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

I am!!! This weekend!!

There are exactly 23 weeks from this Saturday to the last weekend in May. Subtract 56 days to sow, harden off, and transplant seedlings, and that leaves 105 days for my long-season, heirloom beefsteak tomatoes to decide to give me a bumper crop (or NOT....), before the Fires of Texas Hell reach them.

Time waits for no man! Neither do tomatoes!!!

The game's afoot!

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

LOL! When you put it that way it is hard to resist. But I think I'll hold off a bit. I love reading about your adventures in seed starting, though. So keep us informed =)!

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

Hey, Terri!

Yeah, there are sooooooooo many adventures in the gardening world, and I love experimenting and pushing the envelope. However, I've pondered THIS envelope long and hard, because I just love big, beefy, meaty tomatoes, and, just like anything worth having in life, it includes sacrifice and work. So, this is a calculated risk I'm taking.

I have many more contingencies in place than ever before. The main one is sowing these seeds on time for transplanting out with enough growing lead time. The second one is being prepared with frost protection. Even though we enjoy pretty temperate weather here most of the time, we do have occasional January and February frosts. Good part is we don't have too many sustained, hard freezes (high-20s for more than 3-4 days in a row), so as long as I can keep the plants protected for a couple hours overnight, I should be good.

This weekend is sowing and organizing the two growing rooms inside. I currently have beets & cabbage seedlings in the warm room, along with 10 tomato seedlings, all sowed on December 4th. They're all doing well except I need to move the beets and cabbages into the cool room to grow on until transplant. The tomatoes will stay in the warm room.

One of the best things I did getting on track this season was to pre-wash ALL my seedling trays and pots at the end of last season, and gather up all my potting mixes. I'll be using the Roots Organics that drthor recommends. After much discussion and experimentation with that stuff, I've learned if you want a seedling up and out the gate quick, fast, and in a hurry, Roots Organics is the way to go! It has enough amendments in it to wake the dead! MG seed starting mix is still on the table, but I've learned to use it only when I have a long lead time on a seedling, OR, to mix it 50-50 with the RO to hasten the growth time frame.

Nice option, huh?

I'll keep you posted on the progress. My target hardening off date is February 9, 2013, with plant out on February 16, 2013.

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

Well, I spent all day shredding leaves my neighbors are leaving on my driveway. About six 40-gallon contractor bags. EZ-ier this time because instead of dumping them from the small bag into the compost bins, I just dumped them as pathways between my raised beds and along the entire back fence where, eventually, there will be more raised beds.

I figured, "why not let them break down in place?"

So, I shredded and lined the areas with about a 4-6" layer, and wet them down thoroughly before our promised rainstorms yesterday. Just needed to make sure they didn't blow all over the yard before the storms, and that they were wet enough so the rain would penetrate through to the ground below.

Do ya'll know how awesome shredded oak and pecan leaves smell? Like a fresh forest!

Didn't get to sow the tomatoes for shredding the leaves, and I absolutely HAVE to get them sowed today and tomorrow. I've pulled 16 varieties to try this time. That's really, really, really, really ambitious, considering I need to have at least 10-15 of each seedling for the friends and neighbors to try. That's upwards of 300+ seedlings in two rooms at home.

The most I've done is 208.

Ya'll pray for me...


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)


>> pre-wash ALL my seedling trays and pots at the end of last season

Do you use any bleach or hydrogen peroxide? Or just soap and water?

I agree it is improtant to clean at the end of a season, so they don't lie around dirty all winter.

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

Rubbermaid tub of hot water, couple good squirts of Lemon AJAX Dish Detergent (don't want too many suds!!!), couple splashes bleach (about a cup or two), couple splashes cheapy mouthwash (about 2-3 capsful -- I like the BLUE ones from the $1 Store, any cheapy brand).

Such a Heavenly smell for such a "dirty" job, makes it absolutely pleasurable. Clean and disinfect in one motion.

Rinse and sun dry...

I save the H2O2 for top watering the seedlings for the first 3-4 waterings. No damping off, and, it oxygenates the soil. Seedlings love it. 1 capful to a gallon of water...

This message was edited Dec 17, 2012 3:37 PM

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Hah! Mouthwash! I like it.

I try to get mine "clean" to the eye with a stiff mist from a hose, plus some scrubbing. I think sun-drying is good for killing off some spoors.

Then, because I'm lazy, I usually put small pots and trays through the dishwasher. I load it up and add soap for the first "rinse" and usually stop it half-way through to remove that batch and re-fioll with another batch.

The main wash cycle can do 2 or three batches, and the final rinse cycle (with more soap added) can clean another load or two. Then I can rinse them all outside using the hose on "mist".

Pots too big to clean in the dishwasher, I clean more thoroughly outside with a bucket of soapy water.

Did I mention being lazy? I've been getting away with skipping the bleach step, and some day I'll probably pay for it and have to take more care.

I agree about H2O2 for seedlings, both pre-soak and watering. I also like bark in my seedling mix, which makes the soil surface dry out fast. (No damping off since I started that). And a fan is good, even a few times per day helps.

