Starting Seeds -- Tall vs. Short?

woodcutter2008February 13, 2012

It seems that there has been an explosion of late of new types of seed starting apparatus. But what about when the seedlings reach the larger transplant size? Mostly, I've used the fairly common 3-1/2" square plastic pots that are about the same depth.

This year, I thought I'd transplant some to taller round plastic drink cups. I have some candidates that are 4" and 5" deep, but still only a bit over 3-1/2" diameter. Has anyone found that they get better root systems from taller containers?


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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

No question about it. The deeper the container the deeper the plant can be planted. Buried stem grows roots quickly resulting in 2-3x the root mass per plant.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 10:11AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I move seedlings to 16 oz. plastic cups. If you want something even deeper, you can cut the top off plastic soda bottles, milk jugs, etc.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 9:17PM
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In previous years, I put 2 seeds in the 1" germinator with heat pad on Jan 1, split them into 2.5" pots then into 6" pots where I let them grow to 30-36" tall. Then outside in a cloche on April 15, ripe tomatoes on July 4th. The root balls were always quite dense except for a few (I guess they are the weaker ones)

This year, I skipped right to the 2.5" pots and put 2 seeds in each with 1" deep soil. I pulled the weaker seedling (ouch) and filled the rest of the 2.5" pot with mix when the seedling was tall enough. I am going with minimal disturbance to the roots plus I have kept the heat pad on all the time. The plants are 6" tall and wide, beautiful stems and rootball. I almost dont want them to go outside (almost). See picture (these Black Krims are just under 4 weeks old)

My next choice is the 6" pots or 8" pots (tight for space) but my goal is MAX rootball when they go outside. Then I'm thinking of fertigating (who can help me with that ?)

What do you think ?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 10:50PM
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I start my tomatoes in 6 inch peat pots. I used to start them in smaller pots and then potted them up to the 6 inchers. No more... just straight into the 6 inchers. I then bury them deep in the garden. Saves a lot of time not having to upsize before they go outside.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 11:07AM
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I put my 2-leaf seedlings in a 3-foot deep pot :)

I need to be out of town, it's not likely to freeze, they've been outside for over a week already so they went into the oldest compost bin where I plan to grow them.

Think of it as a really tall raised bed.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 5:02AM
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One thing you need to consider is SPACE. I watch the Tomatoman video and the whole time all I could think about was- Where were those "next step" transplants in 4-5" pots going from this point forward. When you transplant all plants from 1- 1020 tray (possibly 500) to larger pots where 15 might fit into a 1020 tray your space requirements explode to 34 trays. Under those circumstances you better have alot of lights or a greenhouse to get you through the next phase.

For those of us who start many plants and yet don't want to be up every few hours tending to greenhouse heating issues I highly recommend multiple stage transplanting- to conserve SPACE. I prefer going from the 1020 open flat to 48(6-packs)cell 1020 flat and lastly (at around 4 weeks)to the 3 " pots wherein plants need to move out of the house. Bumping up to each additional size takes very little time and creates no noticible stress on the plants. It allows you to achieve maximum light intensity on the seedlings with minimum energy cost.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 11:41AM
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bobb_2002(Z6 S.W. CT)

When my transplants get to the size shown in Readheads photo, they are really rootbound and dry out quickly. The next step is to use quart containers saved from Chinese restaurant take-out soup. I sometimes also use quart yogurt containers. After that they can go to half-gallon containers saved from orange juice or milk, and after that gallon milk or water containers with the top cut off but the handles left on. Of course you need to have drainage holes punched in all of these containers. Plastic water or milk jugs are actually pretty convenient if you leave the handles on them. You can easily carry them outside on warm days and the square shape maximizes the amount of soil mix. But when you take the plant out you usually have to use a knife to cut the rest of the top off the plastic jug in order to get it out easily.

Bob B.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 2:32PM
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I have a south facing sunroom in upstate NY. I am planning to keep the windows to the house opened so the sunroom stays warm at night. It gets warm enough during the day. Do you think I will have enough light to prevent leggy seedlings if I have an oscillating fan blowing on them from day 1? I origionally planned on starting my seeds 2nd week in april, but it's been so warm up here, I thought maybe I could do a small batch a month earlier to see if I could get lucky and get a jump on part of the season. Also the sunroom has south and west windows, so I get good light in there from 10:00 AM till about 5:00 right now, it will be until about 6:00 in another month.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 3:14PM
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I plant each seed directly into 16 oz cups,and more times than not do not wait for even the first true leaves to set before they go into the ground.

Take care,

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 8:34AM
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