Tomato and pepper seedlings-stymied-??

Lexington, KY(Zone 6b)

My tomato seedlings have looked the same for about 3 weeks. They're very tall(about 3"), leggy and light green-almost yellow. They only have 2 sets of leaves, counting the set they started with. I planted them in a peat pellet seed starting flat (Burpee-?). It is the kind with the moisture mat. I have them under a shop light with 2 bulbs-about 4" above them. They've gotten enough light-I leave the light on about 15 hrs/day. The only thing I can think of is that maybe the room they're in got too warm when we had all that hot weather. Or maybe it's this seed starter flat. I liked the one I got from Gardner's Supply better-with the Coir mixture-but I had something else in it. Is there anything I can/should do to jump-start these tomatoes into bushier growth? I am also trying to grow a few peppers in this same flat. They only have 2 leaves each and aren't growing any larger, but at least they're a pretty green and short! Help!!

Lake Charles, LA(Zone 9a)

Mine were like that for the longest time, finally I just to transplanting them outdoors. since i dont know what you're is like, you may not able to do this. So far, mine are doing good, but i live in Louisiana. Hopefully someone near your zone will come and can offer you better advice than I can. Sorry.

Foxboro, MA

Are they in peat pellets? If so it's probably time to pot up and give them some soil and compost. Brushing them lightly with your hand several times a day will make them stronger, or you can put a fan on to do it for you. It mimics the wind outside and makes them stockier. What type of light bulbs are you using, incandescent or fluorescent? Incandescent light can stunt growth rather than encourage it so you may want to try different lights if this is the case. Also, how wet is the moisture mat? If plants are too wet they will essentially drown from lack of oxygen. The soil/peat should feel like a squeezed out sponge, not wet.

Lexington, KY(Zone 6b)

They are in peat pellets, and I noticed the other day that the roots are growing all over the place! My bulbs are fluorescent-4' long-2 of them. As I said, I don't think it's the light. The peat feels moist, not wet, so I don't think it's a water issue either.You are probably right that I need to pot up, but they only have 2 sets of leaves, so is that okay? Thanks SO much for the tip!

Foxboro, MA

I've potted up much sooner than that because my packet of seeds said 1-5 month germination time and everything germinated in a week! Better to give them the nutrients they need than starve them because you only have 2 sets of leaves. I never pot up anymore. I just put seed starting mix on top of the soil in a 4" pot. This is not necessarily practical if you have hundreds of seedlings, but it works for me. I would pot up now, just be gentle when you do it.

Jonesville, SC(Zone 7b)

I pot up mine after two weeks or a tad longer of sowing them. I also use a fan to make them stronger. However, I use flats and homemade light stands and I don't have any experience with the other stuff. After I remove them from the flats, I put them in eight oz. cups. If they have two sets of true leaves, yes, pot them up.

Lexington, KY(Zone 6b)

I will, thanks again! I'll let you know how it turns out!

Jonesville, SC(Zone 7b)

You may want to move the lights down closer to the top of the plants.

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

I'd never heard of using a fan to make the seedlings stronger. That's a great idea!

Clover, SC

Double check your room for drafts and make sure the room temperature is consistent. You might want to consider a light (1/4) fertilizer solution, too. Here are couple of links that will help:

What tomato seedlings need after they germinate:

Strengthen a growing tomato plant and prepare it for the garden:

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

Don't forget that you can also plant the seedlings low in the container and add dirt as they grow. This allows the plant to develop a better root system.

Lexington, KY(Zone 6b)

Thanks to everyone for all the tips and advice. I think if it weren't for this discussion, I would have lost my seedlings. They're really looking starved. I think "Micro-" is on the right track. I didn't realize till a few months ago that peat is not soil, but I didn't put 2 & 2 together. When I raised the top part of the flat last night, some of the roots are like 8" long! The poor things are trying to find soil! I think I'm done w/peat pellets. Next time I'll do Coir or potting soil for everything! Now I just have to find time to do all this before they all die! It's going to be a busy weekend!

Lexington, KY(Zone 6b)

Well, I potted up last night, and everything already looks better! Some of those roots ended up being 2-3 feet long!!! I'm telling the honest truth!! Thanks again, Micro-you saved my tomato babies!!

Foxboro, MA

Lol. I guess they were hungry!

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Micro what said 1-5 months to germination? Ive never seen that. The lights should be about 2" from the top of the plants.

Its generally recommended that you start your seeds in a soiless seed starting mix, not a potting soil. Ive used the peat pellets for years and always had great luck with them.

Palmerton, PA(Zone 6a)

I planted my tomatoes about 4 weeks ago, when I had sun still in the south windows about 2 ft. The Jiffy plugs said with the little plastic lid, not to put them in the sun until they sprouted but I forgot them for 6 day and they were up and hitting the lid of the plastic top all bent up. I divided the 2 plants per plug apart and then moved them to the sunny window and they grew by the day until 3" size. I moved the plugs into a jiffy peat pot 2 x 2 sq and they grew fast with w miracle grow organic bag of soil. I have now removed all the peat pots and last night I moved 18 of them into tall wax coated icey cups after I took off all the leaves that would be under the ground. They are in those because it is still too cold to put them outside and I got carried away when I bought 3 pks at Walmart of a 5 mix assortment for $1.48 each and figured they wouldn't all grow! I don't know what variety is growing of the 42 plants I have and will give extras them away. I probably planted them too early since it is still cold and they now are about 10" big and there is no sun in the windows anymore. The 6th set of tiny leaves is in their centers now.