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

My dogs lick mine out. Then I really do have to soak them and scrub them. I don't use the mouthwash (may add it this spring) but the rest is pretty similar exept I use Dawn. I keep Dawn on hand for the get-the-skunk-spray/smell-off-my-crazy-dog formula so that is what I have. I buy the industrial size. That one dog just won't learn....Haven't had damping off, so I don't do the H2O2 w/water thing. I just get them going 'till they look big enough and have 4 true leaves, harden them off, and then look for a good day to plant out. I use the clear plastic w/the flappy holes from Territorial, too. It is verrrry windy in my little microclimate and that really helps alot.

I also use a lot of the cheap red cups from $1 store. I don't reuse those as I've found that they just deteriorate too much. But the black pots all get a scrub down. I usually set up one rainy day to do them all at once. Rain helps to rinse them out!

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> cheap red cups from $1 store. I don't reuse those as I've found that they just deteriorate too much.

I'll re-use small pots with cracks by nesting two together, with the cracked sides 180 degrees apart. If a pot is big, I'll often tape a crack with Gorilla Tape, and remind myself to pick it up from the bottom.

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

What I've found is that styrofoam cups last longer than those plastic cups do.

Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

I like clear plastic cups-so I can see the roots growing. I get 5oz. ones at WalMart, and use an old woodburner tip to make 3 holes around the bottom edges. That's one of my winter fun chores! I have about 160 of them ready for the time to come. Our last frost is about April 15, so I sow starting in early February.

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

I was going to wait another week or so, but gymgirl has made me rethink. I bet I am sowing tomato seeds before the day is over. I could always start a second batch in a week or so. Planning and planting are my favorite part of gardening. I keep thinking it should be the harvest (which is fun too) but for me it is the sowing.

Hutto, TX

Linda..........it is that time. The freeze last week put an end to an unbelievable fall tomato crop. I purchased my IHORT plugs, and I plan to start my seeds on Jan, 1st. I saved seeds from Cherokee Purple, Amish Paste, and Indian Stripe, and I plan to grow them again this spring. BTW I have a bunch of Indian Stripe seeds if anyone is interested. I also plan to grow Kosovo, Brandywine, Sudduth , Cherokee Chocolate , Rutgers. My wife brought back some seeds from Italy, and I am curious if anyone has grown any of these varieties pictured below. Feedback would be appreciated.

Thumbnail by hornstrider Thumbnail by hornstrider Thumbnail by hornstrider Thumbnail by hornstrider Thumbnail by hornstrider
SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Hornstrider et al!

Great to have ya'll aboard. Was beginning to wonder if there were any DGers left! Conversation has been really, really, sparse for a couple months. Wondering where everyone was.

Life is getting in my way! I was supposed to sow seeds last Saturday, but, alas...I did manage to pour some boiling water over my Roots Organic mix two days ago, but, shoot, now I'm gonna have to heat the batches in the microwave.

I've found, in the last two seasons of seed sowing that heating the starter mix truly helps the germination in the absence of heating mats and other soil-heating methods.

GrowingNVegas, I ALSO prefer sowing to growing! I don't care if I never grow another tomato...well, give or take my MOMOTOROs or PRUDEN'S PURPLES...long as I can baby my seedlings indoors, I'm perfectly happy!


Yep. That sowing clock is just ticking away!!

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

hornstrider, what a haul for Italy! The last one is a bit blurred but I think I have grow it up north. I usually have good luck with the seeds from any of the US companies selling Italian seed. Should be fun to find out if yours do well in Texas! Good luck ☺

JoParrot, those clear plastic cups are a good idea. It would be fun to watch the roots grow!

Gymgirl, the issue with early planting for me is the wind. If I plant out too early the wind shifts and gusts so much that even the holey plastic rips apart. Waiting just one month to two weeks is necessary in my little microclimate.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

GrowingNVegas said:
>> Planning and planting are my favorite part of gardening.

My favorite part is creating soil, improving soil, creating drainage/grading and making new raised beds.
My second favolrite is starting seeds indoors and watc hin g the magic.

My least favorite part is weeding.

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

I gotcha' Terry!

I made an interesting observation last season regarding seedlings in Clear cups vs. in Red Solo plastic cups. Seems the tomato seedlings in the clear plastic cups outdistanced the RS cups. I noticed the root systems were much more developed in the clear cups.

Then, I think I figured out why...more all around light on the plastic cups. The RS cups only allowed the light to shine directly from above...

Just my two cents...


Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

Gymgirl- great minds think alike!!! I use 3 sizes of clear plastic cups- 5oz for 1st potting after pricking out from a common bed, then on to 10oz, then up to 16oz--all before planting out in the ground. The 3 pottings make real strong plants, since each time they are planted deep in the next size cups. This spring I am going to sow my seeds in Ultrasorb DE from AutoZone- I have seen comparison results in a forum on Tomatoville that has me convinced of DE's superiority in sprouting seeds.
If anyone wants to see a good pictorial test go to this forum on T'ville-

This message was edited Dec 19, 2012 2:20 PM

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

Read up on how that absorbent may affect your garden worms (DE), before you dump it into your beds...

