Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Indoor Grow Box Limitations - Tomatoes

Our Indoor Grow Box is awesome in many ways, but it does have its limitations.  Our tomato plants are growing so well in there to a point where they are growing too tall, too fast for the grow box.  I thought it looked like a jungle in there two weeks ago, but now it's a bit junglier in there. 

The two remaining Jelly Bean tomato plants grew and reached the top of the grow box, and are now starting to grow sideways at a 90 degree angle to its main stem.  They are also looking stressed, having long outgrown the grow box shelter.  I felt so bad for them!  Since a few weeks ago, their siblings were transplanted into individual five-gallon buckets and have been thriving outside, and even starting to set little jelly bean shaped tomatoes.  We left these two plants in the grow box to see what would happen if they grew too big, and now we know.  So we freed one of them and transplanted it into a large planter previously occupied by a now-dead zucchini plant.  Hopefully it will do better outside in its new home. The other plant is still in the grow box, only because we didn't have any more large containers.  If it's still alive, I'll have to figure out something for it next weekend.

I can almost hear this plant saying "ouch, ouch, the ceiling is hurting my head!"

Well, at least now we know how fast they grow.  It's been seven weeks since we started these tomato seeds to test drive our new Indoor Grow Box.  So when we use the grow box "for real" next spring,  I'll know that they will reach their maximum grow box size sometime around 5-6 weeks.  Does that mean I have to start my tomato seeds about 3-4 week before the last frost date, to be transplanted out 2 weeks after the last frost date?  Hmm, I thought most people started them 6-8 weeks before the last frost date in our USDA zone 5b.

If you (that's you, the blog reader!) start your tomato plants from seeds, how early do you start your seeds, and about how big are your plants when you transplant them outside?


Anonymous said...

This year I started them around 1st of March and transplanted them around 1st of May. 2 months is too much, as they were too big and, like yours, didn't have enough room for growth.
Next spring I will start them 2 weeks later.
If you are starting them under lights, they grow faster. The year before I started them next to a window and they grew slower.

Engineeredgarden said...

Is "junglier" even a word?? Ha!
I start my seeds 8 weeks before last frost date, and the transplants are typically 6-8" tall.

Erin said...

remember too, that one of those weeks is for "hardening off" before being transplanted, so I would think 6 weeks would be good, 5 inside & 1 outside, and about a week for all your seed planting & germination activities in the beginning, so I think 6-8 weeks is probably the average, that's when I start mine.

Rowena... said...

Wow! First time here and you've touched upon a subject that has seen so much discussion online and in real life (for ourselves). I have to start tomato seeds indoors around the end of February and they are usually repotted twice before being transplanted outdoors in mid-May. Prealpine weather at the top of the mountain makes things a little more difficult, so it was a real delight to read about Lupe in the previous post. I'm still trying to succeed at any kind of sweet melon...there has to be a melon cut out for our weather...but so far not much luck!

thyme2garden said...

vrtlarica - thank you for the information about your tomato dates. I guess I have to play around a bit with the seed sowing times to see what would work the best for our situation here.

* * * * *
Engineeredgarden - it is now! :-) Hmm, 8 weeks, and the transplants are only 6-8 weeks tall? I'm thinking mine may be too big at 8 weeks, unless I figure out a way to grow them outside of the grow box.

* * * * *
Erin - somewhere around 6-8 weeks sounds about right. Maybe I'll just have to start them every week at the 8 week mark, to see which one does the best come harvesting time.

* * * * *
Rowena - thank you so much for visiting! If you can grow tomatoes, I'm thinking you should be able to grow melons, too, but what do I know, this is my first time with everything here in the vegetable gardening land.

Carol said...

Thank you so much for your visit to my post "Chickens, Eggs and Industrial Farming". I am saddened to hear how more people are being adversely affected by HA's. Your grow boxes are amazing. I wish I could help out with dates. I am too undisciplined to actually figure it out. My seedlings usually get transplanted to the garden to save them from neglectful me! The heat here has a tendency to cook anything in flats which I keep outdoors.

Kimmi said...

I wonder if you could bonsai the tomato plants in the grow box. Trim them and make them bushier instead of taller and keep them in there that way? Don't know if it would work, but it sounds like it, doesn't it?

foodgardenkitchen said...

We start our tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant in mid-to-late February under grow lights and transplant them out at the end of April or beginning of May (they're from 8-12 inches tall at that point). Your tomatoes seem to like the grow box so yours might grow faster.

Dirt Lover said...

Thyme, this year I planted seeds the first week of March, and transplanted about 6 weeks later into the garden. The weather was mild, and most of the last 2-3 weeks they lived outside in a cold frame. This works for me, but we are in zone 9. Don't know if that would be of any help to you.

thyme2garden said...

Carol, it was really nice to read your post, and thanks for coming by here! It's been really difficult in the garden to deal with all the heat the last month or two, so I am amazed at what you guys can grow in Florida heat.

* * * * *
Kimmi - that's funny, because we've actually considered that. Maybe we'll try it with our last tomato plant still in the grow box. I don't think it will work as well for tomatoes as it does for something like basil, but I won't know until I try. I would guess, though, that the smaller the tomato plant, the less yield you get eventually, if at all.

* * * * *
foodgardenkitchen - thank you for another data point! Do you grow germinate your seeds and grow the seedlings under grow lights? You're talking 8-10 weeks, and that would turn our tomato plants into almost full-sized and ready to put on flowers! Then again, this Jelly Bean is a cherry tomato plant, so maybe regular tomato plants will take longer to grow from seed.

* * * * *
Dirt Lover - thanks for your contribution to my data collection! When it comes to gardening and things like snow shoveling, I sure do wish I lived in a "higher" zone. :-)

foodgardenkitchen said...

We grow our seedlings under flourescent shop lights in the basement that's consistently around 60 degrees. We also use heat mats to warm the soil some until the seedlings have been germinated for 2-4 weeks (we have problems implementing exact science...). Cherry tomatoes do tend to grow and produce faster than the indeterminate types we grow so that could make a difference.

thyme2garden said...

foodgardenkitchen, I suspect that you're right about cherry tomatoes. I'll know better next spring, when I start many different kinds of tomatoes from seeds.

Maralyn45 said... have touched such a lively topic...great...

thyme2garden said...

Maralyn45 - thank you! With tomatoes being the number one most popular vegetable to grow in the U.S., I figured everyone had some tricks up their sleeves about when to start the seeds.

Phileeppa Hole said...

At the very first I would like to tell that you have been distributed a very wonderful pictures of Indoor grow box over here. That tomato plants are increasing so well, as we all know that with tomato vegetables being the variety one most well-known organic increasing in the U.S. indoor growing


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