toward the sun. Have I done them a disservice?

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

For one thing you should turn them so they get the same sun all around. Is it a lot of sun? Are the zinnias leggy? Guess we would need to know how much sun they get. What is a greenhouse thingy? You mean a clear dome over a potting tray? Did you plant the zinnias in the pellets? What exactly do you mean by pellets? Those flat round things that swell up with water?

Whitmore Lake, MI(Zone 5b)

The Florida room is on the southeast side of the house, so it gets a lot of sun. Thanks for the turning suggestion! I will do that every day. I don't know if the zinnias are leggy because I've never seen a baby one. The greenhouse thingie has been aptly defined by Jnette (yes it's what you said) and yes, the pellets are the swell-up-with-water kind. I'll take a picture tomorrow and post it so people can tell me if the zinnias are leggy! Thank you SO much, Jnette for your reply. I always feel so stupid asking these kinds of questions so your kindness is much appreciated. I am always afraid that gardeners might have a clique and tell me that I have to go sit at the geek table...

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)

The light will be your biggest issue. People have been starting seeds on window sills for years, though, so it can be managed. Let the pellets get fairly dry between watering, though. I've had good luck with the peat pellets, so I would say that you can make them work. Jnette's suggestion to rotate the seedlings may be the only way you can keep the growth even, though. Good luck!

Hutto, TX

Earnie....I have read you should direct sow carrots in the ground....not start them in treys like maters, peppers ect.....I direct sowed my winter carrots, and I am still picking carrots....I dont like thinning them so I thought what the heck ....I will put them in a plug..looks like it worked, and I dont have to thin can sow just about anything in the plugs like you would any seed starting medium...

Vista, CA

I think a lot of root crops do not transplant well, but actually with the plugs most of them do not even know they are being transplanted. I do not mind thinning but i wait until they are big enough to nibble. Too bad we cannot get a precision hand held seeder that works well and not too expensive.


Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Ive used the jiffy pellets and jiffy seed starter for yrs and have had really good luck with both. I start 1000s of seedlings a yr. Everybody has the way that works best for them but I cant see a reason that these methods wouldnt work, there must be something else going on. I will try to post pictures of a few of my plants tomorrow.

Cynical- leggy tomato plants will still produce tomatoes they will just need to be planted deeper. You can buy a regular shop light set up and keep the lights 2-3" from your seedlings this will help with the legginess. Leggy does not = useless.

Where does it say that only tomato seeds can be started in RR? I've read it 3X and while Im sure it there I dont see it. LOL

On the other seed starting thread there was some confusion about whether or not RO (root organics) had fertilizer already in it. Like Mary said "yes" it does. For me this doesnt work. I need more "control" over how fast my seedlings grow. I have found that a good potting soil without amendments works best when I pot up, BUT I add organic fertilizer when I water them as needed. Before I pot up the seedlings they dont receive any fertilizer as that is what the nurse leaves are for.

Mary's plant looks fantastic but I have seen others started in RO that were very leggy and while they will produce great tomatoes they were not great looking plants like Mary's or Horn's.

Thats what makes this thread so important is it gives great information and allows people to decide what works best for them. If I get time tomorrow I will post a picture of 2 plants started at the same time one is much small then the other because I need it to go out with a later order. I can hold it back by not fertilized it.

Vista, CA

In the early stages, lack of light is probably the main cause of "legginess" but i know for sure that too much nitrogen makes trees "leggy" or too tall between lateral branches, and too thin. So too much nitrogen probably does the same thing to other plants, too.

Lisa, Being able to control your plants like that is a sign of wonderful management. When i read of people having trouble with their plants being too big too soon, for planting out, i wonder why they started seeds too soon and gave them too much warmth and light. Your keeping your projects under tight control is the way any good business needs to be run.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Ernie-thanks for the compliments. Everything I've read or been told about starting seeds says "don't start seeds in medium containing fertilizer". I do not want to start an argument but I don't see a reason to start seeds in any medium RO or any other that has any amendments in it. I can start seeds on the top of the refrigerator in a plastic bag.

