Sunday, February 23, 2014

Starting Tomato Plants From Seed, Step 2: Moving Sprouts From Paper into Pots

 This is Part 2. The first post (click here to read it) explains how to start the seed using weak tea, paper towels and baggies. This post shows how to pick them out and move the little seedlings into pots, where they will grow until time to set them out.  

  Now, just 3 days later, most have sprouted, some even have their first set of leaflets. Some have only just begun to open, or maybe even have not sprouted yet, but they have had a good soak, so I will plant them all now.

Use tweezers to gently pick them up by the seed casing (the cotyledon)  - never touch the root! Tug gently, straight and level, to remove from the paper without bending the plant.  If the root has already penetrated the paper and doesn't pull free easily, don't worry - instructions below on how to save it.

Lay the little plant, root end down, against clean wet potting soil in a paper cup, newspaper pot, peat pot or plastic six pack from other plants.

  Cover gently - but not deeply - with more damp potting soil. Just barely cover it. It is ok if you get a bit of earth on the cotyledon, it will grow out of it.

If the seed has not yet sprouted at all, put it with the point side down and just barely cover it with a sprinkle of dirt.

 If the root is caught in the paper, simply cut out a square of paper around the root, being careful not to touch or cut the root in the process.

Then just plant the piece of paper towel along with the little plant:  root down, covered with soil, cotyledon side up, barely covered at all. 

Place them all under lights to keep them warm and give them the light they need. I used T8 daylight bulbs in cheap 4 foot shop fixtures that hang from chains. Hang the lights about 2 inches above the plants.

And watch them grow!!!  Be sure to mist them daily, maybe twice daily if it looks like they need it. I used bottled water so that it won't have any chlorine in it, but you can also use tap water that you let sit overnight first.  If you don't have a spray bottle that gives a fine mist, you could also use an eyedropper. Even better, according to many, is to water from below by poking holes at the base of the cups, setting them on a tray and putting the water in the tray. If using newspaper or peat pots, you wouldn't even need to make holes. :-)

 I laid a tinfoil shade over the fixture to keep the light and warmth in, and to let the light reflect as much as possible onto the plants.

And there they are, right at a week  after they were first put into their papers: little heads popping up, some getting taller already, others still stretching to get the kinks out as they wake up from their long sleep.  

Have fun with your seedlings, and I will post again soon to show how they are coming. :-)

UPDATE March 11, 2014: The third post is up: click to read - and thank you! :-)

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