12" of snow and getting ready to sow

RaymoTomatoFebruary 5, 2014

OK...This is my first year of starting seeds indoors. I have 20 bottom trays that are 7.5"x 13.25" in the base and desperately trying to find a uniform cup/container that will fit comfortably in these. I feel like as a result of the 7.5" I would be wise to try to find a 2.5" cup, but all the drinking cups I encounter are 3"+. I am considering the newspaper pots thing, but that is really scary to me as I feel they may disintegrate before I am ready to plant outdoors.

Any suggestions out there for a newbie? BTW, here is a listing of the plants I am growing this year. Obviously many are going to be direct sow, but tommys and peppers will start in the house.

Indeterminate Tomatos
San Marzano
San Marzano 3
Yellow Belgium
Black from Tula
Cherokee Purple
Black Krim

Determinate Tomatos
San Marzano Bush

Hinkelhatz - Red
Hinkelhatz - Yellow

Pumpkinn - Baby Bear
Pumpkin - Seminole
Squash - Zucchino Rampicante
Cucumber - Dragon Egg
Cucumber - Marketmore
Melon - American Melon/Musk
Beet - Detroit Red
Swiss Chard - Lucullus
Swiss Chard - Rainbow

Bean - Lima - King of the Garden
Bean - Lima - Christmas
Bean - Scarlett Runner

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The newspaper pots work fine. If you are worried, use a bit of tape to hold them together. Last year I used both newspaper pots and dixie cupes of different sizes. This year I am going to do the same, plus I am using milk jug/plastic bottle mini-greenhouses. I have already sowed onions, but have not put them under lights yet. They are in a south window. My system uses daylight grade flourescent shop lights 4 feet long on a set of metal shelves. It works better with two lights per shelf. I have mine in the basement and it is a bit too cool. I am trying to decide if I want to invest in a root warmer or maybe build a DIY warmer.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:14PM
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Best thing to start in is shallow starter cells with bottom holes, or even a flat tray (again, with holes in bottom). Then pick out the seedlings with a spoon or plant tag/tongue depressor, and transplant into larger (3" or so) pot. Plenty of time for you to find suitable containers - I've even drilled holes in a stack of 6-8oz yogurt containers and used those for first potting up (and then potted up tomatoes again in the deeper red drinking cups, you can bury the stems deep). But the drinking cups are too deep for seed starting - though the wider, shallower yogurt cups might work.

Might want to start the Hinkelhatz now, peppers are slower to germinate and IME slower to grow, but wait a month or so to start the tomatoes. You can't plant out until June, right?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:20PM
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I save yogurt cups, cut the bottoms out, then slide cut to fit teflon cleaning pads, (these drain wonderful)
Add potting mix, plant seeds and it has done a great job for me, I save them, clean them and re-use them.
After placing in plastic containers I water from the bottom up.
Last season I never had a problem with mold or fungus, and I kept the tray wet with water..

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:57PM
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here is a pic of tray growing

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 1:00PM
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You can definitely save money by using containers from reused cups and such but for seed starting I really like to use the small square containers that one can purchase from a garden nursery. Squares are way more efficient use of space initially and generally last for a handful of seasons. Once potting up begins then going to plastic drinking cups works just fine.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 2:00PM
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I am targeting May 31 to plant out.

Japus - What is the diameter of those Yoplait cups? That teflon cleaning pad idea is brilliant. I love those. Are they big enough to be the last pot prior to your planting them out?

CharlieBoring -
Paper pots for 8 weeks are ok, hugh? OK. I am going to fire some up and see what i get. I figure I have 8 weeks from now until I have to get serious about my tomatoes.

I was actually considering a hybrid approach with the bottoms of plastic cups being the bottom of the pot and attaching paper on the sides.

What do you guys think of that idea?

Thanks all!!!! This is gonna be fun.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 3:55PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I am targeting May 31 to plant out.

