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dividing tomato seedling instead or thinning

Posted by Pabski 5 (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 22, 13 at 10:16


I'm a new urban gardener trying my hands at bio-intensive organic gardening in eastern Canada.

I started a number of seedlings in a shelved mini-greenhouse 4 weeks ago. My heirloom tomato seedlings are now about 6-8 inches tall, a little spindly but overall doing quite well. They have true leaves that are all less than one inch long.

Here's my dilemma, I have a fairly large garden in which I can grow a lot of these tomato plants (and give what we don't), I also have a lot of people I could give the seedlings too. These are old heirloom seeds and were relatively expensive, so the idea of thinning the seedlings is killing me. I have thee seedling per jiffy pellet about one inch apart. I would like to separate the seedlings and re-pot them all. I don't mind if it takes time and know i'll have to be delicate with the roots but want to know if I may damage my plants doing this and loose more than if I man up and thin these innocent plants.

I'm afraid I waited too long to divide them, given that they are now 6+ inches tall and relatively close together.

Also, if I do divide them, should I crumble the jiffy puck soil gently until the roots show, separate them gently and replants them to just under the cotyledon? This is what I seem to understand but am hesitant. I should add that I plan on hardening them outside soon, and will plant them in a couple of weeks in the garden.

Thanks in advance for any advise.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: dividing tomato seedling instead or thinning

much easier to split up when they are at the cotyledon stage, right now is more trickier, but still should be fine. remember, you can even grow a tomato from a cutting - which i did about a month ago from indoor bush, and the cutting will sprout huge number of roots within a week, so if your plant already has roots, then no problem splitting up your seedlings.

RE: dividing tomato seedling instead or thinning

also, if the seedlings are too big, then you can plant them really deep, and have only the top two leaves showing, or you can pinch off the top and have two leaves showing, your bush will sprout a "sucker" which will be a new top (or two) - that's what i did this weekend, my seedlings were huge, so i nipped off the top, and planted them deep with two leaves showing, into one gallon grow bags.

RE: dividing tomato seedling instead or thinning

Give those jiffy pucks a pass after this. I personally hate them. The peat in them must be pretty solid and it will be hard to separate them. Get some 16oz colored disposable drinking glasses-- $3 or $4 for 50 at walmart. They are the best and cheapest pots I have found.

Fill the pots with a good soil less mix--I like pro mix BX and buy it by the bale. It will keep for years if kept completely dry. Now take those pucks with your plants and stick them in warm water and soak the peat until it loosens from the root and you can divide them with very little damage to the root. Make sure your mix is wet through with warm water and full your pots or glasses 2/4 full. Dibble a hole in the center and sink your plants up to the leaves in the soil. Give them better light. On warm days set them outside for a while--an hour or 2 at first and gradually increase the time over a couple of weeks. The stems will get stronger in resistance to the wind

RE: dividing tomato seedling instead or thinning

Thank you both! That is great advice. Had not thought of using water to make the process of dividing easier. Makes a lot of sense, I will do that.

I've been using a fan indoor to expose the seedling to wind a couple hours a day and it seem to help they get a bit sturdier. Will start putting them outside as soon as it gets a little warmer.

Also, yes, definitely not going back to the jiffy pucks. Beside they drying quickly and, I don't like the idea of being dependent on a "branded system" where I need to buy silly pucks at 20 cents a pop.

I'm reading Eliot Coleman's "The New Organic Grower" and saw he uses Soil Block makers (link below). They look fantastic for seedlings: not pots (no wasted plastic!), no cost after the initial purchase of the maker, and unlimited use. Have been reading about them a lot and think I'll grab a kit at Lee Valley.

Here is a link that might be useful: Block makers

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