P.S. What makes it so good for the seed sprouting?


Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

I would not be "dumping " it into the garden- only using it for sprouting seeds. I have no experience with it yet, but I am impressed with the comparisons on the forum that I linked above- it clearly shows superior root systems and top growth than another medium. I will try it and see for myself.

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

I just think it would be fun to watch the roots develop!

Oceanside, CA(Zone 10a)

Will be starting seeds around mid-January(luckily, I have a few tomato/pepper plants year round). Got down to 35 last night and the winter tomatoes are still producing.

Thumbnail by Ray_Der_Phan
the Mountains, CO(Zone 4a)

Starting seeds in December?
Whoa. I started mine in March for 2012 and regretted doing it that early! haha.

the Mountains, CO(Zone 4a)

I simply couldn't find room for four month old plants by the time it was warm enough outside to transplant. I can't imagine starting seeds THAT early!

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

River, dont forget we can plant out earlier than you can. Our azaleas, Carolina jessamine, tulips, daffs etc, bloom in February. My paper whites bloom usually in January. Spring comes early here.

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

Linda, Im picking out what to sow and getting my stuff together. I dont have heat mats so Im going to warm the soil first as you have suggested. prob be a week before I get a round tuit. I know I have one here somewhere.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Remember Tx is a huge state too with many microclimates. I can't plant out that early unless I want to do it in the snow. It doesn't always snow but if it's going to snow it will do so in Feb. but I usually have the majority of my plants planted by the end of March.

None of my flowers bloom until April. Yes, gardening is a gamble.

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

I think Texas has about 5 or 6 zones. Lisa, you're in 8a and Im in 9a. That's a difference of about a month, usually.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

But I'm very rural wayyyyy out in the country. It's usually 10* lower here then Austin. I replanted too many times to do it again. Lol 27* last night and 17* last week, that's just too cold. When the soil is too cold the plants just sit there.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Well under lights I can ,and could keep them inside until march,, then cold off and on , it keeps getting warmer but still frosts in May. So in the garage and out of the garage for two months? or three? Tomatoes already ,by the time they go in the garden...
ME also , I confess from way up north,, I started a couple of Romanesco earlier today ... LOL

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


Thumbnail by Gymgirl
Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

Mighty Purty, Linda. My pepper seeds are all up with two leaves. The wind did not destroy anything in my veggie garden. Those snow peas have all those tendrils and they held on to the strings I placed for them. My two Broccoli (oldest ones) blew over but did not break. One has quarter sized head beginning. Garlic fine. Romaine some blew over but able to stake and steady. Asparagus tops killed by the cold. Tomato plants still OK Picked a ripe tomato yesterday. My new planted broccoli, Napa cabbage and Gailan are fine. Theyve been in the ground about a month now.

Got some seed for brassica nigra (black mustard) from Juhur but did not get good germination. Maybe it was too warm in my kitchen. I have one seedling and perhaps two so far and I floated the seeds first to see if fertile and they all sunk in about 4 hours so I think it must be the temp that was not right for germination. This brassica is for the butterflies, not for eating.

the Mountains, CO(Zone 4a)

I wish I lived where you did!
I hate the short summers here in Colorado. Poo! :(
I guess the beauty kinda makes up for that? But no, not really. :)

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

But...River Nymph, you have in Colorado, the best snow in the world! That light, powdery stuff that squeaks when you walk on it...I love it. And dont forget you have those beautiful Aspen trees and Christmas trees growing everywhere you look. Just come visit me in August and you will love where you live. When I moved here, I thought if an alien landed here in August, he would report back that the planet was too hot for habitation.

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


That's only if his spaceship hadn't melted by the time he got back to leave for home!!!!

"Danger, Danger, Will Smith!!"

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

Linda I have about 15 different varieties of tomato seeds to choose from. I do not have space for even a few of each so what I think Im going to do is plant a variety of maturity periods, couple early ones, couple middle and couple of the 80 day ones. I have one called 4th of July DTM 49 days, Then I will plant Sungold, Red October and large red cherry at 65 days and then Cherokee Purple, Granny Cantrell and Super Beefsteak.

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

Steadycam3, et al,
Would anyone happen to have a couple Kellogg's Breakfast in your repertoire? I'm asking for 3 seeds if anyone has any to spare.

Send me a dmail, if you do, and I'll provide my addy, postage, and any tomato seed trade you might like in return.


Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

I am looking for a few seeds of Martino's Roma if anyone has any for SASE- I don't have anything to trade at this time-sorry.

Circle, MT(Zone 3b)

I've just started two black cherry toms in soil inside, and an heirloom tomato is about 3" tall in the aerogarden, so we'll see. The "tumbling Tom" plant is still going, sorta kinda, but I don't really love the fruits from it. (tomato snob?)

The Romas from last summer are surprisingly still hanging on in the garden, after being decimated, transplanted, unwatered, etc. Who knows, if it doesn't frost, then maybe it'll keep hanging on.

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

Those are Black Cherry tomatoes in my pic above!

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