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Hampton Bay
Jun. 23, 2012, 07:36 PM
I started some tomatoes of different varieties from seed this year again, and yet again they are looking weedy and just not thriving. It's like they grow straight up and not out, and in the probably 6 weeks since I planted them they don't have a single flower. I did fertilize them with manure.

Now I also have some I bought as plants that of course were farther along, and they have had flowers for maybe 3 weeks to a month, and already have at least 10 tomatoes. They were purchased a week or so after the seeds were planted.

I water them all daily when it doesn't rain, and none of them appear wilted. It hasn't been that hot here yet, so I don't think the heat is to blame, and they do get a bit of shade from the very edge of a tree part of the day (tomatoes don't do full sun here once it really gets hot).

What gives?

The only difference is when I did the seeds I put the manure on top, while with the plants I lined the trench with manure. All were planted in looser soil over a recently-laid water line.

Laurierace
Jun. 23, 2012, 07:45 PM
You need to start them in the house in February.

Wraper2
Jun. 23, 2012, 09:41 PM
where did you get the seeds from? Packaged or saved from plants?

The new hybrids do not grow well from seed saved back.... in our experience.

Now, the cherry tomatoes we fed to the Minis one year, when the resulting manure was put in the rose bed, did sprout and produce well. :winkgrin:

JWB
Jun. 23, 2012, 10:09 PM
Here in Fl, we start our seeds indoors in late December or early January. I got a late start this year (didn't plant till March) and they're nowhere near as developed as the few I bought as seedlings (couldn't find seeds in time for that variety but did find seedlings)

I usually plant in Dec/Jan, put seedlings outside in late March and get first blooms in April/May, with plants over my head by mid-summer. My late March plants look pathetic to me, but I need to remember that they're about 3 months behind.

paulaedwina
Jun. 23, 2012, 10:27 PM
I'm in PA so YMMV, but I raise a garden every year from seed. This is only the second time in 15 years that I have no vegetables.

1. Start seeds on Valentine's day. You need some kind of cup, some seed starting soil, a marker, and warm water. I set my little cups (breakstone single serve cottage cheese cups) in muffin tins to catch water and carry them around. Mark your cups, mix your seed starter soil and water in a bucket, stick the soil into the cups, make a little finger stick and drop your seed.

2. Grow bulbs are essential and they must be kept right above the seedling. If they are too far away the seedlings get leggy (thin and week). So the grow bulbs are just edged up as the seedlings grow.

3. Don't transplant til your last frost day. Mine is about mother's day. When you're ready to transplant you must harden off your seedlings. Take them outside and put them in shade for a couple of days. If you take them right out into the sunlight they will burn up and die.

4. I don't use manure. I also container garden -it keeps the soil from getting compacted and is easier to manage. Transplant in the evening and water in.

5. I companion plant nasturtium and marigolds (also started from seed) to control bugs.

Keep them happy and moist and you'll have produce. I love starting seeds because it tells me that spring is coming.

Paula

2DogsFarm
Jun. 24, 2012, 06:20 AM
When you planted your seedlings (the ones you started) did you just stick them in the ground?

The recommended way to plant tomato seedlings is to bury them up to the top branch, leaving very little stem above ground.
Or to lay them in a trench and let just the tops stick out.
Tomatoes are vining plants, so this gives them a chance to get bushy.

You can still do the trench method for your plants now.

Also:
I swear by Job's tomato fertilizer spikes and water once a week with Miracle-Gro.

Hampton Bay
Jun. 24, 2012, 12:09 PM
I'm in LA, so we rarely get this thing called "frost" :)

I just started them straight in the ground once it was warm. Seeds right into the ground, watered well. They did sprout almost instantly. I thinned them as they came up, so they are 6" to 12" apart now. Should I dig them up and plant them a bit deeper now? Maybe on top of some manure?

I got a late start, or I would have started them in leftover smartpaks. But by the time I planted the seeds, it was well into the 80's.

These are seeds I bought. I think there is one of the early maturing varieties, and some cherry and plum tomatoes. Nothing too fancy.

I am on red clay. It has a bit of sand in it, but pretty much just clay.

LauraKY
Jun. 24, 2012, 12:37 PM
I wouldn't dig them up...my volunteer tomatoes are always the hardiest. Maybe some manure tea and lime (for the calcium).

As for seed starting, I got a late start this year. I start them 6 weeks before the last frost date, keep changing up to larger pots. My garden is the lasagna method raised bed and I have a drip hose on the bed. I only water once or twice a week, but I water deeply. I didn't get them out until the first week of June because I was out of town, but they're all coming along nicely. Flowers on all and tomatoes on some of them.

I plant them very deeply too, in the bed and each time I re-pot.

Bacardi1
Jun. 24, 2012, 01:20 PM
I've always started tomato seeds indoors - never just stuck them into the ground, so I don't know if that's your problem. I do know that tomatoes do not like hard compacted ground, & you can't get much more compacted than clay & sand mixed together. That pretty much equals cement. And as far as the manure - I'm hoping beyond hope that you mean very well aged &/or composted manure. Because if you're just dumping road apples in with your tomatoes, that's serious root-burning in the making.

