The seedling period in the life of all the plants that we grow on our site completely falls on the female shoulders. And the gardening season begins with the February-March sowing of seeds.
Before telling how I do it, I mentally leafed through all my knowledge accumulated over the past ten years in order to objectively present the whole picture. Why did you take such a long period? I explain: at the end of the 90s of the last century, we grew such a large number of seedlings annually that only now it became clear to us how inexperienced we were then. Let me give you one example: for the 1997 season we have grown seedlings: tomatoes - 116 cups, sweet peppers - 76 cups, eggplants - 40 cups.
And here is the indicator of the past year: tomatoes - 45 cups, sweet pepper - 18 cups, eggplant - 14 cups. And despite the fact that the number of seedlings in our country has decreased by almost three times, we have harvested a much larger crop for these crops, and maybe even better in quality.
Now how to determine the time when you need to start sowing seeds for seedlings. This also needs to be approached individually. Everyone knows that the best seedling age for peppers, eggplants and tomatoes is 55-70 days. I will tell you how we determine the timing of sowing seeds. According to my observations for many years, seeds germinate from 5 to 10 days.
We must also take into account the factor that transplanting seedlings (picking) inhibits the seedling period of plant development by about two weeks: the damaged roots are being restored. In addition, the plant receives stress at the same time, which also reduces the rate of its development. When determining the sowing time, it is necessary to take into account the time when we will be able to plant these seedlings in the greenhouse (the readiness of the greenhouse itself and the ridges for planting). And only taking into account all these factors, it is possible to correctly determine the time of sowing seeds.
Over the years, we have worked out such terms: sow pepper seeds, eggplant for seedlings until mid-February, indeterminate (vigorous) tomatoes - in the last decade of February, and determinant (low-growing) tomato varieties - in the first decade of March. We also use Lunar calendar when sowing seeds for seedlings.
It so happens that we do not meet these deadlines. And last season we did not get eggplant harvest and peppers (with good quality of grown seedlings) due to the fact that these crops were sown only in March. However, one should not rush to sow seeds for seedlings, since overgrown seedlings also lead to crop losses. Therefore, keep records every year, determine the timing based on your capabilities and conditions, and do not look at anyone, because personal experience is the most reliable.
I usually sow the seeds in separate containers first, and in recent years I have tried to place one variety in each container, since the germination of seeds is different. Previously, I made up the soil mixture for planting myself, tried various compositions, but now I do it easier: I take a high-quality soil mixture for flowers in the store, add coconut substrate to it, mix everything thoroughly, spill it well with warm water with potassium permanganate. And I fill the landing containers with this mixture. Before sowing, I pickle the seeds for 20 minutes in a pink solution of potassium permanganate, then rinse them under running water, dry them and sow them.
I used to treat seeds with microelements or keep them in ash infusion, now I don't. I never sow seeds densely, the distance in a row is 2 cm, between rows is 3 cm. I sow seeds into well-spilled soil to a depth of 1-1.5 cm. I used to germinate them in a humid environment, but now I also refused this operation. I put the containers in a box, on which I put a large plastic bag so that from the plastic film to the surface soil in containers it was from 5 to 10 cm.
I put the bag with the box in a warm place so that the temperature in it is about 28C. Every day I inspect the plantings, if the bag is fogged up, I turn it out, I follow the surface of the soil mixture in containers, I moisten the drying surfaces from the sprayer. As soon as shoots appear in the box, I put these containers on the windowsill, but not very close to the glasses, I lower the growing temperature. The soil in which the seedlings grow should be in a moderately moist state.
I illuminate the seedlings with fluorescent lamps, I maintain a ten-centimeter distance from the lamps to the grown seedlings. I dive seedlings when the first true leaf appears. I noticed that at this time they take root better after the transplant. I make the pick so that each plant on the roots has a small lump of earth, I try not to damage a single root. It seems to me that in this case the plants tolerate the stress of transplantation more easily, take root faster in a new place and start growing. I dive them into half-liter containers.
