How to grow tomato seedlings in a city apartment: the experience of practitioners and tips for beginners
In almost all climatic regions of our country, tomatoes are grown through seedlings. Some summer residents do this in a greenhouse, cold greenhouses are suitable in not the most northern regions, but most often in the spring window sills of city apartments are covered with boxes and pots. Compared with some other crops, growing tomato seedlings is relatively easy, so gardeners try to do it on their own.
Planting seeds for seedlings
It takes a lot of time from sowing seeds to harvesting tomatoes, so direct sowing of seeds in the garden is possible only in the southern regions. In the Krasnodar Territory, seedlings are not needed, they are grown there only if you want to get very early crops. In the middle lane you can’t do without seedlings, but, fortunately, the conditions of a city apartment by temperature are ideal for growing it.
By the beginning of spring, everything should be ready for sowing seeds for seedlings: they have found their treasured or bought new seeds, prepared containers or bought peat pots, prepared components of the soil mixture or bought ready-made soil for seedlings in the store.
Dates of planting tomatoes for seedlings
The timing of sowing seeds at home depends slightly on the variety of tomatoes and on where they are supposed to be further grown: in a greenhouse or in open ground. If you sow the seeds too early (in early spring), it may turn out that the bushes have already outgrown, and the street is still cold. Therefore, you should not rush with this event, tomatoes are sown later than eggplant and pepper.
To calculate the time of sowing seeds follows from the fact that in the seedling stage, tomatoes need to spend about two months, and they can be planted in the garden without shelter only after passing the threat of frost. Of course, it happens that in not too northern regions frosts occur in June as well, but, mainly in the middle zone or similar climate regions, seedlings can be planted at the end of May. Therefore, the term for sowing seeds for seedlings falls in the second half of March. For greenhouse cultivation, you can sow the seeds a couple of weeks earlier.
As for the variety, as a rule, late ripe varieties are sown first, early ones are the last. Some super-early hybrids in two months in pots manage to not only bloom, but also to set fruit, and this is already superfluous. Therefore, the earliest ripe tomatoes can be sown at the very beginning of April.
Selection and preparation of soil and capacity
Typically, tomato seeds are first sown in any small box or box, and then the seedlings are planted in separate cups or simply in a larger box. It all depends on the preferences of the gardener, the number of bushes grown and the availability of free space in the apartment.
For the first stage, from sowing seeds to picking, there is nothing more convenient than cardboard boxes made from juice or milk with a capacity of one to two liters. Cut off one of the large sides, make several holes in the opposite one for drainage - and you're done. The volume is just suitable for sowing seeds of 1-2 varieties, and for two weeks the strength of this cardboard is quite enough.
For a dive, ideally, medium-sized peat pots should be purchased. But they take up a lot of space, and they cost money. Therefore, frugal owners collect all kinds of cups from sour cream, cottage cheese, etc. For most varieties of tomatoes, a volume of 300-500 ml is enough, for especially giant ones - up to a liter. Well, if there is very little space in the house, we take any wooden boxes of the appropriate size and plant the seedlings in this hostel. Only the boxes should not be too small: the height should be at least 8 cm.
Tomato seedlings can grow in almost any soil, if only it is fertile and not infected. You can simply buy a package of soil mixture in the store: universal or specifically for tomatoes. But for growing a large number of seedlings a little expensive. With self-compilation of the mixture, the ideal composition is peat, humus and sod land (all equally). If something is missing, we use what is at hand, but the compounded soil should be light, moisture-absorbing and breathable.
The easiest way out of nothing is ordinary soil and sand (2: 1), but such a mixture should be fertilized with at least ash, and preferably compost or humus.
Any soil must be decontaminated. Steaming in the oven is not very pleasant for the body, so the simplest thing is to spill the prepared mixture with a warm pink solution of potassium permanganate. Do this a few days before sowing the seeds.
Preparation of seeds for sowing depends on their origin. For many crops, planting hybrids (F1) is much more profitable.
