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Is this idea a mistake??

 
Posts: 43
Location: New Hampshire, USA
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Each year we start our veggie plants indoors too early.. This year I've held back a bit.. Every year we end up going to a local nursery and buy established plants. I'd really y like make ours happen..

Here in the Nor'east is still jumping in temps to start from seed outdoors. So I will start today indoors and get them going. I figure once germinated temps will be good... Thus comes the question.

Once I see a seedling (germination has happened) why can I not plant them outside? Okay, frost gone by, still plenty of water running in the system and good day temps (sun).

Plants in mind are the tomatoes, peppers mainly... lettuce, radish, green onion oh the list goes on.

 
gardener
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How many leaves are you talking about the starts having?  Do you literally mean just sprouted (like sprouted in a damp napkin), or sprouted up from a pot with the two cotyledons (not true leaves)?

Some seeds can be put straight in the ground sprouted, like in a damp paper towel.  But some are a tad too fragile for that, and can dry out too easily.  I've found that little plantlets at the two cotelydon stage are also quite fragile unless they sprouted and grew in place outdoors.  It really depends on the plant.  Could you be more specific?
 
Rj Howell
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Mainly my tomatoes/peppers as I mentioned. Are those 'strong' seedlings? You tell me, if two leaves, three leaves, etc. I don't know! What I do know is this is the latest I've ever waited to start and see temps that they 'should' (?) survive in..
 
Kim Goodwin
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I think you'll do best with feedback from someone from the NE.  In the climates I've lived in (PNW and desert SW), I'd wait until there were two sets of true leaves, at least, and the weather was favorable.  

In the PNW, even if it doesn't frost, a late rain can come in and just wreck little tomatoes and peppers.  Flatten and drown.  In the desert SW, extreme heat (or cold) can pop up for even a day, and a little bitty plants' root systems may not be enough to support life after transplanting, at times.  So I tend to wait for plants like that to get bigger (at least two sets of true leaves) before putting them in - or direct seed, which produces stronger starts from the get go.

But I think there is great value in hearing from someone with NE experience.   I'm only responding for posterity sake, if others look at this and happen to be in one of the regions I can speak to.

And great job doing your best growing starts and trying new things!  It sounds like you don't have a huge time or space for experimenting this year and need a good likelihood of success (perfectly understandable!), but someday, experimenting along your current line of thinking could yield really new, wonderful, unexpected regional info.
 
pollinator
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Rj Howell wrote:Once I see a seedling (germination has happened) why can I not plant them outside?



I like to grow them as big as possible, because then they're more likely to survive snail attack. But my options for starting plants indoors are very limited, so I will probably buy some at nursery.

I also put seeds in large pots in late summer/autumn, of warm loving plants such as peppers, physalis. When they are able to grow to almost full size when there's still plenty of sun, they will survive the winter and even have fruits in January (artificially pollinated with a brush, but I'm quite good at it). Then I will plant them outdoors (or just move the pots outdoors) in the summer.

If you want to plant small seedlings outside, I think you can as well just put seeds directly in the ground, no big difference.
 
Kim Goodwin
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Separate thoughts for onions - those little seedlings are really tough, in my experience.  I learned this technique from a very experienced gardener friend many years ago.  She started onions in a single pot (about a 5-8 inch pot). She would start a whole packet of seed that way.  They grow up thick like a little patch of grass, and when about 2-4 inches tall, she'd gently pull them apart and plant them out. I imagine that method can work well in many areas.

And if you don't have a weed problem, most onions can be started in the ground very easily, too.  But the method above let her know where they were and not have to worry as much about weeds sprouting up and crowding out the seed.
 
Rj Howell
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If I read between the lines here.. I may indeed not be a bad idea. I had not thought of rain pouring down on the seedlings. I would think a net covering, lifted above would help. I want sun warmth, yet not rains strengthen as of yet. Thank you for that thought! I think I can work that out.

