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skinny seedlings....add more dirt?

Posted by sillybugs z10 FL (My Page) on
Tue, Dec 20, 11 at 4:53

I've started tomato seeds a thousand times but this time i messed up...I think i planted the seed too shallow.
They seem to be a healthy color and getting enough light but they are on the long side and i will have to move the lamp up soon... (most seedlings are at the light right now)

Would it harm them if i added more soil/mix around the seedling? leave them be? Any suggestions?

Thanks -SB

*no true leaves yet btw.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: skinny seedlings....add more dirt?

Leggy seedlings are caused by insufficient light and too warm growing conditions. Transplant them deeply to just below the cotyledons, cool down the environment, and add more light.


RE: skinny seedlings....add more dirt?

I always plant them with a half filled cell in the flats so I can add a little soil. As they grow and I transplant them I plant them deeper in the pot and deeper still when finally planted in the garden.

Tomatoes will grow roots wherever the stem touches the ground. So planting them deeper will produce more roots. I always do this with indeterminate varieties.

Below are links to see how its done by my favorite garden blogger.

Starting Your Tomato Seeds

Here is a link that might be useful: See them planted starting at 6:36 into this video

RE: skinny seedlings....add more dirt?

also put a fan on them to engourage them to thicken the stems

RE: skinny seedlings....add more dirt?

After my seedlings sprout I gently push them down a bit further into the dirt with index finger and thumb. Also, after they're about an inch and a half tall I insert a tooth pick on the diagonal and bend the plant top till it's horizontal, a day or two later I bend it the other way for a day or two. This gives the plant "tugor" (much more than just normal breeze or that from a fan. This really makes the stem firm and decreases the space between the internodes. It doesn't take as much time and effort as one might think and it really gives you nice, study seedlings.

RE: skinny seedlings....add more dirt?

When I am typing this,I am laughing my ass off at the fact that every single thing that I just read in this thread is true. This is a very great website and gathering point of thought. Then again, it is subjective.

To Materex in Florida,

Mentioning the index finger and thumb, and the process thereafter reminds me of the fact how much I have learned over the course of 3 years(growing). At the start, real hesitant, and now I routinely stick my index as well as all of my fingers closely around what I hope is outside of the root system of whatever plant it is vegetable wise.

Merry Christmas to everyone,especially those who read these words before Christmas.

RE: skinny seedlings....add more dirt?

Thanks for the extra tips.. I went ahead and back filled but lost about half to rot/cooking. the roots were ok, the tops were ok but the middles evaporated lol
Oh well.. I started some more, making sure to plant my usual way.
normally i don't poke around the seedlings, i will change the position of the tray every few days and i use a small clip on fan from the dollar store 20 mins a day.. Its like a battery operated foam propeller.

That batch wasn't meant to be!

RE: skinny seedlings....add more dirt?

  • Posted by bets z5A ID (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 28, 11 at 17:24

"the tops were ok but the middles evaporated . . . ."

That is classic damping off. There is some info about it on the FAQ on starting tomatoes from seeds, I have included the link below.

There are several things that can be done to combat damping off. Most important is to use a sterile seed starting mix (NO DIRT!) Some sprinkle cinnamon on the surface of the growing medium, some mix it in before planting, watering with a weak solution of chamomile tea can help, as can a diute solution of hydrogen peroxide. Be careful not to overwater, wait until the medium is nearly dry but avoid wilting. As soon as the seeds break soil remove any cover that you have over them. They need air circulation.

A small fan on the plants several times a day can also help. (Sometimes if you have them planted in a deep container it blocks too much air flow.) I use a timer that has 30 minute increments on it and run it for 30 minutes every 3 or 4 hours. I don't think I have had a damping off problem in years. (**Knock on wood.**)


Here is a link that might be useful: How do I start tomatoes from seed?

RE: skinny seedlings....add more dirt?

sillybugs, thats never happened to me. What are you using for soil?

RE: skinny seedlings....add more dirt?

I guess I'm just lucky, I have no problems ever starting seeds (tomatoes and others, like perennial flowers) They just go in a wet paper towel in a zip-lock baggie, I lay it on the top of tropical fish aquarium for heat...I used to put them on the back of the fridge, when refrigerators still had exposed coils on the back. Under a light bulb is good too, ANYTHING that's a bit warmer than the regular house temperature. The seeds plump up and sprout within a week. I use quality potting mix in styro cups with holes in the bottom, the dirt is completely saturated (don't try and plant a seed in dry potting mix). Seeds get poked down a bit with a fingernail, pencil, tooth-pick, old peeling knife, what's ever handy. The stubborn seeds that don't want to sprout, I give them more time in the
paper towel and if they still won't sprout they all get put together in a styro cup or two. Usually out of that bunch, a couple will sprout when they want to.

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