In my humble opinion, this postulate does not always apply to tomatoes. Of course, there are hybrids higher yielding and yielding higher quality fruits. But there are so many old deserved varieties that we do not seek to say goodbye to them. Indeed, from varietal tomatoes, you can easily take seeds and always be with your own, tested.
If the seeds are bought in the store, you must carefully read the instructions. Perhaps they are already prepared for sowing. Modern preparation technologies sometimes lead to seed germination longer, but stronger bushes grow out of them. Carrying out any independent preparation of such seeds, you can spoil everything that the manufacturer did with them before sale. Such seeds can be sown immediately, dry. Well, or maximum - soaked.
You need to prepare your seeds for sowing. The disinfection procedure can be combined with the rejection of seeds. To do this, prepare a strong, dark purple solution of potassium permanganate. When dissolving, make sure that all the crystals are dispersed. The seeds are kept in a jar with such a solution for 20–25 minutes, but within five minutes with vigorous agitation, the best seeds will drown, and after five more only those that are not worth sowing will remain on the surface. Maybe they will sprout, but the plants will be much weaker than the rest.
A strong potassium permanganate solution (left) is required for seed dressing; a weak solution (right) for soil disinfection
Pickled seeds are filtered through a strainer, washed well with clean water and put in a damp cloth. After keeping them warm for a couple of days, put in this rag in any small cup (preferably, if there is, a Petri dish), cover with a lid and send to the refrigerator. Hardening consists of moving seeds from the refrigerator to the outside with a frequency of 8-12 hours for three days. After that, the seeds are ready for sowing.
True, some gardeners also use seed treatment with growth stimulants (Epin-extra, honey, aloe juice, etc.), but it seems that this is not necessary for tomatoes (but, for example, for eggplants, which are much more capricious, you need to do this ) Is it possible to not process my seeds at all? Of course, it is possible, but only if the bushes in the past did not hurt at all and if there is a guarantee that plants in the future will not fall under severe cold.
How to sow tomatoes for seedlings
There are cultures for which picking is undesirable; there are those for which it is unacceptable. For tomatoes, it is useful, so they should not be sown for seedlings immediately in separate cups. For sowing, take a small box or box and pour the prepared soil with a layer of 5-6 cm, level it and slightly compact. If we sow several varieties in one container, in any way we divide or simply sign the crops. The rest is simple.
- We mark with any suitable tool small grooves with a depth of 1–1.5 cm at distances of 4–5 cm from each other.
The grooves can be made not very deep
- We lay out the prepared seeds at distances of 2.5–3 cm from each other.
Tomato seeds are not too small, they can be arranged one at a time
- Sprinkle the seeds with soil, on top, if the snow has not yet melted, put it in a layer of 3-4 cm. If you don’t already find it, carefully water the crops, eroding the soil. In the absence of snow (and it is very useful for future seedlings!) You can water it even before the seeds are laid out, along the furrows.
Snow for seeds is the best watering
- We cover the drawer with glass or film and put it in a warm place, the optimum temperature is 23–25 ° C. Before emergence, light is desirable, but not necessary.
The film perfectly creates a greenhouse effect.
- After 4-7 days (depending on the variety and temperature), you can expect the peeling of “loops” of tomatoes. We transfer the box to the windowsill with an open window. For 5–6 days, a temperature of 16–18 ° C is required during the day, and slightly lower at night. Then we gradually increase it to 18–20 ° С during the day and to 15–16 ° С at night.
Ideal seedlings should look chunky even at the first stage
Methods for planting tomatoes for seedlings
The described sowing in a common box is a traditional technique in growing tomato seedlings. In 10-12 days, we will dive the plantlets into separate cups or large boxes. But recently, other, unconventional approaches to sowing seeds for seedlings have become common.
The use of peat pots
Disposable peat pots are made of peat, pressed in the form of pots of various shapes and sizes. Peat is often treated with fertilizers and growth stimulants. The advantages of peat pots over any others are as follows:
- when planting in the garden, seedlings are planted with a pot;
- with such a transplant, the roots remain intact;
- the peat from which the pots are made is also fertilizer.
