Starting plants early ?

dba1954(6 - Buffalo area)February 10, 2012

I am starting my tomatoes early this year and have purchased 2 4ft 8 bulb T5 HO 6400K fixtures. They put out 40,000 lumens each. I don't have much natural lighting coming in so this will be their primary/only light source. I have them set for 18 hours a day. Will this be sufficient to grow healthy plants 1 -1.5 ft tall? I want them as big and healthy as I can get them due to shorter growing season (or unpredictable growing season) in Western NY. Seed packages say transplant in 12 weeks, I want to stretch to 16-18 weeks.....

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

Without getting into all the disadvantages of using transplants that large and that old, I think your 2 4ft 8 bulb T5 HO 6400K fixtures should be plenty. That's depending on the number of plants you are talking about and how close you keep them to the lights.

Since the spectrum and lumens vary widely at the ends of the fixtures you may have to do some rotation of trays/plants to benefit all equally.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 4:09PM
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dba1954(6 - Buffalo area)

I think I'd like to hear about disadvantages of transplaning large plants, had not considered there could be issues so please, let me know. Other then needing a lot of light and having larger root requirements are there other concerns? I usually buy plants 12-16" high from the nurseries, trying to duplicate that.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 5:51PM
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I have a 4ft 4bulb t5ho light and it works great. I have my plants in 16oz clear party cups so i can see the root growth and know when they are in need of transplant. Mine are about a month old and about 6-8 inches tall

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 10:27PM
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As much as I respect Dave's opinion and I do mean that. One year I could not plant do to one cold snap after another. All my plants were 36"-52" at time of transplant. Laying them down in 12" deep trenches I planted them all the way up to the last foot of growth. Every single plant thrived.

One of my favorite garden bloggers grows and plants them deep with excellent results. He plants them vertically though digging with a post hole digger. If you watch the video below. At 6:40 into it you will see how deep he plants them. In other videos these very plants get massive and produce loads and loads of fruit.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato Watering System - Growing a Vegetable Garden

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 11:00PM
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I started my Tomatoes to early last year. I started the seeds in mid March, and couldnt get them into the ground until Jun 2nd. So about 12 weeks in pots (eventually 1 gal. pots). What is enough light for a 4-8 week old plant is not enough as it matures. They were incredibly healthy looking at 4&6 weeks, but they got tall and spindly in the last few weeks. I ended up cutting most of them down by about a third and I planted them deep (digging a hole that was about 15" deep). They survived, and produced pretty well, but were about 10ft tall and needed lots and lots of tieing.

The tops that I cut off, I stuck in pots of soil and most of them rooted, So I did end up with 1/3 again as many plants!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 8:39AM
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dba1954(6 - Buffalo area)

Mandolls: what kind of lights did you use?

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 8:53AM
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dba1954(6 - Buffalo area)

Well, I did start my plants very early and have a few observations. They grew quickly and were very healthy and after about 10 weeks became root bound. The whole time I kept under pleanty of light (8 4ft t8 fixture). I transplanted at 10-12 weeks into 4" peat pots, the plants grew even quicker and soon I had to tranplant into 3 gallon pots. At that point they were 24" tall and very healthy with flowers and a few tomatoes. I moved them out to a potting shed foe about 7 weeks where they grew to about 4ft tall! They did need more light however. They are now planted outside and are approaching 7 ft tall and loaded with tomoatoes (as of June 23rd). They were difficult to plant and a bit light starved but the larger root systems gave them a great head start. I'll do it again next year but maybe not as early...

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 7:41AM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

I planted my tomato seeds under 4-foot T5s on April 4 and put them out into 25-gallon smart pots at six weeks. Several of them are now 7-feet tall with tomatoes the size of tennis balls. They are sturdier and healthier than my tomatoes were at this point in previous years when I started them earlier and planted out at a more advanced age. I am convinced that starting later is better.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 10:18AM
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dba1954(6 - Buffalo area)

Usually we plant in April and turn out June 1st, never get tomatoes till mid to late July. This year we had tomatoes in the potting shed before turning out and we currently have a steady supply of them now. I may not plant as early next year (we had a warm May and got lucky here in Buffalo area) but it definitely helped them being early, no doubt. I will probably plan some beef stakes early and see how they turn out. I've never had a ripe beefstake before mid August and had given up on them.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 3:19PM
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Yeah, the main issue I've run into starting too early, is lighting and space. Plants start to turn purple under the leaves when the light is insufficient. I use a few T5HO's, but not a bank of them. As soon as I get them in the greenhouse, the purple goes away. I don't find in the long run, that I get more yield, so I now start the recommended 6-8 weeks before final transplant. This minimizes light stress, and I don't need to transplant out of 3" pots before I do final transplant.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 11:59AM
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