Usually I take cups of sour cream or yogurt, fill them with the same soil mixture that I used for sowing seeds. I deepen the seedlings to the cotyledon leaves. In the first two to three days after transplanting, I shade all the seedlings and maintain a temperature of 18 ... 20 ° С. I place the seedlings on the windowsill so that the plants do not shade each other, I regularly water them with warm water and loosen the soil in cups. During the leaving period, I turn the cups with seedlings to evenly illuminate the plants.
In the first weeks after the pick, the aerial part of the plants grows very slowly (this is especially noticeable in eggplant seedlings). At this time, the root system develops. I water seedlings usually in the morning. First, there is an interval of 2-3 days between waterings, and then, as it grows, daily watering. Throughout the cultivation of seedlings, the vents are open. I feed all the seedlings with Kemira-Lux fertilizer twice. In the last decade of April, I already take out all the seedlings on a glazed loggia.
3-4 days before planting the plants in the greenhouse, I transfer all the seedlings into reliable male hands. The husband hardens the seedlings in the air, taking them outside and protecting them from the wind with shields. Every year, accepting young plants, he gives me marks for the grown seedlings. Last spring, I got excellent marks for the seedlings of watermelons and melons, but the tomato seedlings were overgrown. The seedlings of sweet peppers and eggplants, although they were strong and healthy, turned out to be young, which later led to a lack of harvest.
As the ridges were prepared for planting, seedlings were planted on them. On May 15, tomato seedlings were planted in a greenhouse on rows 1 and 5. May 18, on the ridge number 6 was planted melon seedlings... We do not remove the "warming up" film on this ridge. And above ridge 6, a mini-frame was made on top, on which an old film was thrown over at night (to preserve heat in the ridge and better survival of melon seedlings).
On May 18, melon seedlings were also planted on ridge # 3 and # 2, as well as one watermelon plant on bed # 3. On ridges No. 2 and No. 3, the "warming up" film was removed. On the same day, we planted seedlings of sweet peppers and eggplants on ridge No. 4. The film on the bed number 4 remained. At the end of the season, we concluded: where the "warming" film was not removed from the ridges, the seedling survival rate was better, the plants developed faster, and melons on ridge No. 6 began to bear fruit earlier than on ridges 2 and 3. The "warming" film held well moisture in the ridges, less watering was required.
On ridge 6 on June 12-14, melons began to be tied, and on June 22, there were already a lot of them. On May 24, seedlings of tomatoes, hot peppers and cucumbers were planted on ridge No. 7. The cold nights ended, the plants began to grow rapidly, and on June 15, the "warming up" film was removed from all the ridges in the greenhouse. At this time, all the plants planted in the greenhouse began to bloom profusely, there was a need for watering the ridges on all surfaces and loosening them, so the "warming up" film was no longer needed, it had already fulfilled its protective function.
Indeterminate large-fruited tomatoes - 16 plants were planted on ridge No. 1: Giant Lemon, Eagle's Beak, Giant King (IX), Wonder of the Earth, Stresa. The size of the ridges is 5x1 m. All tomatoes were formed into two stems. Of course, these plants required support poles, as with all tall tomatoes. Gradually, as they grew, the stems were tied to them with a strong twine. Above, the elements of the construction of the greenhouse were used for this purpose. I also had to tie up separate large brushes. The plant itself cannot keep them.
The rate of development of different varieties of tomatoes coincided, and only the Wonder of the Earth variety at the initial stage after planting on the ridge began to "fatten" - he did not want to set the fruits, but he then, as it were, caught up with the development of other varieties and went out with everyone in the fruiting phase.
At the beginning of August, the following picture began to emerge on this ridge: after the first abundant layer of fruiting of all the bushes, some varieties began to lag behind in development, as it were, and stronger varieties occupied their space at the top with branches. greenhouses... This indicates the difficulty of growing different varieties on the same bed. At the end of August, the height of the three-meter greenhouse was completely occupied by tomato tops with pouring fruits. By this time, the first three or four brushes on each plant were removed, which means that the lower tops of the tomatoes that had fulfilled their role were also removed.