All the directions I've read say don't fertilize until the 1st or 2nd set of true leaves. I've read here that the plants not only don't need the amendments but they can't absorb them, I don't know enough about this to say if it's true or not.

Now by the time they get potted up, they can be fertilized, I don't always as some just don't seem to need it. The good organic potting soil I use doesn't have any amendments added so I fertilize as needed with a water soluble fertilizer. The tomato seedlings are ready to go out by the time they are 6 weeks old. All this is very inexpensive, quick and easy. I don't fertilize ANY of the seedlings before they get potted up, not with a growing medium that has amendments or by adding fertilizer. I honestly don't see a reason for it, but once they are potted up it's a whole different story..

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Great discussion! Thanks for all ya'lls continued input!

How many carrots did you end up planting in IHORT plugs? Wouldn't that get to be a bit expensive? I think you might have just being doing it to see how it would work, yes? Glad it did work! Enjoy your $.08 carrots!

Everyone here was once a "geek". In fact, I'm STILL a garden geek! And, no one would ever regulate anyone to the "geek" section, so don't ever be afraid to ask a question here. We welcome your questions wholeheartedly. It's what fuels a lot of the discussions on Dave's Garden.


Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

cynical_76 -

I am always afraid that gardeners might have a clique and tell me that I have to go sit at the geek table...

I've been growing vegetables for 60 years and LOVE to answer gardening questions. So please keep those questions coming. There's no geek table here. ^_^

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)


Thanks for the GDD discussion. The relationship to seed starting that i see is that it helps me decide WHEN to try to start soemthing, or what variety to try.

I thought about it and realized that almost any metric or advice is most usefull when you can compare something that you know about your own garden (like how one variety did, grown a frew diffetent ways), with information from other gardeners (like, this variety and that variety ripened after X and Y degree days in this location).

Finding that information from other gardeners mostly depends on how 'standardized' it is. For example, it's easy to find a "hardiness zone" for plants, because that is very standard (aside from rapdily fluctuating temperatures)

"Average days to harvest" is fairly standardized , but it does assume favorable but unspecified conditions. you can still use it to COMPARE two varieties: if everyone else says that X ripens in 60 days and Y ripens in 80 days, but it takes me 90 days to ripen X I better not even try Y!

"Degree days to ripeness" for varieties is not commonly found on hobbyist seed packets: I'll have to do some research.

Thanks again.

Vista, CA


I suggest you try to find information on the relationship of GDD to soil temperature for your area. That will not be precise for one year, but is an average. The key that i think is not mentioned enough with seed starting is the soil temperature. Most seeds need at least 50 degrees to germinate and for transplants to grow,and some need 60 degrees. So, I just keep checking the soil temp, as i do not have a market date to meet. But if i was doing this as a business, i would want to know well in advance, all i could about when the soil can be expected to warm up, and then i would have all my ducks lined up ready to go close to that date. If transplants, that is the time to have them ready to plant out. If seeds, have the ground ready to plant.

Air temps have to be above fifty degrees to add days to the GDD, and those below fifty are subtracted. I am sure information exists that will correlate the number of DDs to bring the minimum soil temp up to 50, and then you could start from there fine tuning to your exact spot. I have only lived here one year and i have established that the temps on my property are between 4 and 7 degrees below the daily temperature recorded for local weather. So i worry about frost if 37 degrees is forecast locally.

Then the next step i would take would be to find out the GDD between that expected soil temp date of 50, and when i wanted to harvest, and then, as you mentioned, i would either focus on DTMs that fit my expected GDDs, or i would modify my micro climate to increase the GDDs at my place.

The latter is what i am doing for my personal tomatoes. I live 9 miles from the ocean, but the topography is such that as heat rises inland it sucks cool ocean air up this canyon. So my tomatoes did not ripen well last year. I built a cold frame with four foot walls of removable plastic, to break the wind and capture as much heat as i need. I can increase the temps about 15 degrees, or i can remove all the panels, and equal ambient. So, i expect to have ripe tomatoes this year.

