Into what medium do you 'pot up' tomatoes?

arley_gwFebruary 23, 2014

I've started my tomato seedlings in some soil-less starter mix (Miracle Gro Seed Starter Mix, but next year I'm gonna try to find Pro Mix since everybody seems to like that) and they're doing fine. They're in inserts in 1020 trays, 32 cells per tray, under a T5HO light fixture.

In a few weeks I'll be transplanting them into larger individual pots. What do you use for that? Do you just use more of the same starter mix, or do you use heavier potting soil? I won't be putting the plants in the ground until mid to late April.

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

No potting "soil". Potting mixes only in any container. ProMix is also a good growing medium so many use it for both stages.

Since you started with MG Seed Starter then you can just move on to MG Potting Mix. Comes in two types - regular (green bag) and Moisture Control (blue bag). Avoid the Moisture Control when potting-up. It works fine in BIG containers but not in small ones.

There are several other good brands of growing mix as well but if you can get ProMix BX go for it.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 9:45AM
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Thanks for the quick reply. I won't be needing it for a few weeks, so I may be able to order Pro Mix BX at the local True Value. Tried to in January, but they were backordered. If I can get it in a timely fashion, I'll do so and save the rest for next spring.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 9:08PM
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I like potting with miracle gro mix because it contains trace amounts of n-p-k. some mixes are just peat and perlite without plant food. a well draining mix is essential to avoid "damping off" tomato seedlings

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 9:39PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

You can always use packaged potting soils sold at garden centers. But there are other alternatives.

Container Gardening forum has a lot of interesting discussions on this subject.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 1:19AM
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I start from scratch with MG seed starter in the 6-7 in Styrofoam cups..about 4 dz plants under grow lights..and of course I don't pot up. Not ideal but it works fair and they seem to really take off in the garden when transplanted maybe because the cup which I fill to the brim has roots top to bottom. My plants do tend to be more spindly than those I buy at garden supply centers. Usually ve3ry good foliage but purple under leafs which I understand isn't unheard of anywhere. The main thing I worry about is watering from the top as I had damping off one time out of 5 or 6 attempts.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 9:04AM
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If damping-off is a concern ProMix has the ProMix BX with Microrise and Biofungicide. Never had a Damping-off problem since using that media.
Keep in mind that the "BX" indicates fertilizer added and that label suffix is also then an indicator that this is not an Organic Certified product. I know this topic was brought up in past posts so I thought I would clarify that. I imagine there are thousands of people using this great media who think they are also conforming to Organic Standards; they're not.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 9:58AM
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Thanks for all for the quick replies. I went ahead and ordered a bag of Promix, and will use that. (If you're having problems finding it, that item is available to True Value stores even if it's not in their stores. If you go to your local True Value, they can get it (and make a little profit for that store)--But if you order it online to be delivered to a specific store, the local store doesn't get the credit or any profit. So if you want to support you local TrueValue franchisee, order it from them.)

Bigpinks, I used some styrofoam cups last year and they did okay, but I was surprised; I had a few more plants than I had cups and I got some 16 oz paper coffee cups, about the size you'd get a latte in, and used them. With a pencil I punched holes in the side right next to bottom, just like I did with the styrofoam cups. Treated them otherwise the same, but I found that the plants potted up in the paper cups had a better developed root system, and when it came time to transplant them to the garden, the ones in the paper cups actually had a more intact root ball and transplanted more easily. Don't know why: did the styrofoam allow more light in than the paper? dunno. They did so much better, though, I considered buying a case of paper cups instead of the regular plastic pots.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 2:40PM
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Thanx for the tip

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 2:47PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Arley, good luck with promox. It is your money .

Can you tell us how much it costs and how many cu-ft is in it ?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 8:33PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Online ProMix BX prices range form $29.00 to $48.95 to $61.95 + shipping to $85.49 with free shipping for a 3.8 cu. ft. bale. Wide range of prices offered on amazon.

But because of the weight (approx. 50 lbs.) it is the shipping that kills you which is why finding a local supplier is worth the effort.

You can go to the PremierTech website and use their Distributors search or call or email them for local distributor info. For example, they list 7 distributors in the state of Washington, 4 in South Carolina, and at least 2 in every state I checked.

Hope this is of help.


Here is a link that might be useful: Premier Tech Hort.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 10:41PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Thanks, for the info, Dave.

