Planting tomato seeds in garden

Planting tomato seeds in garden

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Planting tomato seeds in garden soil may help your tomatoes make more fruit per plant. | Courtesy of Amazon

My friend Adam planted a garden with some of his friends last summer. Most of them were beginners and he was a bit of a gardening wiz.

“I wanted to get the garden done, so I just went ahead and planted them all,” Adam recalls.

When the plants were three weeks old, he received a call from a neighbor.

“I’m curious,” she said, “Why didn’t you plant those tomatoes on peat?”

Adam said he didn’t know what she was talking about, so he called a nearby seed company to ask for help.

The man he called laughed a little and answered the question about peat versus seed starting medium with, “Oh, they don’t need any. I can’t imagine anyone would want to start seedlings on peat. It’s just plain wrong.”

Then Adam remembered this old-fashioned method used by grandmothers, great-grandmothers and moms for decades before peat was discovered as a soil amendment.

“After his quick and uncomplicated answer, he seemed to recognize a burgeoning excitement in me,” Adam says. “I know exactly what I want to do with my garden, and I really like this.”

The seed company wasn’t wrong. Peat moss isn’t the best choice for starting seedlings. It is made from decomposed organic matter such as plant roots, leaves, insects and decaying plant material. In one study, peat was shown to be more harmful to germination and seedling growth than sand. While it may be great for gardening beds, it’s a poor choice for starting seedlings.

So what can you do to start seedlings on peat? Well, there are a lot of different ways to do it. But the most basic method is simple and old-fashioned. It involves getting bags of peat and keeping them in a cool, dark area for several months.

I know what you’re thinking: That doesn’t sound too hard.

And if you’re like me, you may want to skip reading this post and do that now. Just make sure you use a breathable, loose-weave fabric for the bags. You don t want seedlings to root into the bag and suffocate from the plastic. I don t recommend using dark green sphagnum peat for this method, because it binds to the seedlings.

But if you want to try it, this is the right bag.

Peat-Packed Seed Starting Media

The basic approach to seed starting is to gather some peat, remove the stems and place the peat into big, breathable fabric bags. Don t put seeds into the bags yet.

Covered with a breathable fabric, peat bags can be stored in a cool, dark area for several months. | Courtesy of Amazon

The basic peat-packed seed starting medium takes time, patience and no special skills. All you need are bags of peat and a cover that will keep out the light. You can buy bags of peat, but they’re not cheap, often costing $20 or more. The good news is that peat-packed seed starting medium is highly affordable, costing less than $5 a bag. Plus, you can make your own medium to save money and customize the bags.

Seed Starter Bags

I’m kind of a lazy seed starter, so I came up with my own method that requires no peat. These simple seed starter bags are designed to hold a specific amount of peat. You can store these bags in a cool, dark area for several months. Just add seeds, peat, and, optionally, a little salt.

This is the right size and shape. Each bag can hold a few different seed starters. | Courtesy of Amazon

Start growing seedlings in biodegradable seed starter bags like these. | Courtesy of Amazon

Add your peat, seeds and a little salt. The bags make it easy to keep track of what you re growing. | Courtesy of Amazon

I keep several starter bags in my backyard office and place a few in a small drawer in my kitchen. After a month or two of seed starting, the seedlings will be ready to be planted into the garden. You can purchase the starter bags for seed starting, or you can make your own.

The bags don t have to be perfect. I had a bag of peat from a store, and even after the stems were removed, the inside bag was very dark. The lighter peat makes a better medium. I cut a piece of screen cloth into four pieces, making a piece large enough to cover two bags. The screen cloth allows air to enter the bags. It also looks nice and tidy.

Simply place the fabric over the top of the peat and staple or tape it to keep it in place. | Courtesy of Amazon

At a yard sale, I bought three bags of peat that were cheap and not very clean. The bags were full of debris and smelled funny. It took a lot of elbow grease to get them clean.

The black cloth bags didn t smell at all. I wrapped them tightly around the peat and turned a