And you are starting them now? Far too early to start seeds in zone 5 much less zone 4 if you are in that part of NH.

Even here with a plant out date of mid-April we don't start seeds until the end of this month into early March.

Standard recommendation for tomatoes is 6-8 weeks prior to plant out date. And for peppers 8-10 weeks before plant out date.

Notice you say it is your first year doing this, right? Then do you understand that all those cukes and squash and melons and beans - which are normally direct seeded in the garden - wither won't survive or will be long past the size to survive transplanting if you start them now? Please reconsider this.

You might want to do some reading over on the Growing from Seed forum here.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 6:19PM
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I'll be planting my cold crop seeds next week, I will set them up in my cold frame in mid march.
Even a heavy frost wont get into it, as long as the soil isn't frozen.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 8:48PM
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Japus - What is the diameter of those Yoplait cups? That teflon cleaning pad idea is brilliant. I love those. Are they big enough to be the last pot prior to your planting them out?

2 and 2-1/2 inches, the smaller (top) has a perfect lip to hold the teflon...I don't up pot, just gauge my seeding to place in the garden.
These containers are slick for transferring seedlings to there final resting place, just push, they easily pop out.
Remember this is new to me, all I ever did before last year is buy plants, till the ground, throw fertilizer down, drink beer and wait till tomatoes got red.
Since I read about SFG I'm addicted and love it, especiallly the compost part.
Once I use up my other jiffy's thats all I'll be using.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 9:02PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Japus, I like your cold frame I have one just about the same size (3' by 6') shape.
I am going to start all my cold crops right in the cold frame. I have no room for indoors germination/start. I have already one tray of each CORN SALAD and LETTUCE in there. They will germinate whenever warms up. Those are my pilot indicators. Right now lows are in mid teens.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 4:51AM
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I start setting out tomatoes in late May, too, and have learned the hard way to never start the seeds before March 15. The plants become overgrown and start blooming and requre constant repotting if you start too early. Until then, consider adding some cool-season crops to your lineup. You can start cabbage now, and broccoli in a couple of weeks.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 8:03AM
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This season I will plant my warm weather crops according to soil temp's.
If I am correct each veggie has it's own prime range when to be planted.
I'm of the mind, with our temp fluctuations of recent years, the dates prescribed aren't accurate now a days.
This is just my thoughts..

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 12:50PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Cold frames and soil temps (although an excellent plan) aside since the OP doesn't have one and isn't talking about direct seeding right now. Rather the question is starting tomato and pepper plants indoors.

So we are still left with the issue mentioned several times above of it being far too early in his zone to start either.

Not only will the plants rapidly outgrow any containers used and require several potting-up transplants but they will be heavily stressed, leggy with weak stems and weak circulatory systems, but they will be far too large to tolerate the transplanting to the garden process well, There is ample evidence available to support these claims and many discussions here throughout the forums on the problems and failures that result.

Hopefully the OP will respond to this issue and reconsider the plan.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 1:03PM
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diggity_ma(5 MA)

Yup, far too early for tomatoes, especially the varieties the OP lists. There is just no point to starting them early. They get leggy and flop over and try to set flowers in their little pots, only to languish when they finally do make it into the ground. Wait until late March and ride the momentum of warming days and abundant sunshine. The only tomato I would start this early would be a patio variety destined for life in a greenhouse or container where it could be moved indoors at night.

Peppers are different story. In recent years I've been starting them earlier and earlier here in central MA. Last year I started them the 2nd week of January and they did quite well. It means a lot of weeks of babysitting them, but they did produce earlier and in excellent quantity. This year I didn't get around to starting them until Feb 2nd.

As for what to start them in, why not try a soil blocker? I started using one a few years ago and quite like it. I don't use it for everything, but it works well for tomatoes, peppers, brassicas, and lots of other plants too. No fussing with odd-sized yogurt containers, no sending plastic to the dump, no waste at all.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 9:56AM
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