Starting Vegetables by Seed
We are going to grow our tomatoes from seed. Here is how we do it:
- Artificial Light – You must have an artificial light source for this to work. A suggestion is from Hydro Farm at 1-800-634-9990. This light needs to be on a timer so the plant gets 13 hours light per day. My recommendation is from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm.
- Tray System – You need a solid plastic tray that will hold water. You then take an open plastic tray with drainage and place a 36-compartment peat tray in it. Fill the peat tray with potting mix. When it comes time for planting the plants outside, just cut the peat trays into individual plants. This technique eliminates disturbing the roots by planting the plant with the peat pot attached (no root shock). Lightly wet the potting mix. This will settle the potting mix into the tray and ease watering once the seed is planted.
- Add a small amount of slow release fertilizer like Osmacote to the top of the potting mix.
- Plant 3 seeds per cube section. Once the seed starts to grow, you cut out the weaker plants leaving the one best plant in the cube section.
- Set the planted tray in the solid tray. Fill solid tray ½ way with water. The water will then travel through the potting mix through osmosis. Within 10 minutes the potting mix should be wet. Keep soil moist as needed probably once every 10 days using the same watering technique.
Vegetable Garden Planting Tips
- Time of year is critical – use Walls of Water (see Burpee's website at www.burpee.com) to place around the tomato plant the day you plant them in the vegetable garden. The benefit of these walls of water is: no transplant shock to the plant. The Walls of Water protect the tomato plant from the wind and the frost. You can now plant your plants 2-3 weeks earlier than normal. I recommend May 1st in this area. -- Getting back to seed starting, if you use the Wall of Water technique you would plant your seeds March 20th. If you don’t use this technique, plant your seeds around April 1st.
- Soil Test – Take a soil test from your garden 2 months before planting. It may take that long to get the report back. Soil test information is available at Penn State Seed at (570) 675-8585 or (570) 287-9656.
- Deer Fence – I recommend fencing the garden in a 6’ high fence. Posts with turkey wire fencing work fine.
- Garden Preparations – Add lime and fertilizer as recommended by the soil test to the garden and then rotor-till the material 6-8" into the garden.
- Weed Barrier – I recommend a black or red, heavy weed barrier be laid down on the whole garden.
- Tomato Planting – Cut a hole in the weed barrier 8" in diameter and plant tomato plant and stake with a small bamboo stake. Water the plant immediately by hand. Place the walls of water around the plant.
- Irrigation – I recommend a drip irrigation system. It is easy to do and makes important watering a breeze. Don’t over water nor let the soil around the plant dry up.
- Staking - Once the tomato plant grows 8" to a foot over the walls of water (make sure danger of frost is gone – usually May 20th), pull the walls of water over the top of the plant. Then stake with a 1" x 1" x 6’ stake (tree stakes from Luzerne Lumber (570)-287-1177). Tie with an expandable plastic tie as necessary. Add more ties as the plant grows. Keep the leaves off the ground.
- Pest Control – Use a vegetable dust as needed. I usually do this 3 times prior to any fruit. Only dust your plants before the fruit appears if you see a problem.