I agree with all of your thinking as to how to proceed, only adding that you should give more thought to how you can trap more heat in your conditions. Focus on windbreaks, keeping the plants short and close to the ground, or just anyway to increase the temperature at the plant. If you have a choice of different spots for different plants, consider which plants need the most heat. I have mentioned before that i was able to ripen table grapes in Bonners Ferry Idaho, because i had one spot on the 65 acres that was warm enough to do that, and i was lucky enough to stumble on it. Efforts before that had failed. Now, i would know enough to deliberately search a spot like that out.

Keep us all posted on what you try, and especially on what works best for you.


Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

LOL, Rick you slay me. You lived there one year and think you have it all figured out!! Well, good for you. Seriously. I lived there 30 years and I never did figure it out. Just thanked God if I got a good ripe tomato. And I did. Now and then. Maybe between you and Ernie you can figure it out so you can get good tomatoes EVERY year. Pardon me if I don't believe it will happen.

I honestly hope you prove me wrong. I know a lot of people do not believe in Global Warming, but I do. So, you may get those ripe tomatoes from now on. But, we won't know if it is because of GW or because you have it all figured out now will we. LOL :0)

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> modify my micro climate ...
>> for my personal tomatoes. I live 9 miles from the ocean, but the topography is such that as heat rises inland it sucks cool ocean air up this canyon.

Bummer! At least I get the benefit of Puget Sound (really Possesion Sound).

>> give more thought to how you can trap more heat in your conditions

I've been doing lots of thinking but only a little doing. I made a low garden-fence / double-layer plastic-film tunnel for some plants I had to get outside ... and there's been snow on it 4-5 times since plus other frosts. Just a day or two each time, but those overwinytered plants would not have been happy.

That, perhaps plus 2 liter cloches, would have let me put seedlings out a few weeks early, but I;ve been so late / busy / behind / lazy this year that I may not get ANY tomatoes started!

I'm on a VPN as I write this, and the photo is on another PC. The photo won;t show scale well, but the tunnel is 10 feet long, 24-30" wide, and around 28-30 inches tall.

Is your cold frame big enough to cover adult vines in the Fall? Or only Spring seedlings?

My Stupice went from "somewhat better than supermarket flavor"
"WHAT??!!?? Are these ROTTEN???"
when I had a brief cold spell towards the end of summer - in other words, normal Seattle weather.

I'm thinking that I could stretch my tomato season by 4-8 weeks in the Fall with a tall enough, wide enough, plastic tent. Bent EMT conduit lashed together a' la' Boy Scouts? PVC pipes glued together? Why won't my Fargesia rufa bamboo hurry up and get big?

And/or plastic domes over buckets.

Maybe 4'x8' corrugated PVC or polycarbonate sheets folded creatively.

This Spring, however, I might be optimistic to think I'll even have time to get seedlings under 2 liter plastic cloches (soda bottles) plus a heavy floating row cover.

I almost forgot: my only usable soil is in rasied beds (and maybe buckets, so if I can keep cold rain off it, it will warm up faster than in-the-dround soil. Your point was very well taken that seedlings care about SOIL temps at least as much as air temps.

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Everett, WA(Zone 8a)


Well, 3-4 years. And I was as amazed as anyone last year. I let three tomato starts in quart pots follow me home from anursery just so I could learn how futile the effort would be. Carried them indoors every night for 3-4 weeks. Then put them in the gorund and they just sulked for another month.

Then green marbles.
Green golf balls.

That was what I expected.

Then, a miracle! Some ripe tomatoes. Then, before I could show them off to a firend from out of town, a cold spell and the Stupice went to tasting about like old oatmeal.

I still call it a miracle. But now that I know it's possible (and I read about another coastale PNW-er who is seriously into tomatoes-under-plastic in Spring and Fall, I'm looking for a technological fix.

