I am not exaggerating when I tell you I have 200 tomato seedlings in my kitchen right now. A combination of using gardening as a coping mechanism and a sense of empathy that makes it difficult to even insult a video game character, let alone kill a tomato seedling has left me in this situation. I have no one to blame but myself, but I think that I have acquired a few tips to help others with their tomato seedlings.
- Gee, non seed starting soil does JUST FINE – I used plain old potting soil this year for seed starting. I was certain that I was doing the equivalent of not breast feeding my children and that I would be destroying my germination rate. But, golly, gosh, darn, all the seeds germinated (and non-breast fed children continue to thrive). Plain old regular soil works just fine and I have nice healthy seedlings now (looking for good homes).
- You don’t have to talk to your tomato seedlings, but they do like to be petted — Ok, so your tomato seedlings won’t be replacing your cat or dog any day soon, but “pettingâ€ your seedlings will result in a stronger plant. Petting or “ticklingâ€, as the tomatophiles call it, mimics the wind and triggers a thigmotropism response. (Can you say thigmotropism? Good for you, because I can’t.). Thigmotropism is a plant’s response to its environment. In the case of tomatoes, wind means that it can get blown over, and the tomato plant grows thicker to compensate. Pretty clever plants. (BTW, if petting creeps you out, a fan on low will also accomplish this.)
- Tomato seedlings are pretty hardy — I planted 3-4 seeds per pot. I am now in the process of dividing these into their own pots. I noticed this in past years as well when dividing or repotting. Tomato seedlings are pretty damn hardy. They can take a fair amount of man-handling, unlike some lettuces I have known lately.
- Tomato seedlings sun-scald easily — Hardening off is a tedious process. But a very necessary one for tomato seedlings. Those babies can get sun burn faster than you can imagine. I am thinking that there is a market for a 30SPF sunscreen for plants to shorten hardening off time.
- Fluorescent lights work well — All my seedlings were grown under fluorescent bulbs. Like, bought at the grocery store, screws into a normal light socket, light bulb. No timers, no windows. 24 hour light from the fluorescent bulbs. They were very happy.
- Tomato seeds are viable for a good 3-4 years — I planted some tomato seeds I had from way, way back and the germination rate was as good as the new seeds I bought this year. I store my extra seeds in the veggie drawer in the fridge. Seems to work well.
I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with, but I am thinking that is because tomato seedlings seem to be pretty incompetence friendly (really I am that bad at starting seeds normally. Ask me how many pepper plants I have right now. Not an impressive number when you consider I planted about as many as the tomatoes.)
I mean let’s face it, if a tomato falls in the garden, at least a few seeds will grow the next year without your help. Just imagine how many would grow with your help. And the good news is that it is not too late to start some seeds. You might be surprised how easy it is.