starting tomatos (etc) indoors WITHOUT lights

Discussion in 'Gardening' started by gladahmae, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. gladahmae

    gladahmae Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Benzie, MI
    I know it can be done. I've tried. And I just can't do it! Every year I end up going out and buying my tomato plants, usually late, because I've only then realized that my starts just aren't going to cut it, and don't get any fruit until almost September. [​IMG]

    I've heard the stories from relative about so and so that they know that grows their tomato plants in yogurt cups in their window and it was the best plant they had in their garden compared to the store-bought plants. Blah, blah blah. (And those people are either dead now, or their memory is gone, they live far far away, etc.)

    What's the trick with these guys? Can I *really* start tomatos indoors? Green beans?
     
  2. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Do both. Grow them in a south facing window. That will maximize your hours of natural light. But to assist them in not growing "leggy" which is tall, gangly and about useless, adding the additional florescent light is essential. There's a lot of ways to skin that cat. Suspend a shop light over them, put a 60 watt mini florescent in a goose neck lamp or a trouble light or brooder bulb fixture. Adding the additional light, on at 6 am and off at 9 pm will assist in keeping the plants from going leggy and floppy over in failure.

    Germinate the seeds with Saran Wrap over the cells until they sprout. This must be done in a place of 75F or warmer. Tomatoes just don't like to germinate if the soil is constantly dipping down below 65F. I use a table and keep an oil filled electric radiator running under it. Helps keep the temps constantly warm. I germinate out 200 tomato plants and 100 green pepper plants each spring this way. Here's to wishing you better luck and better methodology for success.







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    Last edited: Jan 29, 2013
  3. cmcanallen

    cmcanallen Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I sprout mine in small bottles with the tops cut off. I cover them with seran wrap until they germinate, then I split them into seperate bottles. I keep them inside in a window ledge until the weather starts to warm up and then get them in the ground quickly. Mine will go in the ground next week hopefully. I put green houses covers over them when we get our cold snaps.
     
  4. erinszoo

    erinszoo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    North Central Oklahoma
    I start mine in seed flats (if I have the money at the time) or anything I can plant in (if I don't have money). I put them in my dining room which is the warmest room in the house until they sprout, then they go to the kitchen counter where I have under cabinet lighting if it's cold out or if it's warm enough, they get put out in the greenhouse. They do best in the greenhouse because they don't get leggy at all out there but they can't take temps under 50 - 55 or they won't produce right. So a lot of days we take them out in the morning and bring them in at night.

    This year I have over 100 tomato plants growing already plus cucumbers, melons, squash, parsley, basil, cabbage, and artichokes. I have peppers planted but none of them have germinated yet. They usually take a lot longer. We got good germination on the tomatoes because we were drying stuff in our dehydrator and we plopped the seed trays on top of it so they got nice and warm.

    Tips for success - start small and up pot at least twice before going to the garden. When uppotting bury the tomato as much as possible leaving out only a couple of leaves. Use a fertilizer on them at two weeks and any time you transplant, we use a fish and seaweed one from Territorial Seed. Don't be afraid to put them out early as long as you take precautions to protect them from night time lows below 45 - 50 and/or late freezes. Mine go out in early March every year and I usually have tomatoes before July 4. I build a small greenhouse over the tomato bed out of pvc pipes and plastic sheeting that I can vent during the day.

    Try one variety and just a few plants until you get it figured out so your not over loading. Plus if you only have a few plants they can go in very sunny window.
     
  5. gladahmae

    gladahmae Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Benzie, MI
    Gosh! Planting out in MARCH???? We're still getting loads of snow then! [​IMG] We aren't safe from frost until the end of May up here!

    We *do* have under-cabinet lighting, so that may be an option. My problem is that all of our south-facing windows are in bedrooms and *I* certainly don't want a light coming on at 6am every morning! [​IMG]

    Fred: when do you usually start your plants, seeing as how you're basically 2 hrs straight East of me.......
     
  6. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Yes, straight east of you and a growing zone colder/shorter. You're protected more from the Lake. We are not.

    Oh yes. We must start the plants in March. They go from the seed cell to a 3" pot and then re-potted again into a 6" pot. Sometimes, even potted again to a 10" pot. We have to do this. We rarely get 100 frost free days. When we finally put a tomato plant or pepper plant into the ground, on June 3, it is very, very mature. There is a huge one gallon sized root ball, if you will. My transplant tool is a regular shovel. LOL We are market gardening in a place (Au Sable Valley) where the locals do not believe anyone can garden and very, very few even try. Successfully doing what others do not believe can be done creates a good market for our produce.

    In my opinion, one must either build a small greenhouse, or commit the south side windows of their home to being an inside greenhouse. (my wife "loves" this, BTW) The furniture gets dispossessed from March through May. LOL
     
  7. gladahmae

    gladahmae Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Benzie, MI
    [​IMG] You CAN'T grow those tomatos! You stop that right now! [​IMG]

    I think our project for this summer is going to be building a hoop house (likely a-la-cattle panels) and improvising some sort of windbreak for it. I'm trying to convince DH to locate it over part of our drain field so that the hot water from showers and laundry will keep the ground a bit warm and maybe would could grow lettuce in there year-round!

    I'd like to put in a much larger garden this year. Maybe if we get money back from taxes we can consider the hoop house sooner rather than later.
     
  8. erinszoo

    erinszoo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    North Central Oklahoma
    Lol. Yep, I have to plant out by March or I won't get a crop before the plants quit producing in the heat of July. We've even gone to mainly doing fall, winter, and spring gardening trying to avoid having much in the ground at all in July or August otherwise they fry in the 110+ weather. It's kind of funny because we're always talking about how gardening would be so much easier if we lived farther north ... but I guess gardening has it's own challenges no matter where you plant. That said, there have been years when our tomatoes have survived late snows in a much protected mini hoop house warmed by bricks from the oven. Good luck and let us know if you have more luck this time!
     
  9. flgardengirl

    flgardengirl Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sunny side up :)
    I start mine in the little greenhouse things with the expandable peat pellets. The tomatoes will come up very quickly if you can provide some bottom heat, like a plant heat mat or even the water heater. Plant them barely under the soil and get a spray bottle to keep the seedlings moist.
    Once they are sprouted they need light and I usually initially will repot them into little solo cups with holes punched into the bottoms. You can write the variety on the cup with a sharpie. Then you can reuse the cups after you either plant up the tomatoes or move them into a larger pot. The sharpie marker will come off with a little rubbing alcohol. You can start peppers the same way but they usually take a week longer to come up than the tomotoes.

    When I lived in a cold climate, I would put all the little solo cups in a couple large ice chests (not the styrofoam but the heavy duty ones) and open the lids in the daytime and close them at night until it was warm enough to plant them outside. I could water them and pull the drain plug if I needed to let them drain. Worked out pretty good.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2013

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