Planting Tomato Seeds

Tomato seeds are small but you can still handle them if you are careful. Place the tomato seeds into the palm of your hand and, taking a pair of tweezers, place at least two seeds into each cell, pushing them slightly below the surface of the moist seed starting soil.

Once the two seeds germinate and begin to grow, you will keep the healthiest one and pull the weakest one and dispose of it. If you are like me it will be hard to do once they start growing, but you need to end up with one healthy plant per cell. You can put the remaining seeds back into the package for use next year as long as they are not wet.

Planting Lettuce Seeds

Lettuce seeds are significantly smaller so you need to be a little more careful. If you use the tweezers again, you will want to dry the tweezers in between each planting so more than one seed does not stick to the metal. Place at least three seeds per cell. After placing the three seeds, take your finger and pat them down slightly below the surface.

You may want to use a “seeder” instead of the tweezers. If you use the seeder, it has a see through plastic top that you remove to put seeds into the seed holder section. The plastic cover has several size holes to choose from, #1 being the smallest. The trick to this device is deciding which size to use – the # 1 hole may be too small and the #2 hole too big. I tried the #2 first and it released too many seeds, so I changed to the #1 and that provided me with better control.

Once the seeds are in the seeder place the end of the spout over each cell and tap the top of the plastic cover until you release about 3 seeds. If you release too many do not worry because you can snip off the excess seedlings later. Damp down the seeds with your finger after you have released the proper amount.

I find that the seeder device s especially good for planting directly into the garden outdoors.

Pelleted Seeds

The third option is a relatively new option called pelleted seeds, which were developed for commercial farming so that their machine planters could handle them. They are little balls of clay with lettuce seeds inside. You can also buy other tiny seed plants such as carrots. Once they are planted and get wet the clay dissolves and the seed will germinate.

Pelleted seeds are a joy to plant, especially in the garden, because it gives you almost perfect control for row planting of otherwise very tiny seeds. If you use them inside, just plant them like you would any other seeds, using your fingers or the tweezers. Beware though that pelleted seed is pre-primed, which means it had already started to germinate and then dried off. As a result it is only good for the year you buy them. Unlike seeds in a package, you cannot save them for next year.


Germination Test

As a final note, if you are like me you may want to save the seeds you use from year to year. If you do this be sure to conduct a germination test, especially if the seeds get past their expiration date, which is on the back of the package. To do the test, simply wet a paper towel, place some of the seeds inside, fold it over and place in a plastic container. Keep it warm for a few days and check to see if the seeds germinate. If they do you germinate you can plant those into your seed starting cells and know that the rest of the seeds are still good for at least this year.Information courtesy of Guy Esposito MD, The Vegetable Garden Dr, 2011.

In the last episode we went over the different planting options you have for starting your seeds indoors. They included an open cell tray (like old fashion ice cube trays), Jiffy peat pellets, and a mini-greenhouse. All options have holes in the bottom of the cells to allow proper drainage and use a seed starting soil mixture instead of typical potting soil.

This episode we will plant seeds using three different techniques - common household tweezers; a “seeder;” and “pelleted” seeds.

Before we begin, just a reminder about why we start from seeds indoors. For those of us living in the Northeast, where the growing season is 90 to 120 days, we always want to think of ways to extend the growing season. In springtime starting seeds indoors is one way of extending that valuable time you can produce vegetables outdoors, and therefore increase your yield. (Later in the year we will show you how to extend at the end of the season as well.)

There are a few other reasons for starting from seeds. You can have exactly what vegetables you want and grow the exact number that you want because you bought the seeds and planted them yourself. Remember though that if you do not want to go to the trouble of doing this, you will also be able to buy seedlings at various garden centers in a few weeks. I would also never be shy about asking a friend or neighbor who gardens if they have any extra seedlings. Generally speaking we gardeners like to help each other out.

Remember that when you plant the seeds you must keep them in a warm place, water them regularly, and provide a light source, either near a sunny window or under a grow light.

I usually start tomatoes and lettuce indoors. The tomatoes take a long time to mature so you want to get a head start. Lettuce is an early crop, and you can be eating homegrown lettuce in just a few weeks, which is a great motivator. There is really no comparison between fresh picked lettuce and the wilted lettuce you buy in a store that has been picked and traveling for many days before you even see it.

Planting Seeds Indoors
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