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Post  ckernsgarden on 3/16/2010, 11:02 am

We are brand new to gardening and didn’t see this question addressed specifically in Mel’s All New SFG book or on this forum so be patient with us. We live in a cold spot in So Cal and have 3 2x2’ boxes for spring crops which are doing fine in Mel’s Mix. Last month we started heirloom tomato seeds for a summer crop. They were started in medium vermiculite in decomposable pots and they did sprout (grin). My husband then moved the best looking ones to a recycled well-cleaned plastic six pack with Mel’s Mix and they are beginning to show their first true leaves (I think). Throughout this entire process we are unsure of how/when to water. In the new book (Tomatoes page 231) watering is discussed only after they are actually outside in the SFG. We have the little peat pots set in a plastic tray and use warm water in the tray instead of pouring water from the top- about every 3 days. For the six pack we are doing the same thing. So how much water should we use for tomato starts? Where is this covered in the new book? We’re complete newbies so please be kind. Thanks, C
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Post  Lavender Debs on 3/16/2010, 11:49 am

There’s a cold spot in southern California? Who knew?

This is actually a good question. For future reference, I would wait to transplant the first time until after the first true leaves show AND I would plant them right into the larger pots with mel's mix. Agro business gets away with multiple transplanting because of chemicals. I know it is a common practice so I am sure you are fine.

Here is the thing with water. Good drainage saves all kinds of woe. You can overwater but if the pots drain then the damage is small. Don't let the pots sit in water all the time. I am a dumb-luck gardener rather than some kind of smart gardener but tomato seedlings that occasionally get a little dry and wilty (not shriveled and dying but just unhappy looking) seem to do better when I transplant them. A little stress makes them stronger.

If you get better advice, go with that, but this is my $0.02 worth.

Deborah ....who used to panic about the babies and felt dumb too.
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Post  ckernsgarden on 3/16/2010, 12:26 pm

Lav Deb- Thanks for your 2 cents' worth of advice. We'll stop letting them sit in water constantly and "dry out" a tiny bit. By moving them to larger pots with Mel's Mix, do you mean something larger than a nursery six pack? We are still trying to make sense of the All New SFG book with no gardening background. For example, six pack wasn't defined well for a newbie.
The only other gardening experience we've had was a failure about 9-10 years ago where we currently live. The eager beavers that we are, we planted when the seed packets and Western Garden book said for So Cal. A-hem, our last overnight frost of 32* that year was May 9th, the morning of Mother's Day. Yes, I'm serious! Last week we woke to high 20s but a warm 42* this morning. We live in Riverside co but not in the mountains; just on a hill. Our back porch 2x2' boxes are covered to protect from cool overnight temps. So far we've harvested lettuce and have sweet onion, carrots, peas and strawberries and look forward to tomatoes and beans this summer. So far, the SFG works (grin).
Thanks for the help! C
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Post  Lavender Debs on 3/16/2010, 1:16 pm

I have so many essays to read that I have developed the bad habit of speed reading. I missed the part about the plastic 6-pks. They are fine where they are!!

Someone in California will have a better answer for you. I am in western Washington. Our tomatoes are not really safe outside until mid June (peppers and eggplant likes to wait for mid July when summer really starts for us....but then there is little time to make ripe fruit). This has really been an odd weather year. Progressive friends insist the problem is manmade and Christian friends are sure that it is a sign of end times, either way; I want tomatoes before the summer ends, never mind the world. Books give you the author’s best guess.

Was it Einstein who said that he did not have 10,000 failures but successfully eliminated 10,000 ways not to do something? Same for you. Keep poking seeds into the ground.

Deborah ....whose Western Garden is dog-eared and falling apart but believes that only the Bible is ...well, the Bible.
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Post  ckernsgarden on 3/16/2010, 1:43 pm

Deb- I agree! The Bible is the Bible (thankfully available in all languages)...but a couple of gardening books are good advice for a newbie hoping to harvest a few veggies to eat. You're also right about it being an odd weather year. I've never grown my own tomatoes and love the flavor of the heirlooms at our local farmer's mkt. We bought two heirloom varieties from rareseeds.com and two heirloom pkts from a local nursery. This year is a first for gardening and SFG so we are keeping a journal of what we are doing, temps, planting dates, sprouting dates, etc just to see what is working for us. If we get some tomatoes to eat- great. If there are enough to can- even better. The best thing is that we are loving the learning process.
This forum is another great way to learn from others. Thanks, C
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Post  Lavender Debs on 3/16/2010, 1:55 pm

I agree CK, (there are great books for gardeners) but the advice is like having an inside trader, really good but can still go south in an odd year like this one.

Deborah ....who has a couple of green tomato recipes for regular years
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