"The Army Corps of Tomato Coaxing".

I've also been collecting cold-tolerant short season varieties.

We shall see!

P.S. Global warming might extend my growing season :-) but I will need to buy a snorkle for planting and harvesting. :-( Are there any tomato varieties that thrive under salt water?

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Hmm ... was uploading 5 photos, waiting for server ... DG threw me out into the home page and lost my text. I'll try again a few at a time and skip the violas!.

Some ripened despite the cold spring and cool summer. Itmay have helped that I boguht starts, and carried them indoors at night for around 4 weeks.

Since I never expected the plants to survive, I popped them into a bed with random flowers. hence the unplanned intermingling of tomatoes, a few kinds of Salvia, Lobelia, Violas and some Snapdragons.

This was first year attempting or succeeding with any of those five, and they happened to all wind up in the same bed.

This message was edited Mar 23, 2012 11:52 PM

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Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Back to the topic: you can start earlier if you have Protection.

Those 2011 tomatoes were never under plastic, but this is my first attempt at a tunnel - cold frame.

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Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Great info Rick and Ernie. Gardening in the PNW sounds like a serious challenge, especially for tomatoes. Good luck Rick!

Edited to move an off-topic (not tomatoes, my bad) to a new thread. Thanks for the feedback tx_....

This message was edited Mar 24, 2012 7:40 AM

Brady, TX(Zone 8a)

MaryMc -- I think it deserves to be a separate thread - maybe "cukes and okra" so it'll show up and instead of inside this thread (and I'd like the info too, esp. on okra (one of my top three veggies).

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Thank you, guys!

I'd like to see a cukes and okra thread too!

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

I started it....

See you there! I forgot I was in the Tomatoes forum, was just focused on starting the seeds. We're good to go with cukes and okes conversations. Come on by.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Ok, still in the tomato forum. Rick, cherry tomatoes. Do those count as real tomatoes?

Only in Seattle. LOL

Vista, CA

Jnette, it did not take me a year to figure out i have a cold spot. it only took one day when i saw frost on my grass while the TV was saying it was 37 degrees in Vista. So, since i knew the problem, it was normal for me to try to find a solution. Rick seems to be the type that searches for solutions, too, It is okay with me if you want to just complain about it and wait for God to send you a ripe tomato, but i was taught to not curse the darkness, get up and light a candle.


You seem to be on the right track, and trying everything you can think of until you find what works is bound to succeed.

As to covering your plants with plastic, or jugs or such, i understand there is a lot of difference in the amount of sun that comes through different types of plastic, so while you are saving the heat that does come in, you may not be getting the maximum possible. I took a couple of pictures of my cold frame today, and it has some similarities to a raised box, as it has a concrete block foundation. You may be able to put removable vertical walls and a top around it, giving you more height and temperature control, as well as more vertical room to grow.

I can close mine up when cold enough, but for now i have some fence panels vertical for the vines to climb. I have been very impressed with what Gymgirl, 1lisa, and Chricket do with their pruning and vertical reach to increase their plant numbers, so i have copied them, and think i am okay with 14 tomato plants in a 5 X 10 space. I will know more by September. lol. I also have some of the same aged plants along the fence, and it seems to me the ones getting partial protection in the open hot box are growing more leaves and setting more blossoms, but i have not found any tomatoes yet.

One more thought, considering how low an angle the Sun shines as far north as you are. If you can reflect some of those sunrays back onto your plants, with something reflective on the north side of your boxes, that would increase your temps, too.

On the height question you asked, I can grow bush type tomatoes with the roof panel on the hotbox, so may try to grow some until about November, but i think it will be more useful growing things like Kohlrabi and Cauliflower. I still need to learn more about when the soil cools down in the Autumn.


