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Tomatoes: From Seed, Grow Lights, Up-Potting, and Planting

Starting Tomato Seeds, Grow Light Alternative, Up-Potting, Garden Planting

It’s finally garden planting time, and the season is early in Michigan this year, and I’m going to share with you my entire process of how I grow tomatoes from start to finish.  I was feeling quite ambitious this year to grow my own garden plants. After last years fiasco we had a shortage of seeds and starter plants due to our Governor restricted all stores from selling both.  

I didn’t want to have the worry again this years so I started all my tomato and pepper seeds indoors under grow light. Everything else I plant I direct sow into the soil from seed. All of my plants turned out wonderful and I had no idea that 100% of them would germinate.  What are the odds of that? 

I have several varieties of tomatoes growing; we eat them throughout the season and I can enough spaghetti sauce, you can find my recipe here, and crushed tomatoes to get us through until the next harvest season rolls around.

I was excited to try out my new grow system and I must say I was over zealous when it came to planting. Those tiny seeds just kept getting poked down into the cells one after another and before I knew it all 144 plants had germinated and I had no idea what I was going to do with them all.  

I planted in two 72 cell trays, so in reality I only had 2 flats of tomatoes planted. That didn’t look like much but when it came time to up-pot them those 144 plants took up a lot more space than I planned for.  And I had no idea I would have such a wonderful germination rate.

Starting Tomato Seeds, Grow Light Alternative, Up-Potting, Garden Planting

Here’s what I use:

I was lucky my Dad did a tear out project and handed down to me all the florescent light fixtures so I got those for free. I planned on replacing the standard bulbs with grow light until I saw the price.  WOW standard grow lights are $46 per bulb and I wasn’t about to pay that price; so I got creative. 

A standard grow bulb has a Kelvin of 6400 so I knew I’d need to find a florescent bulb as close to that Kelvin as possible.  Score, I found these bulbs at Lowes with a Kelvin of 6500 so I knew those would work exactly the same and they were only $4.50 each.  Now that’s a price I don’t mind paying.

Starting Tomato Seeds, Grow Light Alternative, Up-Potting, Garden Planting

I add seed starter soil to my cells, follow the directions for the tomato seed and plant accordingly.  Then I put them under the lights, water, add the dome, and wait for them to sprout from the soil. It’s a very easy process and as long as they don’t get overwatered or underwatered its quite easy. 

I do keep a Garden Journal, you can print that here, with germination time and quantity so I can keep track of everything. Let me tell you it’s quite helpful because there’s no way I’d remember everything if I didn’t write it down.  

Once the transplants outgrow the 72 cell pack I up-plant them into 2.5” pots and use a soil mix that has vegetable fertilizer in it.  From here it’s just a waiting and watering game.  Once the weather get’s into the 50’s during the day I roll the cart onto the porch and harden off the seedlings in a shady area. I keep adding more and more time to their outdoor exposure each day, depending on the weather. And eventually they will stay outside over night, as long as there’s no frost, until they get their permeant home in the garden.  By hardening off the plant you are getting them used to the wind, sun, and temperature changes. All things that are needed to have a healthy happy plant.  

BTW I forgot to mention I grew tomatoes for myself, my brothers garden, and my sons garden. I also gave plants away to friends and other family members.  Next year I will plant about 1/2 as many plants.  Learned my lesson there, LOL. Enjoy your day everyone 🙂

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  1. Great job! Did you use wood scraps to make your stakes? I plan to do that this year. I didn’t think about using them for my tomato plants, too. How well do they work and what length did you make them?

  2. Barbara Russell says:

    Is that hay you are using as ground cover for the tomatoes? And you plant one marigold in front of each plant?



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