It's the whole germinate indoors, grow and season the plants to survive outside I question... Yes, you get a larger plant, further along, yet.. Is it worth that effort? I'm soaking some 'seed pods' now and will start them/greminate them indoors. They will get moved once I see a few leaves to outdoors.

This is April 20th in New Hampshire. Let's see what happens.
 
Kim Goodwin
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Rj Howell wrote:
It's the whole germinate indoors, grow and season the plants to survive outside I question... Yes, you get a larger plant, further along, yet.. Is it worth that effort?



It totally depends.  With some plants, in some areas, it's the only way to get them to grow.  This can be for several reasons, too.  For example, a plant that takes a long season to mature might need to be started indoors just to get an edible result before frost.  In the cooler, wetter short-season areas of the PNW and also the high desert areas of the mountainous western US, examples of those plants can be artichokes, peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, and eggplant (if you can even grow them).  By the time it's warm enough to direct seed them, you don't have enough season left for them to mature.

Then others just grow so slow.  Leeks are nice to start early because they grow really slowly at first. So if you plant them too late it can be too hot for them.  Artichokes take their time, too, even the first-year blooming varieties.  I like to start those indoors in January or February.

Here's a totally different reason for starts - some are so tasty and wonderful compared to wild plants that they can't survive predation.  Lettuce was like that for me in Oregon, the slugs and snails mentioned above were a big problem, along with pill bugs (sow bugs, roly-polys).  Lettuce was just too tasty, but I could grow escarole from seed without issue.  Here in the desert where I am now, many brassicas get devoured by some little metallic beetles or crickets.  If I put them in as starts with a few true leaves, they can survive a little munching.  Also here, mice and birds will eat or just pull small seedlings.

Now where I am in the desert SW, once the adorable little kangaroo rats find your garden, they will dig and eat every bean and squash seed you put in the ground.  They can smell exactly where they are through the dirt! It's rather impressive.  In Oregon, I thought "Why does anyone, ever, use bean starts?" (rather than direct seeding a very strong seed like a bean or squash), and now I found out!  This is my first year starting beans and squash in little pots to put out as small transplants.  Once they sprout a few true leaves, the kangaroo rats lose interest.

And here's a desert kangaroo rat just for fun.  They are adorable.  They look like a cartoon version of a rat.

 
pollinator
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Slugs, snails, earwigs, and even pill bugs get my seedlings when I put them out too early. (if you notice this, put out a beer trap - they work great.)

I personally would hesitate to plant one in the ground that didn't have at least one pair of true leaves.

 
Rj Howell
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Love the responses

I have a system that is elevated, so most critters are non an issue. I laugh as I say my system not only do I have to bend to, yet neither do the deer.

I'll give this a go tis year and see how it plays. I will come up with a sort of rain net to protect the young's!
 
Rj Howell
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The first trial plants were the Tomato seedlings. They spent 1 day from sprout before transferring outside. They had shed the seed casing and 2 leaves exposed, small as they were. The two following days were full (or mostly) sun and I thought I had burned out at least two of them. All 3 have survived! We got hit with a down pour and all I did was place a wood slat over the plants so they would not be directly hit. That worked!

My issue has been over the years that growing inside too early has lead to 'stringy' weak plants and have not survived. I wanted to try something different this year. I have my pepper plants still germinating inside and look forward to trying this again with them.

Inside, they would have grown twice the size by now. Outside, they barely have grown a 1/4 the size in height, yet look stocky! I think this will work! Only time will tell for certain.

 
pioneer
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Kim Goodwin wrote:

And here's a desert kangaroo rat just for fun.  They are adorable.  They look like a cartoon version of a rat.


