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Why start seedlings in small pots vs straight to 4' pot

Posted by nguyena1 8b (My Page) on
Sat, Feb 4, 12 at 5:06

After surfing the web and reading Paul's FAQ on growing tomatoes, they say to start seedlings in small containers/seed trays, and then when the true leaves first form, transplant them into larger containers.

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But no one actually says why? (It does mention it can be beneficial particularly for tomatoes root system strength if transplanted). So if I'm a small home gardener, can't I just directly sow my pepper and tomato seeds into a 4" plastic pot with seed starter soil filling it up? It's a lot less work and I tend to damage plants when I transplant them. The soil will be the temperature of my house (73 deg F). I'm only doing 8-10 or so plants, the rest of other veggies I will direct sow outside.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Why start seedlings in small pots vs straight to 4' pot

Three reasons:

A 4 " pot holds a lot more moisture than a tiny seedling can use, which means it never dries out, and you are much more likely to get "damp off" or stress the seedling from to much water.

When you transplant tomatoes you can plant them deeper into the soil, giving them more roots and getting a shorter sturdier plant.

Also, from everything I have read, Tomatoes actually benefit from being transplanted, it strengthens their root systems.

RE: Why start seedlings in small pots vs straight to 4' pot

Some plants take up water and nutrients better when there is a uniform soil moisture. Others do better when the soil cycles from wet to dry. I think it's a matter of what method the plant uses to pass water and nutrients through the membrane of the feeder roots.

Plants that like a changing moisture level tend to grow faster when the time between cycles is shorter. That happens when the pot size is appropriate for the plant size.

RE: Why start seedlings in small pots vs straight to 4' pot

Most all plants benefit from at least one transplanting just like tomatoes. Transplanting triggers the plant to develop feeder roots - no transplanting = weaker roots.

Not to mention that trying to get a seed to germinate in a 4" pot of soil is difficult if not impossible. It's starting out with 2 strikes against it. If it germinates in the big pot than along comes strike 3 and rots its roots.

As always mentioned whenever this question comes up - which it does often - you have to do what is best for the seed and the plant, not what is best for the gardener. :)


RE: Why start seedlings in small pots vs straight to 4' pot

Also, no one transplants into a seed starting mix, which is heavy with peat, drains poorly with not enough air in the root zone. Transplanting is best done into a bark based mix. Al

RE: Why start seedlings in small pots vs straight to 4' pot

Thanks all. So I will use small pots (got a bunch of plastic 1" pots from home depot leftovers a while back) for seed germination. When they develop their true leaves, I will transplant them into 4" pots with potting soil.

Tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers are what I'm doing like this that I've read do well from transplanting.

RE: Why start seedlings in small pots vs straight to 4' pot

Just sharing a tip. I starts lots of things from seeds, and have been doing it for years and years. Last year I had my best pepper transplants EVER! This is what I did: 6-7 evenly spaced pepper seeds planted into a 4" pot. When plants were about 2-3" tall they were each transplanted into a 4-4.5" pot. Voila!! No losses, no issues. This sowing/transplanting scheme happened because I did not need to sow many seeds of each pepper variety, and I just did not have the time to transplant earlier and transplant multiple times into ever larger pots. This saved me time and energy, and the plants thrived:)

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