Tomatoes bore fruit on this ridge until the end of September. The total yield from each plant is from 8 to 10 kg. But we were especially pleased with the tomatoes of the Miracle of the Earth variety: the weight of individual fruits was more than 1 kg, and the rest of the fruits on this plant weighed from 400 to 800 grams. Large in size and very tasty were the fruits of the Giant Lemon, as well as tomatoes of the Eagle's Beak variety. But now we believe that for this ridge less seedlings are needed, only 12 pieces are enough. Individual tomato varieties can be formed here into three stems. Then the fruits will be of higher quality and larger.
Read the next part. The experience of growing watermelons and melons in a greenhouse →
Galina and Boris Romanovs, gardeners, winners of the "Golden Harvest - 2007"
The traditional advice is to sow pepper on April 10-15, 60 days before planting two-month seedlings in the vegetable garden under the film (mid-June). However, in practice it turns out differently. The pre-emergence period eats up to 3 weeks. Inexperienced gardeners do not at all take into account that, unlike tomatoes, peppers have slow seed germination and subsequent unhurried growth, especially in room conditions, when there is not enough light and humidity.
In addition, the sowing time depends on the choice of specific varieties and hybrids. If the super early Pinocchio the period from germination to the beginning of ripening is 90-100 days, then in the varieties of the last group of early maturing - 101-110, and sometimes longer. Therefore, the preparation time for "sowing" is the end of February, and its holding is the first days of March, so that the seedlings appear no later and not earlier than the middle of the month, when daylight hours are already 12 hours long.
So, the soil and seeds are prepared, we proceed to growing tomato seedlings.
First, you need to know when to plant tomatoes for seedlings. The seedling period for tomatoes is usually 45-65 days, depending on the variety and other conditions. Well, I already talked about the factors affecting the sowing time in the article on growing pepper seedlings. Let's try to calculate the sowing time of tomatoes for seedlings, taking into account these factors. Considering that 7-10 days is required for the emergence of seedlings, 50-60 days is the period from germination to the onset of flowering (for early varieties), 8-10 days is for recovery after picking tomatoes, then for growing tomatoes in a film greenhouse (with planting date at the beginning of June) the approximate time for sowing seeds is March 15-20.
Sowing tomatoes for seedlings is carried out in boxes with a height of at least 10 cm. Tomato seeds are usually planted to a depth of 0.5-1 cm and covered with foil, glass or a transparent cap. Germination time depends on air temperature and seed quality. At a temperature of + 25 ° C, which is optimal for seed germination, seedlings appear within a week. Therefore, before the seeds germinate, you need to place the container in a warm place.
As soon as the first shoots appear, it is necessary to provide illumination for the seedlings using lamps. Since the tomato is very picky about light, the duration of daylight hours for it is 12-16 hours, and in the first 2-4 days after the appearance of the "loop", round-the-clock illumination is generally desirable.
When shoots appear, the boxes are transferred to a well-lit and cool place with an air temperature of + 14 ... + 16 ° С. A week later, when the seedlings get stronger, the daytime temperature is raised to + 18 ... + 20 ° С, and at night it is maintained at + 14 ... + 16 ° С (the temperature can be lowered at night by opening the window. the draft and the wind did not blow on the young plants themselves).
Tomato seedlings need moderate watering with water at room temperature. Remember that tomatoes do not like excessive waterlogging. It is believed that the seedlings should not be watered until the first true leaf appears, but you watch the soil and if it is very dry, then lightly sprinkle it with water. Further watering should be no more often than once a week, and only when 5 true leaves appear, you can water more often - once every 3-4 days.
Depending on how you plan to grow tomatoes in a permanent place, you should select the sowing time.
In other words, if the seedlings are intended for further cultivation before harvesting from the greenhouse, then the sowing of the seeds should be done approximately one and a half to two months before transplanting. If the seedlings are supposed to be transferred to open ground, then it is advisable to sow the seeds for a period of two to two and a half months from the planned date of planting.
Important! In climatic zones where there is a likelihood of late frosts in the spring, it is better to wait until the time when the risk of exposure to this negative factor is minimal with planting seedlings.
Growing tomato seedlings on a windowsill involves creating the following conditions for seedlings:
The soil is usually harvested in the fall. The following soil mixtures are recommended:
By the way, tomato seedlings feel good in potting mixes bought in a store. Ready-made soil from reliable manufacturers contains all the necessary nutrients and additives, so nothing needs to be added to it.