Yours may not have enough water because how mine are growing they actually take water very fast each day and then I didn't let them stand in it after 15 minutes, ( because too much water makes them get the white paste bugs, that I don't know their name this minute but they come from over watering ) so I move them into another tray so the plants in the center of the tray are then closest to the light from the windows. Having that many plants I do notice the huge difference in the plants size.........The first 12 plugs filled, I transplanted to the 3" peat pots are almost 2 x the size of the others! That was evident because I only had 24 plugs to start and I transplanted them to be singles withing the first 10 days. The next batch of 12 plugs are in the 3" and 4" plastic pots. ...With only 4 plants that are 3" left to do something more with when I have more space or can put them outside.

I can say I always pull off carefully the peat pot they are in whenever I transplant them into bigger pots/containers. .This week I will play with the rest into window boxes on the picnic table for awhile each day, those long green plastic with tray type so I can put them outside and hope the wind don't kill them off because the sides are higher for protection or I can put the tray right next to the house they get the sun for a while without being as beat up.

Danville, IN(Zone 5b)

I'd go to Praxxus55712 on youtube....this guy is the king of tomatoes LOL

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

There are many steps to starting your own plants from seeds. Everybody has to find a variation of this method that works for them. I grow 1000s of seedlings a year, no Im not an expert but Ive had a lot of experience and made a lot of mistakes. Im going to make an attempt to provide a general outline. Much of this info is available if you are a subscriber.

First of all Peppers and Eggplant require Higher temps to germinate and grow then tomatoes. I dont start mine together. Tomatoes will get leggy under the high heat conditions. But then you can just plant them deeper when you pot up, but after pot up tomatoes need cooler temps to get /stay stocky.

Remember this is very general because we are all in different areas. I believe this has gotten more difficult as we have started to grow plants that may not normally grow in that area.

1) It is generally recommended that seeds are started (germinated) in a soilless sterile medium (not potting soil) because it is lighter and doesn't have fertilizers. I THINK neither coir and peat pellets have added fertilizer. Although as they mature you can water with a very diluted fertilizer if you dont have time of space ATM to pot up. If you are using regular Shop lights they should be kept no further then 2" from the lights, many people use a sunny window, just remember to turn the flat so the seedlings grow straight. : ) A fan is a must or at least a place with good circulation. This help prevent fungus and disease, and makes stronger seedlings, but it needs to be gentle. If you dont have a fan gently run your hands over the top of the plants a few times a day, as mentioned above.

2) Pot them up,in a good potting soil, or do as Micro does, not everybody pots up but it works for me. Tomatoes can be planted very deep and roots will grow along the stem, not so with peppers. Then water them with a diluted fertilizer. Then stick them back under the lights. I usually pot my tomatoes up at 2-3 weeks, peppers vary. Keep raising the lights as the plants grow but keep them no more then 2" above the plants.

Finally when the tomatoes (not going to discuss peppers because there are other members that know a lot more then I do) are about 6 weeks old they can be hardened off outside, weather permitting. The temps should be stable, if a freeze is predicted they will need to be protected. Harden them off by slowly introducing them to their future home. I have a covered porch so I keep them in the shade and more them into a little more sun everyday, the whole process takes about 5 days.

Its also important to remember that the soil temps have as much to do with success as air temp.

Hope this helps!

Foxboro, MA

1lisac- The seeds were Taiga Russian Sage. The vendor's website said 3-12 weeks. When I received the packet it said 'germination is erratic over a period of 1-5 months'. So wasn't I suprised when almost all of them sprouted in 5 days!

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I assumed (shouldnt do that) that you were talking about tomatoes or peppers. May I asked were you got the seeds? I dont know a thing about Sage. Im always a little sceptical when a vendor gives a time frame like that unless they give very specific growing conditions. I bet you were surprised. LOL

I received some seeds to start for a buyer. The seeds were from a vendor in Oregon, Im in TX. The directions on the packet were very general. I had grown them here before but always started them in the fall. I emailed the vendor and he told me "under normal GH conditions". I thought for you or me. I wouldnt buy from that vendor. The original packet of seeds that I got years ago said sow in the fall in the Southern Half of the US and sow in Early Spring in the Northern Half. When this other vendor gave me vague directions I crossed him off my list.

I was told tomatillo seeds can take a month to germinate. I still dont understand that, they are up within 4 days. Ive heard that from everybody I knows that grows them. No matter when they germinate they have to be feed or potted up so they dont starve, the cotolydens will only feed them for so long.

Foxboro, MA

The seeds were from Swallow Tail Gardens. I actually really like their seeds (and prices). I was just a little suprised. To be fair, it did say that pre-chilling increases germination and the directions were for 60-65F. I pre-chilled and my seed starting mat was around 72. I did learn from that experience though..... Now I put all of my seeds in individual pots, regardless of how long germination may take.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I have had good experience with them too. They did say stratification was required. This other company didnt, the only reason I knew to do this was because Id grown this flower/herb before. I just thought it was funny the way they worded "Normal GH conditions" whatever that is??? There is a big difference between normal in Oregon and TX. The information was all over the Internet just not on their seed packet or their website. The seeds were also listed in the spring/ summer section of their website and the packet said that was when to sow them. However, that was for THEIR growing conditions. Not 1/2 the US.

I would have given them a rating on DGWD but since I didnt buy the seeds I figured it wasnt worth it. ok well back to tomatoes and peppers.

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