Tomatoes need medium-sized pots. Some inconvenience of peat pots is that they get soaked by watering, so it’s better not to pick them up again: put them in a suitable tray and keep them there until planting in the garden. In addition, with a dense arrangement, the roots of one plant germinate in an adjacent pot, this should be monitored.
In peat pots seedlings are very comfortable, but they will take up a lot of space
Peat pots are especially good for crops that do not require picking. Tomatoes do not belong to such, but, nevertheless, some gardeners sow tomato seeds in pots and grow seedlings in them to the end. The sowing technique does not differ from that in the case of a box.
Sowing in peat tablets
Peat tablets are ideal for crops that do not like picking. But, like peat pots, some lovers persistently use them when growing tomato seedlings, as it is extremely convenient. Tablets are made from pressed peat, to which nutrients and various growth stimulants are added. The optimal diameter of the tablets for tomato seedlings is 7 cm.
The tablets are placed in a tray and gradually filled with water. At the same time, their height grows several times. In one of the ends of the tablets (you need to find it and place the tablet with this end up) there is a small depression in which the seed is placed. After that, the seeds are lightly closed and once again watered a little. Tablets with crops in a tray are covered and kept in a warm, bright place, periodically adding water. After emergence, the cover is removed. Water the tablets, just adding water to the box. It is not necessary to feed seedlings in tablets.
The tablets have everything for seedlings: you don’t even need to feed it
Use of toilet paper
Often, at the first stage of growing seedlings (up to picking) they do without land at all, using toilet paper as a substrate. This is an example of the so-called hydroponics, but it is difficult to bring tomato seedlings without land to the very transplant in the garden. One example of paper use simulates sowing seeds in a common box:
- Cut a plastic one and a half liter bottle in half and put several layers of toilet paper on the bottom of one of the halves.
- Prepared tomato seeds are placed between layers of paper, 2-3 cm apart.
- The paper is sprayed with water, after which half of the bottle is wrapped with film.
- Put this "box" in a warm place and wait for seedlings.
- When shoots appear, they lower the temperature in the same way as in the case of the earth, and after a few days they increase it.
- Up to a pick, they do nothing with the bottle, then they disassemble the structure and dive the seedlings into cups with soil.
In another embodiment, use toilet paper in the form of a "snail", twisting it into a roll, previously laid out on a dense film.Recent entries In April, I process roses so that no pests encroach on my beauties
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In the apartment, the best place for seedlings is the sunny windowsill, but gardeners make it all that is possible, and therefore you have to come up with a design for additional lighting: even on a table next to the window it can be dark.
Growing conditions (lighting, temperature)
From the point of view of temperature, the first few days after germination are critical: if you leave the seedlings at a temperature above 20 ° C, in a couple of days they can be discarded. They instantly stretch out, especially if there is still not enough light. The rest of the time for tomato seedlings, the daily temperature should be about 20–22 ° C (18 will do, but 25 is already a bit much). It should be a few degrees colder at night.
Daylight hours are not specifically extended, in March-April it is sufficient, but the lighting should be bright. Natural sunlight is only enough on the southern windowsill (in the western and eastern ones it is already not enough, in the northern one it is decidedly small). In any case, the seedlings must be arranged so that it is maximally pushed to the glass, but it does not touch. Various retro-reflective devices help: mirrors, food foil, etc. Such home-made screens are set so that sunlight gets into them, and from them it is reflected on seedlings.
The light should be cold so as not to burn the leaves
However, artificial lighting on dark window sills or on tables is indispensable. It is undesirable to use incandescent lamps for this: they too heat the air. The best options are daytime cold light lamps or diode lamps, the best thing is special phytolamps for seedlings.
With the rules of watering seedlings, everything is simple, but inexperienced gardeners manage to violate them. Extra water seedlings are not needed! It is especially scary at the first stage and in combination with cloudy cool weather. The slightest waterlogging of the soil, and even in the general box, is guaranteed to lead to the disease of black seedling seedlings and the death of most of it.