Accordingly, no matter how you cut it, it is pricey.
Lets say that its uncompressed volume is 5cu-ft and the median price , with shipping, is $50, then it is $10/cu-ft. In the Container Gardening, I calculated (based on Al Tapla's price and formula, the cost is about $3.5- $4/cu-ft

Well, in the end of the day, it is a matter of personal choice. To me there is a big cost difference. This year I am going to do some container gardening (peppers , Det matoes, a total of about 30 pots). If I fill , in average 4gal/pot that will add up to roughly 17-20 cu-ft. With my own mix I can do it with $60. With Promix, it would cost around $200. BIIG differenc.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 3:55AM
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If you order it from a store that distributes it, you usually don't have to pay shipping. At the local True Value (distributor was in Atlanta, three hours away) my cost was around $43 plus tax for a big bale (3.8 cubic feet=28.4 gallons = 113 quarts = about 14 of those 8 quart sacks of starter seed mix) no shipping. Southern States also handles it and can probably get it as well. I'm assuming that I'll be using this bag for another year or two.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 11:36AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

If you order it from a store that distributes it, you usually don't have to pay shipping.


Sure it is more expensive than other brands - and yes there are other good brands - but one has to decide if the many advantages it provides like the added soil food web bacteria are worth that extra cost. For me, after several years of comparative studies, they are.


    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 2:47PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

GOOD FOR YOU Arley. I am glad you found what you were looking for.

Happy Gardening !

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 7:44PM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

I start my seeds in commercial potting soil, but add 1/2 compost when I transplant. And I water the plants with water from my aquarium. Its a nice mild fertilizer for the plants and topping off the aquarium with fresh water keeps the fish healthy.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 6:16PM
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keith100_gw(NY 5A)

I just picked up a (bale) 3.8 cu. ft. of Promix BX. Cost was 38 bucks and change including N.Y. State 8% sales tax. The package is marked 60 lbs.,107 liters, and 3.8 cubic ft.
I purchased it at Agway. I think it will be enough to last me
at least 2 years. I did well with it last year with my peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli, and a few cabbage and rutabagas.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 4:16PM
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Just in case anyone was wondering how much that 3.8 cubic ft. bale holds, this weekend I broke it down into smaller bags which were easier to handle. I got a box of Hefty zip lock 2.5 gallon bags; there were 13 bags in the box, and I filled all of them and still had about a fifth of the bale left. So there should be enough for me for at least 2 or 3 more years. I do wish that the manufacturer made it available in smaller bags.

However, my first impressions: it's very light and easy to handle, much more finely milled than Miracle Gro (very few sticks and twigs), and was very 'wettable'--I filled a bunch of peat pots with the stuff, put them in a tray and flooded it. The stuff sucked up the water nicely, then I let excess water drain and I was able to go on with planting some seeds.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 9:02AM
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Seysonn & Arley, just for the record- a bit more scientific info, the 3.8 cu.ft. compressed bale will loosen to provide 7 cu. ft. (source= "Pro-Mix Potting Guide"). The guide further gives expectancy of numbers of various containers that can be filled with one bale; for example 127 filled of a 6"x6"x4 3/4" pot (my cost= $.19 per pot).

I get a slight discount by ordering over 10 bales of ProMix but my cost is $24.10 per bale for the product I use. Looking back to last year when I tried the FaFard F-15 mix it was $18.25 per bale for a similar quantity. Some would note a big price difference but I believe the comparable ProMix product was $21.00 per bale (only $2.75/bale difference).

I once split a truckload order of FaFard media with a florist who had a definate preferance for their product and I don't fault that preference. In fact after reading the quoted prices on this thread I would be inclined to do a little more price shopping. Just try to compare "Compressed bale" to "Compressed bale".

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 11:17AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Bmoser, ... Good for you.
I am glad you are getting such a good deal.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 1:49PM
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Probably won't help any since you're in PA, but where do you buy your ProMix bmoser? Last year I paid $40 for Fafard 15, in 2011 I paid $28 for an open bale of ProMix and haven't found it under $40 since. Nursery I've been buying from gives me 20% off too (I think they forgot last year) - they're going to get back to me for this year's price. But I only buy 1 bale a year.

True Value has it, if you order online by 3/5 you get $10 off $75 order, buy 2 and deliver to store it comes out to $38/bale (I can save 1 bale for next year). I can get it for that from Premier distributor but it's a longer drive. Agway just ordered the HP and is waiting for delivery but they said it would be "about" $40.

Jiffy organic starter which I tried last year and things didn't do well in, was $4.82 for 12 quarts at Walmart today. I didn't even look at the MG since I used that 3 years ago and it needed to be screened. Couldn't find the Burpee starter which wasn't too bad.

