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First time growing from seed

Posted by Contadino 6 (My Page) on
Thu, May 16, 13 at 9:44

First year gardening for me, and I made the decision to experiment with indoor seed starting. I am trying basil, tomatoes and peppers. For zone 6, I got a late start. Should’ve started around mid March, but didn’t start until mid April. The picture I attached shows 4 pepper plants in front (Jimmy Nardello sweet pepper), and then the tomatoes in the back.

I started everything in cow pots, with an organic soil-less potting mixture, inside of a black plastic tray, with clear plastic dome. Seeds were germinating either ontop of my fridge/freezer, or on a table situated near a heating vent. Basil and tomatoes germinated within a week, peppers took 2. Being my first time, I probably over seeded each pot, but once true leaves started developing, I transplanted the extras to peat pots (which after reading through these forums, may not have been a good idea).

Fast forward to now. Seedlings have been getting most of their light from a windowsill, but at night (or on cloudy days), I put them under a fluorescent bulb ... just a plain and simple desk lamp, with the seedlings propped up to about 4 inches or so from the light.

Onto my questions.

1. Tomatoes seem to be growing well, but when I transplanted, I think I made the mistake of not potting them up to the cotyledons, so they’re a bit leggy. I was hoping to correct this when I transplant outdoors. Should that work?
2. My peppers are growing so slowly. Could it be that they’re not getting enough light, because when I have the plants under the fluorescent bulb, the TOMATOES are within a couple inches, but since the peppers are smaller, they’ve been much further from the light?
3. I’m about a week or so away from our last frost date, so I started the hardening off process by giving the plants some outdoor exposure. I apparently made the mistake on the first day of leaving them too long. It was windy as well. One of the tomatoes and one of the peppers ended up keeled over. It appeared as if the stem was cut right near the soil line. Since then, I tried repotting those 2 plants by burying the stem, but not sure if that will work, because I notice that the cotyledons are turning yellow and droopy, and the plants seemed to stop growing. Are they basically goners?
4. When I transplanted the pepper plants, I DID bury the stems, since I already made that mistake with the tomatoes. But I get mixed opinions on this, bad move on my part?
5. Is it too early to harden off those little pepper plants? They’re barely an inch tall, and only the first set of true leaves have appeared, but they’re so tiny. Originally I was hoping to plant them to the garden by next week, but again, since I started this whole process a month late, I guess I should be more patient.

Sorry for the lengthy first post, just wanted to get everything out there. So far this forum has been great, full of great information and discussions!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: First time growing from seed

First - all of your questions have most likely been answered mulitple times in this forum - you should get in the habit of using the seach function - its a great way to educate yourself about gardening.

4" from a desk lamp bulb, alternating with a window sill, is not enough light. However if you are now moving them outside, where they will get real sunlight it will make a difference. In zone 6 I assume they can be outside pretty much all the time by now.

1. - yes you can always plant tomatoes deeper - you could plant them all the way up to the top set of leaves if you wanted to. They are vines and will grow roots any where they are buried.

2. Peppers are much slower than tomatoes and need to be started much earlier. Usually 8-10 weeks before you plant them out. Not enough light doesnt help.

3. - I am only a week and a half from my last frost date in zone 4 - so I think you should re-check that. Tomatoes will grow easily from cuttings, so even if the plant broke completely it may come back fine - less likely with the pepper. Cotyledons will always eventually turn yellow and fall off - they are there just to get the plant started.

4. Peppers do not root along the stems like tomatoes - planting the a little deeper when they are young should be fine, but to much deeper and the stems will rot.

5. Many people direct seed - so the size/age of the plant doesnt matter so much when you start hardening them off. In fact the older a plant is the trickier it can be. Pay less attention to what you think your last frost date is and more to the long term weather forecast. Peppers like it warm. Plant them in the ground when it stays above 55/60 at night. But I would be surprised if you get peppers off of them if they are this young, this late - depends on when your first frost happens in the Fall. My pepper plants are all blooming now and they will go out in a couple of weeks, but I cant count on them lasting past the end of September here.

RE: First time growing from seed

Some additional thoughts:

2. To give the peppers more light, lift them up on books or blocks to get them to within 1-2" of the bulb. You're not limited to adjusting the light; you can also lift the plants.