Watering the seedlings only with warm water (25-30 ° C) and in the case of obvious drying of the surface soil layer. They do this by no means every day; daily watering may be required only at the last stages of development, when the seedlings are already very large, and there is not enough space in pots or boxes.
The first top dressing is desirable when a real leaflet appears, but if the seedlings develop normally, it can be postponed, because in 1-2 days after this (in the phase of 2 leaves) the tomatoes will have to be dived. Therefore, real top dressing is given 10-12 days after a dive. Use any complete mineral fertilizer according to the instructions for it. If the soil mixture was initially well fertilized, just infusion of wood ash may be sufficient.
The need for subsequent top dressing depends on how the seedlings develop and how much time remains before it is planted in the ground. If there are fears that the seedlings will outgrow, nitrogen should not be given, and it makes sense to repeat ash feeding, it can be done 10-12 days before planting. If the plants develop tight, it is better to use azofoska. The point in feeding is not to get half-meter bushes by the end of spring, but to make the seedlings strong and stocky.
Video: from sowing seeds to picking tomato seedlings
For seedlings of tomatoes, picking in its classical sense is considered mandatory. Of course, tomatoes will grow without it, but transplanting seedlings into a spacious dwelling with pinching the central root significantly improves the state of the root system and leads to a stronger plant.
Most gardeners pick out when 2-3 true leaves appear. Honestly, personal experience has shown that it is easier to do this earlier. If the soil is nutritious, then after 7-8 days, in the right temperature conditions, seedlings grow good roots, and the real leaves at this time are still just pecking. If you wait longer, the roots can grow so large that it will be difficult to understand which of them is the main one, it will be difficult to make a hole so that the entire seedling can freely fit in a new place.
Picking a tomato, of course, is best done in separate cups with a capacity of at least 300 ml, but this is possible only when growing 10-20 bushes. We never plant less than 150; placing so many glasses in an apartment is unrealistic. Therefore, after a dive, the seedlings live in a dormitory - large wooden boxes. We make them to the size of the window sills. And the tomatoes quite normally tolerate the planting in the garden with some damage to the roots, so you don’t have to worry about having to dig seedlings out of the box.
A few hours before the picking, seedlings should be generously watered. They dig out the seedlings with a toy scoop or with the help of a fork, a spoon - whatever is at hand. It’s convenient to make a hole in the size of the dug seedling in a new place with an old pencil (after all, it resembles a peak, here you have a pick!). Pinch the central root so that it easily fits in a new place. Sometimes you have to tear even half, but no more. Transplanting seedlings is buried so that cotyledonous leaves remain only 5–10 mm from the soil surface. Seedlings are transplanted into a common box according to the scheme no thicker than 10 x 7 cm.
Pikivka - a lesson in jewelry
Gently squeezing the roots with your fingers, pour the seedlings with warm water and remove them for 2-3 days at partial shade at room temperature. Plants that have taken root in a new place after that will quickly continue their growth. Already on the second day it will be seen how they are drawn to the light: it means that everything is in order. From time to time, the boxes are turned one way or the other towards the sun, so that the seedlings develop evenly.
Two weeks before planting in the garden, seedlings are trained in fresh air. First they open the windows, then they take them out to the balcony. Of course, the temperature should not be lower than 10-12 ° C, and the time for walking should be increased gradually: from 20 minutes to a full day. In addition, at this time, tomatoes are taught to lack of moisture, reducing the amount of watering. If at the same time the leaves droop, it's okay: you just need to know the measure, not to bring the plants to death.
Video: tips for growing tomato seedlings
Diseases and pests of seedlings at home
If the seedlings are properly looked after, and the seeds and soil have been decontaminated, diseases at home are very rare: the causes of diseases of the seedlings must be sought in their actions. Some of the diseases are successfully treated, others are fatal.
