O My Poor Tomatoes - Knowledgebase Question

Highwood, IL
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Question by cam11260
March 30, 2000
i got this plastic 'greenhouse' thingy...it had pellets in it that i soaked with warm water and they expended from flat to about 2 inches tall...i put the seeds in the expanded thingy (which appears to be dirt and peat moss), sprayed with water, covered and put under a grow light (as instructed)...this was all at about noon yesterday...at about 4:30, when hubby got home, i took the lid off to show him and steam (or smoke) came out of the container...OBVIOUSLY, i had the grow light too close...moved the light farther away and almost cried...do you think i ruined the seeds?...like burned them up?...if i need to re-plant i will but not sure what to do...i went into a gardening chat room this morning and got opposite thoughts...some say they need the warmth to germinate, others said i probably ruined the seeds...also, should i have put the seeds UNDER the dirt or just 'press down' as instructed?...also also, should i spray the seeds daily with water eventhough there's LOTS of moisture collecting on the top of the 'greenhouse'?...martha stewart i'm not!

Answer from NGA
March 30, 2000
Tomatoes do need a relatively warm soil temperature to germinate, but the optimum range would be about 75 degrees, which is not excessively hot. It is in fact possible to "cook" the seeds, so you might want to start again with fresh ones.

Seeds also need moisture to germinate but if they are soaking wet they may rot or fungal problems may develop. The best description I can give you is that the pellets should be moist like a wrung out sponge and that there might be a little faint mist of condensation on the plastic lid, but it should not be dripping off the lid. The lid helps maintain the humidity so you should not usually have to water again until you take the lid off.

Place the seeds as instructed, pressing them into the pellet gently, then put the lid on the tray. Place it in a warm bright location (maybe the top of your refrigerator) out of direct sun. (Direct sun would heat up the interior like a parked car heats up, and the seeds do not need the intensity of supplemental light yet.)

The seeds should germinate within a week or so, at which point immediately remove the lid and place the tray under the supplemental light. The plants should be just an inch or two below the bulb. Keep the soil evenly moist but not soaking wet, and your seedling shsould grow for you. Good luck!

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