The Q&A Archives: Strong Tomato Stems

Question: I grow my vegetables from seed. How do the nurseries grow tomato plants with such thick strong stems? Do they pinch them off as they grow or use special growing medium?

Answer: To grow sturdy transplants at home usually requires either a greenhouse or supplemental light (such as fluorescent lights kept just a few inches above the plants) as well as a good schedule; if you start them too soon they will be leggy and weak before it is time to set them out in the garden. You also need to provide them with adequate fertility while being careful not to overfertilize them which results in lush and leggy growth. There is one more thing, in my experience, which can help and that is to brush them lightly with your hand several times a day. This seems to simulate the wind and other stresses they would encounter outdoors and encourage sturdy stems.

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