The list of preparatory work may include:
• measures for the disinfection of seeds
• preparation and disinfection of the soil mixture.
Packaged seeds in branded packaging from well-known manufacturers do not need additional processing. They have already been treated with disinfectants at the enterprise. If you use tomato seeds harvested with your own hands or bought planting material in the market by weight, then it can be infected with pathogens of viral, bacterial or fungal diseases.
To protect yourself from infection, use one of the following disinfecting solutions:
1. One percent aqueous solution of potassium permanganate (potassium permanganate). The seeds are wrapped in cheesecloth and kept in this solution for 15 to 20 minutes. At the end of the treatment, you need to rinse the seeds with water.
Half-percent soda solution. The seeds are soaked in it for 24 hours. Soda solution degreases seeds and promotes early fruiting.
2. Aloe juice diluted with water (1: 1), which can be bought at the pharmacy, or obtained from the leaves of the plant yourself (after keeping them in the refrigerator for 6 days). The seeds should be soaked in diluted aloe juice for 12 to 24 hours. Tomatoes grown from seeds treated in this way are distinguished by high immunity, increased productivity and high fruit quality.
The soil can also be contaminated with dangerous pathogens if you took it from the garden. Packaged soil is safer at the flower shop. But even here you can run into an unpleasant "surprise", therefore, in order to protect both yourself and the seedlings from unexpected problems, it is better to cultivate the soil with your own hands.
Among the most popular ways to disinfect the soil for seedlings are the following:
Sowing tomato seeds for seedlings immediately after soil preparation is not recommended! The soil must be moistened and kept at a positive temperature for 10 to 12 days so that beneficial bacteria begin to multiply in it. Sowing can then be carried out.
Fill the container with prepared moist soil - these can be peat pots, cassettes, plastic cups, yogurt boxes, small boxes. Make furrows about 1 centimeter deep in the soil. Maintain a distance of 3 to 4 centimeters between grooves. Place the seeds in the furrows at a distance of one to two centimeters, but a little more is possible. The less often you sow the seeds, the longer the seedlings will be able to stay in the seedling container, and they will not need to be planted. Sprinkle the grooves with soil.
There is also a simpler option: place the seeds on the soil, and cover them with a centimeter-high layer of soil.
It is recommended to lay a film or glass on top, this will provide a constant microclimate with a humidity of 80 to 90 percent for the seedlings. For seeds to germinate, the ambient temperature must be between 25 and 30 ° C. Therefore, place the seedling boxes close to the radiators or other heat source.
Check the soil moisture on a daily basis and spray it with a spray bottle if necessary. In case of excessive moisture, remove the film or glass to allow the soil to dry. High humidity often stimulates the formation of mold on the soil. In this case, you need to carefully remove the infected top layer and shed the soil with a solution of potassium permanganate or an antifungal drug (Fitosporin, Fundazol).
Tomato seedlings should appear in 3 - 4 days if the temperature of the above-ground air is 25 - 28 ° C, after 5 days at a temperature of 20 - 25 ° C, and after 12 - 15 days or more if the temperature is around 10 - 12 ° C.
Growing seedlings without good lighting is almost impossible! So immediately with the emergence of seedlings, place the container with seedlings on the lightest windowsill. True, in February and at the very beginning of March, there will still not be enough light, therefore, if possible, arrange additional lighting with the help of fluorescent lamps.
Young seedlings require high, almost extreme humidity, it is dangerous to allow drying. Therefore, do not rush to remove the film or glass over the seedlings. Open the seedlings a little every day so that they adapt to the fresh air, while remaining in the "greenhouse". After a few weeks, the cover is removed completely.
Tomato seedlings growing at home under a film may not be watered for a long time. It is necessary to carefully monitor the condition of the soil: you should not breed a swamp, but you should also not allow the upper layer to dry out - the roots of the sprouts are still small and are located in the upper layer of the soil. That is, drying it will lead to the drying out of the root system. Water the seedlings very carefully, only under the stem. Use a needleless syringe or a large pipette to avoid touching the sprouts.