3. & 5. Agreed about double-checking your frost date. Zones don't perfectly correlate to frost dates, but my Zone 5 plants are out in the garden already. Look instead at your extended weather forecast and see what the predicted low temps are. But peppers need it warmer than tomatoes do, so you could always get your tomatoes outside first and give those peppers another couple weeks under the lights without having to fight for space. Don't plant your peppers in the garden until the lows are consistently above 55.

I wouldn't worry about starting them late, though. I think you'll get plenty of fruit in Zone 6. I started mine late last year -- germination issues -- but they still had plenty of time to produce before my mid-October frosts.

RE: First time growing from seed

Thanks for the replies! Just to update, I transplanted the tomatoes to the garden, burying the stem, and they seem to be doing well.

Unfortunately, didn't have much luck with the peppers. After being exposed to the outdoors, all of them wilted, with what appears to be a slight cut near the stem line. I looked this up and found some probably causes, so I will try again next year!

RE: First time growing from seed

Starting them inside means hardening them off to get them acclimated to the outside.
I learned the hard way as well,now I just winter sow most things.

RE: First time growing from seed

I have dug up tomatoes to plant deeper. They are happy with that. Each little hair on the stem turns into a root.
If you don't have an alkaline soil add lime.

RE: First time growing from seed

"Each little hair on the stem turns into a root. " Although I am well aware that tomatoes will produce roots along the stem if it is buried under soil I am intrigued by the statement that EVERY trichome on the stem will turn into a root. This just doesn't seem possible given the evidence of one's own eyes. I looked this up after reading it and find it repeated all over the place but I cannot find any scientific research (which I can understand) which tells me this is actually so, rather than the adventitious roots being produced by some other mechanism. Can anyone point to a scientific source for this information? I'm intrigued. I can't spare any tomato plants but would someone like to try rubbing off all the trichomes and then burying a stem to see if it will still root? I'd love to know what happens.

p.s. nobody has yet warned Contadino against those peat/cow/pulp pots which might have a lot to do with the stunting.

RE: First time growing from seed

Hi Flora,
I did a lot of research on this once. Although I heard about this with tomatoes before, even know people who remove leaves and lay small plants 75% on their sides in dirt to achieve better root development.
But it wasn't till I started working on a project with a Thailand Marigold grower where they also transplanted marigold seedlings deep for the same reason, that I began to research this. The info that I began to find is that many single system plants benefit from this (planting up to the first leaf).
And, like the commercial says, "I read it on the internet so it has to be true." :-)

RE: First time growing from seed

Hi bugbite - thanks for your reply. I am familiar with transplanting certain species deeper to get rooting from the stem - it also works with Brassicas and I do it with all my kales, etc. My question was about the specific claim that the trichomes ie stem hairs actually become roots when buried. The wording was actually that 'Each little hair turns into a root'. The evidence of my own eyes makes me question this. There are two points: one is that a tomato stem has far more hairs on it above the soil than roots below, so the statement the EACH hair becomes a root just doesn't seem right. The second point is to wonder whether it is the trichomes themselves which somehow transmogrify into roots, or whether it some other cells on the stem which become roots. I just couldn't find any research telling me either way. Maybe I'll ask on the tomato forum.

This post was edited by flora_uk on Thu, May 30, 13 at 17:02

RE: First time growing from seed

Hi Flora

I've read many discussions on peat pots (haven't found much against the cow pots), but you're right, it definitely might've contributed to my problems.

On the other hand, my tomatoes were also grown in the cow/peat pots, and now they're in the garden and flourishing!

With the peppers, next year I will focus on providing them the bottom-heat, as well as better fluorescent lighting.

RE: First time growing from seed

Hi again bugbite - well, I got my answer over on tomatoes. It is not the stem hairs, or trichomes, which become roots. There are specialised structures called root primordia which produce roots when the stem comes into contact with the ground. So mystery solved. It seems that many of the sources on the web just quote each other without ever checking their facts - a bit like mediaeval bestiaries - so when one looks stuff up you just get the same old story repeated.

RE: First time growing from seed

Flora, Great research!
Appreciate you finding out the real answer.
I was just out in the garden and was thinking that I have a very technical book, that I like, that deals with plants down to the cell actions. I will check it to see how they explain it. But I can start by looking up "root primordia " because of the research you did.

RE: First time growing from seed

Here is a link that truly shows the difference between the hairs and the potential roots. Pretty cool.
Couldn't find it in my text book, but when I searched in Google books I found a lot of discussion.


Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato Lover

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