Tomato Seeds Started

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I decided to wait to start my tomato seeds this year until after I came back from the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association conference at the beginning of February. It seems like starting them in early February makes them too big when it comes time to sell them and they need so much attention when they are growing, especially when they are tiny, I did not want to be out of town at that crucial stage. I planted them on February 16th. I made a seed starter mix from 10 parts Coconut Coir, 2 parts Pearlite, 2 parts Vermiculite, and 1 part lava sand. I used my seed flats that have trays under them to hold water. The trick is to not let them get too wet or too dry. Too wet causes fungus and the attendant fungus gnats, and too dry makes them weak and can kill them. A lady at TOFGA said you should lift up on the trays several times a day to determine the moisture level. You can tell if it is somewhat heavy that it has enough water in it. If it feels light, then you need to add water. After you do this awhile you can get the feel of it and they will be happy. I also use heated seed mats which sometimes need to be turned off during the day. To heat the greenhouse I use an oil radiator heater when needed which is typically at night. The green house can also get too hot during the day. Mine has vents at the top and bottom that fan be opened to allow heat out. When it gets really hot, I hang a large box fan from the ceiling with the door open to blow out the heat. You should try and keep the temperature between 75 and 80 degrees. Not to hot or not too cold and not too wet and not too dry is the key. I also started sweet corn in the seed flats and will put them out after the last freeze. As if anyone knows when that will be. After the seedlings get 2 sets of true leaves I will step them up into individual containers and start feeding them. The tomato varieties that I planted this year are True Gold (yellow), from Seeds of Change. From totally tomatoes I planted Indigo Rose (grown in Austin and recommended by Texas Gardener Magazine), Mexico Midget (Marble sized), Tommy Toe (Australian hybrid), Sioux (Nebraska hybrid), Copia (Yellow and Red), Black Cherry, & Umberto (pink heirloom). From my seed stock I planted Cherokee Chocolate, Genovese Costoluto, and Purple Russian. I have grown all three of these for 3 years now and saved the seed. They have all done very well. I also planted eggplant, and various pepper seeds along with sweet corn that I will put out toward the middle to the end of March. The tomatoes should be ready to sell by the end of March to benefit the Greater Dallas Organic Garden club and the White Rock East Garden tour plant sale.

Submitted by Mike Schmitt