Next time around you need to work in a LOT of organic matter into your veggie garden. Manure is great, but ONLY if it's been aged for 6 months to a year until it resembles nice crumbly dark earth. You shouldn't be able to tell in any way - smell or otherwise - that it was ever manure.

Hampton Bay
Jun. 24, 2012, 02:33 PM
This clay was very loose as I had just buried a water line where I planted the tomatoes. I've always used fresh manure with no ill effects too. The stuff I put around the seedlings was more aged than the stuff I planted under the plants I bought. The ones doing the best were planted over very very fresh manure.

Megaladon
Jun. 24, 2012, 03:47 PM
Are they the same type of tomatoes? For example, Striped Roman tomatoes have very long, thin and pointy leaves and don't really bush out. And, some varieties will take longer to mature.

I think amending with manure is an excellent idea if you are on clay. Also, tomatoes like calcium, sprinkle egg shells, bone meal and even powdered milk in the soil.

Good luck and enjoy your garden.

Hampton Bay
Jun. 24, 2012, 05:21 PM
I might try to dig a few of them up, very wide of course so as to do the least damage to the roots, and plant them on some manure. Can't hurt, as some of them look downright stunted. And none of them have even a single flower.

atlatl
Jun. 24, 2012, 05:41 PM
I wouldn't dig them up, but you never know. If they are really stunted, you might want to try a high nitrogen fertilizer to give them a kick start.

I start mine in the house in January in seed starter under lights. Once they have 2 sets of true leaves, I transplant into larger pots burying them up to the first set of true leaves (not the little thingees they have when first sprouted). Then I feed them every other week with a diluted liquid fertilizers. When the night temps stay above 50, out to the garden they go, again, buried up to the first set of leaves (the baby leaves have fallen off by now).

This year, I was not thinking and mixed a bunch of worm casings in with my seed starter. Wouldn't have been a bad idea except for all the old tomato seeds that were in it. I had so many seeds sprout that it was hard to tell which were volunteers and which were the intended varieties!

My roma style tomatoes are starting to ripen and I've already had a green zebra and a black krim. Love love love tomatoes!

jacksmom
Jun. 24, 2012, 11:13 PM
Any chance you feed your horses hay that's been sprayed with Graze On (sp?)? If that's the case, it will stunt your tomato plants, it's a broad leaf weed killer and as far as it's concerned your tomatoes are weeds...

Hampton Bay
Jun. 24, 2012, 11:43 PM
They get alfalfa cubes, Manna Pro brand. Hay is very likely not sprayed with anything that kills weeds given that it does have some weeds. Around here you take what you can get after last year's drought. I would think if that were the case it would kill the ones I bought as plants though. Those are doing really well.

PeteyPie
Jun. 25, 2012, 02:05 AM
I'm in LA, so we rarely get this thing called "frost" :)

I just started them straight in the ground once it was warm. Seeds right into the ground, watered well. They did sprout almost instantly. I thinned them as they came up, so they are 6" to 12" apart now. Should I dig them up and plant them a bit deeper now? Maybe on top of some manure?

The method I know is to take the seedling when it is at least 6" tall, pinch off all the leaves except the very top ones, and plant the whole plant in rich soil with only the little top leaves exposed. The denuded stem will then develop roots where each leaf has been removed, and the resulting plant will be healthier and more productive. Otherwise, it will be leggy and slower growing.

Mine use tons of water, but they are in very large planters so they dry out quicker than if they were in the ground. I am also in Southern California, and I think you are okay here with planting a little later in the season.

SmartAlex
Jun. 25, 2012, 12:59 PM
You could replant them or pinch them off. A tomato will re-grow from virtually nothing if pinched back so there is still at least one set of leaves.. And a broken off tomato, if it is replanted so the break is well under the surface and kept well watered, will survive. I've experimented and left both accidents with 100% survival rate.

That being said, I wouldn't bother to direct sow tomato seeds. I start all mine in pots, either in the house or in a cold frame. The direct sow is just too hit and miss.

JB
Jun. 25, 2012, 02:21 PM
I don't direct-sow either - all my direct-sows are last year's volunteers, and they really do end up doing well! But, it's the best of the best seeds/plants that survive that, so...

I always start seeds inside about 8-12 weeks before they need to be put in the ground. It just makes for a quicker take-off once the weather really starts warming up. Just don't let them get root-bound, they really don't like that and growth can come to a screeching halt for a while. So, I try to start them early enough but not too early, and I put them in big enough pots so they don't get rootbound much, if at all, by the time I put them out. Then I put them *deep*, taking off the very bottom leaves, and all that stem will grow roots as well, for a much more drought-resistant plant.