I just went and bought "seed starting mix", not organic, but just peat moss and perlite, on sale and 26% off due to slits in bags, $1.25 plus tax for 8 quarts (15.625 cents/qt) at Job Lot. 7 cf is 209.455 quarts, at $40/bale that comes out to 19 cents/qt and the BX has limestone, wetting agent, biofungicide, and microbiota in it. I'm going to use the cheap stuff mixed with the Fafard and Espoma (bought at going-out of business sale last year) I have left and some pelletized limestone to adjust the pH, just to start seeds but looks like even at $40/bale the compressed Fafard or ProMix is less expensive than buying even the cheapest peat-based mix around, and you don't have to add anything to it. 19 cents/qt = $5.68/cf

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 4:12PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

If You are just using them as starting mix or as first potting mix ( like into 4" pots), the cost is not that much. The real issue is using them in container gardening. A 5 gal container (20 quarts) will cost close to 5 bucks. If you are going to have 20 containers, then it can add up. That is why I am decided on some variation of 5-1-1. My cost is $2/cubic foot ( 35 cents per gallon)

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 7:00PM
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I use a mixture of about 75% soil from my garden, and 25% peat moss or perlite mixed or both.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 6:34AM
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Central Penn Irrigatiion and Nolt's Produce Supply both offer the Promix products in PA at the quoted price. I suspect that freight charges to the south would be more but since the products are from Canada I can't understand why prices would be higher in the NE.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 8:47AM
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Don't know why everyone is recommending Promix, Seems like a waste of money since it is expensive, I just save my empty yogurt cups then drill a couple holes in the bottom, fill half full with MG seed starting mix then push seed in about 1/4 inch then put a 4 foot workshop light over them about 2 inches from top, Planted seeds on Tuesday and Friday night they were coming up, No expensive soil and heat mats, Then just transfer to garden, Garden soil has lime and 10-10-10- fertilizer added to it which should be plenty, But here is a site for Promix if anyone wants to look,

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 9:53AM
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I thought you said mixing yourself as $3.50 -$4/cf? I don't often go over 4" pots, though last year was so wet I did put some tomatoes in 1 gal pots, and I've overwintered a couple of peppers in 5 gal pots. But I just use the same mix left over for those rather than buying and mixing my own for just a couple of pots.

bmoser - I don't see why it would be more here - but everything seems more expensive here. I'm surprised it's not more than $38/bale in NY though.

Still waiting to hear from nursery.

I used MG a few years ago and it needed to be screened - there were a lot of chunks. Right now it's about $4/8 qt bag so lots more expensive than the plain old New Era peat/perlite mix I bought yesterday (on sale $1.69, normally $2, and I got it for less due to cuts in bags). If you wanted to go with Promix or Fafard (remembering the OP asked about potting up, not starting, anything with fertilizers/microbiota in it is going to be overkill for starting mix), it still would be less expensive than MG if you need it in quantity.

This post was edited by ajsmama on Tue, Mar 4, 14 at 10:20

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 10:14AM
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fairfield8619(Zone 8 NW LA)

I'm amazed that someone would mail order soil for tomatoes! They're not going to spend very long in it before planting. Surely there is something local that would work.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 11:35PM
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There are different extremes when it comes to growing anything from seeds. I was to an inventory reduction auction a year ago where the grower had a setup to mix his own media- sterilizer, mixer and pot filler. The "sterilizer" is important if you don't want to loose your plants to disease and they can be very smelly. The mixer that this grower was selling had the appearance of a full sized cement truck w/o the wheels. I got the impression that the grower was just overwhelmed with the self-prepared media and was just going to buy bagged media for the future.

The other extreme is the solo cup hobby grower who uses a bag of actual soil, purchased from Wally World.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 9:41AM
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The shipping kills you - that's why Dave said look for local distributor. I'm still waiting for my nursery to get back to me with ProMix/Fafard prices - hoping it will be less than the $38/bale at True Value I missed out on. If they get bulk discount from ProMix distributor I called, and they don't mark up too much, then give me 20% off, I might as well let them do the driving.

Fafard isn't too far from me in Agawam, MA (still over an hour) - but if they will sell 1 bale at wholesale it might be worth the drive (in car, not pickup). Only thing is, if I go up there in April/May to get a bale for potting up, I might end up having to spend money on Six Flag tickets for the family ;-)

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 9:56AM
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austinnhanasmom(5 CO)

I mixed my own:

3 parts coir - not a bale - it was already broken up - LOVE THIS
3 parts perlite
3 parts worm castings
1/4 part greensand
1/8 part lime

And when I potted up, I used solo cups :-)

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 5:23PM
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