I had one of these little darlings in a hotel room out in West Texas. I had been eating a pop tart one night and dropped the crumbs in the small trash can before rolling over.
It had gotten into the trash but couldn't get out. He was making a hell of a racket. Apparently he couldn't launch himself out because the trash bag didn't reach the bottom of the can. When I stumbled over and picked it up the bag dropped to the bottom of the can.
That little so n so put everything he had into that last jump. He cleared the trash can with ease.
I'm a big guy by other folks standards, but you ain't never heard a big man scream like a twelve year old girl like I did when it came out that can. I was dancing around trying to get away from that flying varmint. Yea, I know it only jumped, but in my fuzzed up state of mind, it was flying and probably had teeth.
I realized fairly quickly what was going on and got off the chair. I threw the trash can at that little bugger for making me act that way. I took all the poptart wrappers and stuffed them in the hole he darted through.
The next morning all that mylar from the pop tart wrappers was chewed and scattered around his hole. From then on I broke a little corner off my pop tart and placed it at the hole for him as tribute over my surrender.
I hope the little /×*$&? died of starvation waiting on his next free meal!
 
pollinator
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I really think that personal experience trumps advice most of the time, so I'm glad to hear you're giving it a try. As long as your livelihood is not on the line, experimentation should be fruitful! In this case literally :-D
 
pollinator
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Rj Howell wrote:
My issue has been over the years that growing inside too early has lead to 'stringy' weak plants and have not survived. I wanted to try something different this year. I have my pepper plants still germinating inside and look forward to trying this again with them.

Inside, they would have grown twice the size by now. Outside, they barely have grown a 1/4 the size in height, yet look stocky! I think this will work! Only time will tell for certain.



I haven't tested this myself, but I watched a youtube video a while ago that addressed this. Plants toughen up when they are exposed to a bit of wind. It forces them to build stronger stems. In the video the guys did a comparison of plants under grow lights, where one set had a small oscillating fan forcing a bit of air movement. The difference was remarkable.
 
Kim Goodwin
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Michael Dotson, that story cracked me and my husband up this morning.  They are so bouncy, yes, they could look like they are flying!  We didn't realize they ever went into buildings.  Haven't had an issue here, thankfully.  Fortunately, they aren't like packrats, nor mice and haven't gone into our cars either.  They did take a bunch of squash seedlings this year, so I've had to plant more.  I caught three of them in live traps one night, a whole guilty little family.  They are so cute.  We just catch and release them, and I plant more stuff!

I also throw out old, dry bean seeds to distract them from the things I don't want them to eat.  That works a bit.  They definitely are good permaculture animals in the desert areas, as they make large tunnel-nests and take seeds and plant matter underground.  I think they both help with water infiltration, and plant succession especially with tree planting.  Kind of like squirrels... I've observed that all sorts of trees sprout and grow from old desert kangaroo nests.  Here you will often find a bunch of small mesquites coming out of those nests.

RJ - great experimentation, and excellent use of a piece of wood to protect from the pounding rain. That was a great, simple solution. I'm so glad your plants are looking so strong and vigorous!

 
Michael Dotson
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Kim Goodwin wrote:We didn't realize they ever went into buildings.


This one was a mutant! I only saw it when it cleared that trash can. It looked HUGE! I was terribly disappointed when I saw the size of the hole! I thought it was gonna be much larger! He could jump though! The hotel clerk told me what it was after he got done laughing.
I really shouldn't be telling stories on myself like that, but if ya can't laugh at yourself...
 
Rj Howell
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The final 3 tomato seedlings went in yesterday. My peppers & cukes are just taking time to germinate. I'm excited to try the same experiment on them as well!

I have tried the 'fan' experiment before. Yes they did hardy them up a bit, yet there was still the 'stringy' action happening. I did grow lights and kept them near the window, yet never got away from that 'stringy' action. Once stringy, it seems very difficult to harden them. This is the biggest reason for the experiment. I still don't think the original 3 are ready to handle the 'real world' in force. LOL, sounds like I'm talking about my kids... I wish to see them 4-6" tall before that.

We shall see how this progress!
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