Hutto, TX

Jnette....sorry I am late.....I am sorry I confused you, and everyone else it seems......both plugs work great....go up, and look at the pictures I posted above of all of the plants in the ground as of a few days ago.....1/2 of the plants you see ars the rr plugs.....the ihort plugs just grow faster, but both are great, and I will use both again.....the final product in the ground is all that matters......I have said this a number of times that mater seed starting has been my shortcoming....once in the ground I can grow with the best of mater growers....both plugs work great..if you have rr plugs they will work great....sorry I am on my g4 again

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

No problem Horn. I have the ro plugs now and I will use them. I love experimenting anyway.

Ernie, it isn't just the ripe tomatoes but the flavor too and the right sun makes a big difference. What is your zone Ernie? Even if you are a zone 2. Which I know you are not, but your being in California the sun is a lot different than any sun Rick or I get in NW or NE Washington. Ask any Doctor about the different rays of the sun and then we go get Vit. D shots up here. There is more to sun than ripe tomatoes.

Just reflecting the sun doesn't mean a thing when it comes to flavor.

Vista, CA

Rick, Here are some pix of the Hot Box. The roof and front panels are off for the summer. They are light and easy to handle. The North wall is a piece of metal roofing, and can be taken off by removing a few screws. The trellis i have in there are pieces of iron fence that i replaced with chain link. The plants look very happy to me. I removed the plant in the rear left corner today because it had some Septorum blight on the lower leaves. I also lost one in the middle row from that, and i have a new small cherry tomato in there.

All of those nice plants of different varieties were given to me by Mark, [Ray der Phan] to help me get started finding the varieties i like the best. I will be spraying with Kocide soon to stop the Septorum.

I use Min/Max thermometers on the inside and outside to monitor the differential, and am still learning just what it will and will not do for me

The big plant with the pink tape on it is an Early Girl from Home Depot that i bought before Mark's plants were ready to just test the panel settings on the Box. It is older than the other plants.

The plastic panel on the left end is the same type that cover the tops and fronts.



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Vista, CA


I live in Vista, CA now, which is 30 miles north of San Diego. Zone 10 A or B, but i started a very successful Shade and Ornamental Nursery in Bonners Ferry Idaho, which is about as close as you can get to NE Washington without actually living there. The Nursery was a second career for me, as i had been an Engineering Contractor, Highway and Heavy Construction, for over 30 years. So i had to go through the process of learning how to grow beautiful trees in Idaho, just like i am having to learn how to grow a good tomato now. That is why i am so grateful for the experts on this forum that share their years of hard earned expertise with us neophytes.

As far as i know, all of the Sun rays come from the same place, and reflected or bent sunrays do have the same effect as the more direct ones. Reflected sun rays can blind you, or sunburn you just like the direct ones can. I agree many things affect the flavor. The advantages as personal growers that we have over the commercial tomatoes is that we do not have to ship and machine process ours, so we can grow tender skinned varieties that we cannot buy at the market, and that hopefully will have more flavor.

The variety, the soil, the water, and other things do affect the flavor, but it requires a certain amount of light, from the sun or other wise, along with a certain amount of heat, tophysically grow the tomato, and until you can get it ripe, you do not have any place to put the flavor

"Be Satisfied with What you Have, But Not with What You Know."


Vista, CA


I mentioned the other day that i was going to try using the RR plugs without putting them in a cell. So far i have found out sitting in the water without the cell seems to be okay, as it has held its shape, but i will have to use them upside down as the top is wider than the bottom. I will keep them sitting in a quarter inch of water. Not sure yet if it will have any advantage over using the cells, but it would be handy for me to be able to do 8 or 10 in a group, in a plastic Spinach container, or something.


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Jnette teased:
>> Rick, cherry tomatoes. Do those count as real tomatoes?
>> Only in Seattle. LOL

FFPPTT! :-) Yeah, yeah. You GET to tease because you live here, too. I no longer make a distinction between what I CAN ripen successfully and "real" tom atoes. Oh well, whatever works!

Hey, waitaminute! 'R you one-a them EASTERN Washingtonians that get actual summers as well as winters? No fair teasing usmoss-covered coastal wimps! To us, anything under 40 or over 75 is a severe temperature stress and we don't know how to handle it.

