Sunday 29 March 2015

First Transplant of Tomatoes: From Peat Pellets to 4" Containers

I decided the time had come to transplant the tomato seedings from their peat pellets to larger containers.  This is when the amount of space becomes challenging - as I move from little teeny peat pellets inside 4-cell seed trays to individual 4" containers.  It pretty much quadruples the required space. In previous years, I had another fluorescent light setup in the basement but found it much too cool and many of my plants got a touch of mold.

But that is the whole purpose of having my new greenhouse - to have most of the start-ups out there.  The temperature during the day is fine, but I need to check night-time temperatures.  Last night was -12 Celsius but it should warm up in coming days.  I'll get the thermometer set up today and check it throughout the week and hope to get the sturdier plants out there by Easter weekend.

In the meantime, they are in the sunny window of my solarium (with plenty of snow still showing outside).

The use of peat pellets means very little transplant shock at this stage.  I don't need to use a fork or spoon (or whatever other people use) to pick a single seedling out of a tray to move it to its new temporary home.  It's so much easier with a peat pellet!  They all (or most) had 2 sets of true leaves which is a good sign that they can be moved into a bigger container - but also the roots.  You can see in this picture that the roots are already coming through the bottom searching for more nutrients:

1) Prepare the 4" container with a good organic potting mix (I just use store-bought) that has been lightly moistened
2) Dig a hole in the center of the potting mix

3) Make sure the peat pellet is very moist (I just dip it briefly into a pot of water)

4) Tear open the bottom and one side of the pellet (they are meant to dissolve, but don't always - so I give it some help to ensure the roots can get through)

5) Pop the pellet into the hole
6) Fill in with extra dirt and lightly tamp down so that the seedling is secure in its new space

Because I have both the pellet and the potting mix moistened already, I tend not to water for the first 24 hours just to let the seedlings settle. And that's all there is to it! 

Out of 18 pellets of the Rainbow Heirloom Tomato mix, I came out with 22 seedlings in their new 4" containers.  I always have a hard time killing off the weak ones (especially when they really don't look weak!).  If there are two in a peat pellet far enough apart, I can easily tear the pellet in two pieces and pop them into their own container  hence the 22 out of 18.  Also, because I am using a mix of seeds and I don't really know what is what yet, I tried to keep a variety based on slightly different leaf patterns.  And I also had 4 pellets with generic "GIANT" tomato seedlings; for those I just kept the best 4 as I didn't want too many.  Here are all of the "rejects" (so sad):

Next up should be the San Marzano plum tomatoes, Chocolate cherry tomatoes and some of the peppers, but I think they can all use a few more days.  And now that I have freed up more space under the fluorescent lights, I can move some seedlings from the heat mat (with plastic cover) under the better light conditions (the lavender looks ready for more light).

Hope all is going well with your seedlings!


  1. I am also one of those people that can't stand to get rid of seedlings. Sometimes I can fight my urge to keep them while other times I just give in & try to squeeze them in somewhere.

    1. I know, it just seems such a waste. But then they start growing together and then it's too late!

  2. I like the Jiffy pellets and agree it can be difficult to get seedlings out of a flat (I use a spatula). But so far I'm using flats this year because they don't dry out as fast, I also use a scissors and snip off the extra seedlings, but too often, the "stronger" one I select as the survivor then damps off.

    1. Ah ... I just looked up "damps off" although I'd heard the term many times. I've had a few of mine in the jiffy's damp off so far but nothing consistent. Thanks for making me learn something new! :)

  3. Ah yes, I had a similar little pile of discarded tomato seedlings!