Bays are also dangerous. Usually, both flooded and overdried tomato seedlings look the same: the leaves are sluggish, the stems have lost their turgor. If you notice these symptoms, check the soil. If there is enough moisture in it, you cannot water - the seedlings will die. Place the container with seedlings in a place protected from direct sunlight and do not water until the earth dries out. Reduce the amount of watering later.
Seedlings of tomatoes, two to three weeks after the start of sprouting, begin to fertilize weekly. It is preferable to use organic natural fertilizers such as manure or grass. You can look for special guano-based fertilizers, vermicompost or humic fertilizers in the trading network. To feed seedlings, you need to use half of the dose indicated on the label.
Tomato seedlings give true leaves for 7 - 10 days. During this period, if the crops turned out to be excessively heaped, you can pick the seedlings into cups. It is believed that tomatoes can easily tolerate a transplant, but you still need to do this operation carefully - transplant the sprouts along with a lump of earth at the root. Many gardeners recommend pinching the central root when making a pick. However, in our opinion, there is no need to do this - after all, the roots are still damaged, even with the most careful transplantation. That is, it makes no sense to additionally injure the sprout. In addition, pinching a third of the root will delay the development of the plant by about a week. For the first transplant, use small 200 ml cups.
After two to three weeks, if desired, you can carry out the second seedlings - already in larger pots. If the seeds were originally sown in separate containers (cassettes, cups), then the transplant will be the first. In this case, it is recommended to take pots with a volume of more than 0.5 - 1 liter. By the way, professional gardeners use containers of even larger volumes of 3 and even 5 liters for each plant. True, not every window sill can withstand such a seedling "plantation", for example, in a city apartment. Perhaps this is not necessary: for one plant, the volume of soil in one liter is quite enough.
At the age of one and a half months at home, the first flower brushes appear on tomato seedlings. Record this fact, since after one and a half to two weeks, the seedlings will need to be planted in the greenhouse, on the balcony or on the beds. It is impossible to postpone the transplant - this will reduce the yield.
If you are going to keep seedlings on the windowsill for more than 45 days, then one plant should have at least 1 liter of soil.
Overexposure of tomatoes in small containers even for 10 days in excess of the norm and the appearance of flowers, leads to the termination of vegetative growth, that is, the plants will remain forever "undergrowth". Even when transplanted into beds, they will no longer become full-fledged plants. Naturally, the harvest will be minimal! This problem is partly solved by removing the first flower brush, since the next brush appears only after a week. That is, the planting of seedlings can thus be postponed for a week.
Visually suitable for planting tomato seedlings should be with thick stems, large leaves, a strong root system and developed buds.
Make the distance between the planted plants in the greenhouse or in the garden from 30 to 40 centimeters. When arranging a garden plantation on the balcony, for each tomato bush, you need to allocate from 4 to 12 liters of soil. 4 liters is enough for special undersized "balcony" varieties.
For tomatoes, garden soil such as chernozem is well suited, pre-mixed with peat soil of the "Universal" or "For vegetables" varieties with a one to one ratio.
Disembarkation is best done in cool, calm and cloudy weather. When planting, deepen the center stem a couple of centimeters. After two to three days, additional roots will begin to form on the buried stem, as a result, the root system will become stronger. Water the tomato seedlings after planting with warm water!
Finally, another important point that is often overlooked is the timing of growing seedlings.
Peppers should not be in seedling condition for more than 60 days. Overexposed seedlings are suppressed, the laying of flower buds and the root system is disturbed, the plants take root much worse. It is better to plant younger plants and cover them already in place than, waiting out the frost, to overexpose them. A plant of pepper, suitable for planting, has a height of 20-25 cm, 8-9 true leaves, a powerful and thick stem
The peppers are planted to the same depth as in the pot, in the evening, in a previously spilled hole.
The planting scheme for seedlings is 60 by 70 cm for pairs of peppers, and 40 by 60 cm for single plants. After planting, it is advisable to shade the pepper, and also water it for 3-4 days. Accelerate the engraftment of seedlings by watering with a rooting solution Radifarm, or solutions humates.
Observing all the rules for growing pepper seedlings, you can guarantee yourself a harvest of this vegetable in any year, under any weather conditions.
Vladimir Kiryushin, candidate of biological sciences.