- The black leg is a dangerous disease, the reason most often is waterlogging of the soil, watering with cold water and too dense planting. The fungus infects seedlings near the soil, the stem darkens, thins out, the plant dies. It is impossible to save diseased specimens. They must be removed, the soil watered with potassium permanganate and sprinkled with dry sand. But it is best to transplant surviving plants immediately into clean soil.
The black leg is a deadly disease
- Septoria (white spotting) is a fungus that covers the leaves with small bright spots that turn brown over time. Diseases in the initial stages are treated by spraying seedlings with fungicides (Bordeaux mixture, Ridomil Gold).
Septoria is treated only in the initial stage
- Fusarium wilting is a fungus that affects the stems of plants that darken, wither and lose their elasticity. Leaves brighten, curl and fall. Missing plants are removed, and neighboring ones are sprayed with Trichodermin or Fitosporin-M.
With Fusarium seedlings, you can save only those who did not start to fade.
- Mosaic of tomatoes is a viral disease, manifested by a characteristic unevenness in the color of the leaves. Spots of various colors and any shape appear on them. Over time, the leaf dries and dies. Affected plants must be removed, the remaining sprayed with a 3% urea solution.
Mosaic looks harmless, but this disease is very dangerous
- Brown spotting appears in the form of small yellow spots on the leaves, soon the leaves die off. In the initial stages, the disease can be cured with the help of any copper-containing drugs, such as Hom or Bordeaux fluid.
If brown spotting is caught on time, seedlings can be saved
Pests in a city apartment are almost nowhere to take if they have not remained in the soil, so such a disaster also rarely attacks. The most famous pests of tomato seedlings are the following.
- Thrips are very small insects that multiply rapidly and suck out leaf juices. Prevention is spraying seedlings with garlic infusion, pest control - Actellik or Fitoverm preparations.
Thrips action looks like bites
- Aphids - its larvae hibernate in the ground, so they can be brought home. Usually the aphid settles on the underside of the leaf, quickly turning the leaves into lifeless ones. Fighting - the same drugs as against thrips.
Aphids on tomatoes look the same as on other plants
Other tomato pests that infect bushes in the garden (whitefly, bear, sprout fly, garden scoop, etc.) are practically not found at home on seedlings.
Possible problems when growing seedlings
Growing tomato seedlings in an apartment is much simpler than pepper or cabbage seedlings. But an inexperienced gardener can lie in wait for failure.
The first problem with growing seedlings lies in wait for the host in the very first days after germination. If you do not quickly lower the temperature and increase the illumination, the sprouts quickly stretch . If you catch it, the sub-cotyledonous knee for a couple of days was not longer than 3-4 cm long, you can just add soil and fix the temperature and light conditions. Otherwise, you have to reseed.
A situation is possible when well-sprouted seedlings suddenly fall en masse. Often this happens from too thick sowing. Urgent need to thin out them, leaving the strongest. It is better not to pull out the plants, but cut them off with scissors at the very surface of the soil. Another reason - the black leg - is discussed above.
If the seedlings look strong, but do not grow, it may just be cold. This situation is even not bad: in the coolness of seedlings it only gets stronger, but you should not delay the harsh temperature conditions for more than a week . If everything is in order with heat, most likely, the tomatoes simply do not have enough nutrition, they should be fed more quickly.
Yellowing leaves is a common problem. Often this happens from a lack of light or nitrogen starvation. These two factors are easy to fix, but if it doesn’t help, you can try transplanting tomatoes into more spacious containers with clean fertile soil.
It happens that in the midst of complete well-being, plants begin to wither and perish dramatically. The reasons are so diverse that they are difficult to predict. These can be not only problems with lack or excess of moisture, but even overfeeding with fertilizers. If a problem is discovered, it can be solved, and part of the plants saved.
Growing tomato seedlings is available to any summer resident who has basic skills in working with plants, free time and a place for arranging boxes in the apartment. Therefore, most gardeners grow seedlings on their own, because you know exactly what you have sown and what you are going to get. It is not necessary to depend on sellers in the market, but you have to make your own work.