>> Rick seems to be the type that searches for solutions, too,

You might be too kind: I've also been told that I look for problems, as an excuse to indulge in gadgetry! I do like to fiddle, I just wish I had more time, energy and budget. Also, I tend to think and talk for many months before DOing. I've been chewing on this project for a few years now, and indeed thinking about it abstractly since I saw the New Alchemy Instuitute on Cape Cod many decades ago.

Optimum timing for seed starting: if your window is too narrow, you HAVE to be prepared to tweak your micro enviroment. Or some people carry trays of seedlings back under cover for unepectedly cold nights, or tuck them in at night with blankets.

>> i understand there is a lot of difference in the amount of sun that comes through different types of plastic

I bet you're right. I bought some 3.5 mil plastic film, not realizing it was translucent instead of clear. I bet that cuts down the light a lot. Oh well, this roll was more for keeping alive some plants that limped through the winter in my bedromm, not for vigorous spring growth.

I'm thinki8ng that big, clear polycarbonate sheets ought to let a maximum of light through (max after glass, anyway). Someone wrotye that glass is an unfortunately GOOD conductor of heat. It reflects infrared RADIENT heat energy, but warm air in contact with glass will have its warmth conducted away faster than through some othr meterials ... that author said.

I also recently thought about how to make a largish cold frame more easily lifted and moved. Maybe make the back wall out of white-painted plywood for insulation, but make the side and front walls easily detached from the back wall. Then I could leave the back wall in place year-round, and just move the clear solar walls and lid around. If I moved them to a place that had no back wall, I would probably make a second clear piece for a light movable bgackwall. But, then, the new site would need some strudy in-ground rear posts for everythinhg to attach to.

>> I can close mine up when cold enough, but for now i have some fence panels vertical for the vines to climb.

I envy your cattle panels, and I may call around to find out prices for getting some delivered. But SPENDING the money will be a harder decision.

How would you grow vines on a cattle panel, then also put plastic film OVER it all? For example, I will eventually want to protect indeterminate fall tomatoes from both chill and frequent drizzle. It would be nice if they could grow up something like a cattle panel, but I would still want to build a tent over top of them.

Something like a swing set built out of PVC or 3/4" EMT electrial conduit. We don't USUALLY have high winds, but I was starting to think about 4' - 5' - 6' tall. That might be impractical. Perhaps do a brutal pruning in late summer, and remove anything within 18" or the top of the trellis or cattle panels. then just drape palstic over the top of the trellis, and if a few tips touch the plastic and get too cold, prune them also and discard tasteless chilled fruits.

What do you think?

>> One more thought, considering how low an angle the Sun shines as far north as you are. If you can reflect some of those sunrays back onto your plants, with something reflective on the north side of your boxes, that would increase your temps, too.

YES. I might conceivably do something like keep clear side walls for maximum morning and afternoon warmth, but whitewash the roof just in case the sun came out from behind clouds at noon while I was at work. Steamed veggies.

Oh! Now I see your hot box. Cool trellises! They look 10 feet tall! Your construction is 5-10 times sturdier than I was imagining myself constructing, but "Engineering Contractor, Highway and Heavy Construction" sounds like a more usefull first career than "imbedded control software".

>> Min/Max thermometers

You instantly convinced me what my next gadget acquisition MUST be!

>> The North wall is a piece of metal roofing, and can be taken off by removing a few screws

I like the modular remove-ability, but isn't "metal" pretty conductive of heat for a North wall? Maybe a coat of paint on each side would help a little - or if it is cheap enough and you have room to spare, a double wall trapping some dead air inside. I like the idea of drywall, if it can be kept dry. Good insulator, and cheap!

I'll try to find time to pull the plastic off my "mini-tunnel" to reveal the bent garden fencing underneath. Its gauge is midway between "chicken wire" and "cattle panel". Unfortunately, the roll sat outside too long before I thgought to write down the gauge. 10 or 16 or 18 or other AWG.

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