SmartAlex
Jun. 25, 2012, 02:48 PM
all my direct-sows are last year's volunteers, and they really do end up doing well! But, it's the best of the best seeds/plants that survive that, so...

And... if they are volunteers from hybrids, who knows what they are. I wonder what percentage of varieties in a given zone will survive as volunteers? Me thinks there is a lengthy scientific study waiting in there somewhere.

This year I decided against turning my dining room into a grow op. Then the first week of May I had an heirloom variety withdrawal panic so I started 4 heirloom varieties in the cold frame. Even though they germinated quickly, they are 4 or 5 weeks behind what I would normally have, and they looked awful shrimpy when I planted their little baby selves next to the ones I got from the nursery. But now they are the stockiest, thriftiest little guys. They are all varieties I am familiar with so we'll see how their late start compares with past performance. I'd be pretty happy to be able to use the cold frame for starting tomatoes and dispense with heat mats, timers and lights.

JB
Jun. 25, 2012, 03:23 PM
And... if they are volunteers from hybrids, who knows what they are. I wonder what percentage of varieties in a given zone will survive as volunteers? Me thinks there is a lengthy scientific study waiting in there somewhere.
Absolutely! The volunteers I've had for the last...5? years are from an original planting of Sweet Million (hybrid). In a given spot I can find several dozen seedlings coming up from dropped tomatoes and I thin then as far apart as the area allows, wait and see which ones are growing the strongest, and thin down to 1-2 at that point. I have no idea how far removed from a SM they are now LOL


This year I decided against turning my dining room into a grow op. Then the first week of May I had an heirloom variety withdrawal panic so I started 4 heirloom varieties in the cold frame. Even though they germinated quickly, they are 4 or 5 weeks behind what I would normally have, and they looked awful shrimpy when I planted their little baby selves next to the ones I got from the nursery. But now they are the stockiest, thriftiest little guys. They are all varieties I am familiar with so we'll see how their late start compares with past performance. I'd be pretty happy to be able to use the cold frame for starting tomatoes and dispense with heat mats, timers and lights.
I've never used heat mats LOL It sure does speed up germination, but after a bit it doesn't seem to matter. I've never used timers, but for my veggies I do try to use lights - really helps keep things growing *up* and not reaching towards available window lighting. Lights get plugged in when i get up, unplugged when I go to bed. I do have plans in the future to get a cold frame/little greenhouse going because I'm REALLY running out of room with all my kept-indoor-over-Winter potted plants and my veggie/annual seedling trays :no:

buck22
Jun. 25, 2012, 04:19 PM
This year I decided against turning my dining room into a grow op. Then the first week of May I had an heirloom variety withdrawal panic so I started 4 heirloom varieties in the cold frame. Even though they germinated quickly, they are 4 or 5 weeks behind what I would normally have, and they looked awful shrimpy when I planted their little baby selves next to the ones I got from the nursery. But now they are the stockiest, thriftiest little guys.

You know you quasi-"winter sowed" right? :lol:

If you don't know about winter sowing, its worth a read. (http://wintersown.org/wseo1/Tomatoes.html)You do the entire shebang outside in January/February and let nature take its course. Yes when time to transfer to the garden, they are puny little things, but they have great root systems and soon not only catch up but overtake the hothouse plants.

My little seedlings are so hardy, they go in the ground one month earlier than anyone else, and handily survive frosts (http://i25.photobucket.com/albums/c54/buck1173/tomato%20garden%20disaster/IMG_1092.jpg).

Now, having said all this I haven't winter sown in two years, I have been buying hothouse plants, for no other reason that I haven't made the time to go through the ordeal of sowing at all (http://i25.photobucket.com/albums/c54/buck1173/tomato%20garden%20disaster/IMG_1043.jpg) :lol: but if you're inclined to start your own toms each year, WS is absolutely worth an experiment. So far I've experienced 100% germination.

SmartAlex
Jun. 25, 2012, 04:28 PM
You know you quasi-"winter sowed" right? :lol:

I didn't know there was a name for it, but yup, that's what I did. :yes: Of course, since we had May temperatures in March, my cold frame could have easily been mistaken for a hot house this spring.

I also started okra, calendula, summer squash, zinnias and nasturtium as back ups to my direct sow. I figure if I start the early stuff both direct and in the cold frame, then I can fill in the failures and give the rest away. Besides missing out on a houseful of seedlings, I was also spared the hardening off process which is the most stressful part of it all.

Hampton Bay
Jun. 25, 2012, 07:27 PM
Hmm. Maybe next year I will just plant them all from seeds in January. We have warm winters here anyway.

LauraKY
Jun. 25, 2012, 08:44 PM
My volunteers are always better than the original plant. I use all heirlooms though, no hybrids. My volunteer squash looks awesome.

Frank B
Jun. 27, 2012, 11:21 AM
I started my seedlings over a period of 4 weeks in March in the sunroom and transplanted through May for a more smoothed out yield. I used yoghurt cups with potting soil as a medium and fertilized with Miracle Grow.