Return to the Growing from Seed Forum | Post a Follow-Up

Tomato seedlings leggy but small

Posted by Lesuko 5, Boulder CO (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 30, 12 at 11:40

I started my tomato seeds march 25 for a may 10 planting. Tis is my first time starting seeds. It's been 5 weeks and my seedlings are only 2" tall with very small true leaves. I've read that you are supposed to transplant once 2 true leaves appear. I will, but I'm wondering if I didn't give them enough light or food ( I haven't fertilized them). At first I only had T5s on for 10 hrs, then I read 12-14 and changed it about 2 weeks ago. Now I've read something like 14-18hrs of light.

I have moved my seedlings outside for regular sun, bring them in at night. I guess I'm wondering if I should continue see if they will grow or give up for the year and buy plants. I have always bought tomato plants that were 6-8" tall and know it will take a long time before mine get that high.

If I do transplant, I have 2-3 in one cell pack. Do I separate or snip? I don't know if I waited too long to separate.

Since they are leggy and they only have new true leaves growing (about 1/4" long) should I burry up to the leaves? When I transplant store bought, I always bury the first true sets of leaves to promote strong roots. If I should do this, when I transplant to the garden, should I bury the first set of true leaves. Does it matter how many times you bury the stem/ leaves?

I haven't fertilized yet. I have Down to Earth 7-7-2 solid granular fertilizer that I use in my beds. Can I mix this with water and add to my seedlings? Or should I buy liquid fert specifically for seedlings?

A hot year:
Another concern is that CO is having a hot spring and it's expected to be a hot and dry summer. If my seedlings are too behind, I'm worried that the temps will get too hot before they are able to produce much fruit. Is this a real concern or do plants usually catch up once in the ground?

I know this is long. I have 8 varieties of tomatoes that I'm excited about and are not available locally. So I want them to succeed but we also only have room for 8 plants soooooo, I do want some tomatoes this year.

Thanks for reading through this.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Tomato seedlings leggy but small

There are probably a few reasons they are behind. What type of soil are they in?

Moving them outside during the day and inside for the night is stunting them as well. Leave them inside under lights until your temps at night stay above 45*. Then, start to harden them off and leave them outside for the rest of the season. In and out all the time puts too much stress on them because of the drastic changes in light, temps, humidity ect.

If you need lots of tomato plants I would separate them, if not, snip the smaller one. Bury them up to the first set of true leaves. I am pretty confident they will catch up in no time to other purchased plants in 30 days or so once they are in there permanent spot.

Good Luck. posting pictures always helps too!


RE: Tomato seedlings leggy but small

  • Posted by Lesuko 5, Boulder CO (My Page) on
    Tue, May 1, 12 at 0:52

Thanks Keriann.

I used sterilized seed starting soil- fox farm, i think. I would not have thought that setting them outside during the day and inside at night would cause stress. It will be a low of 48 tonight so I'm taking a risk and leaving them outside. Maybe. That said, is it better to put them back under the lights even though I've been keeping them outside during the day for a week now? I don't trust I can keep them out at night until transplanting time- we could get a cold snap.

OK, i'm bringing them in and hope to hear from you again.

RE: Tomato seedlings leggy but small

Transplanting them into larger plastic cups will do them a world of good. In cell packs, you can bet that their roots are already hitting bottom. You dont have to wait for true leaves to transplant. Tomato seedlings are pretty tough little guys. At 5 weeks old they should be a lot bigger than 2". I started mine at least a week later than you and in 16oz. cups they are 5-6 " tall working on their 3rd set of true leaves. I started fertilizing after transplanting, but with a very weak solution.

RE: Tomato seedlings leggy but small

Yeah, I would keep them under lights until they can stay outside.

I would check out there root system as mandolls said. If they are becoming root bound, transplanting them into larger containers, buried deeper would help. I would hold off fertilizing until they settle into all these changes. I use miracle grow at 1/4 strength and just bottom water with it once a week. I hope that helps! Happy gardening


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!

Return to the Growing from Seed Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.

Learn more about in-text links on this page here