Tag Archives: tomatoes

Starting Seeds Indoors

2017-03-20 11.29.05

The article below is by Hillie Salo via the Seed Libraries Newsletter, Cool Beans!

Why not reap the benefits of starting seeds indoors? Perhaps you want an earlier harvest or need to extend the growing season. You can also produce larger and stronger seedlings that are less susceptible to insect attacks. Plus, it’s easier to monitor seedlings inside in pots than outside in the ground.
Caution: Remember that some plants, such as beans and peas, have a delicate root system and like to start and finish in the same spot. They prefer to be directly seeded, or planted in the garden, not transplanted. Other seeds, such tomatoes

peppers, and eggplants, need a head start. See the table for more plants and their preferences. You can also check the seed package for which method the plant prefers.

Get seeds from friends, neighbors, seed libraries & seed swaps or companies that sign the Safe Seed Pledge.
Don’t start seeds too early or the seedlings will become tall and spindly, or leggy. Use the six-week rule: Count backwards from the last frost date in the spring or the first frost date in fall.  However, depending on the crop, starting time may be earlier or later than six weeks. For example, warm season vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers need night time temperatures of at least 55 degrees or the seedlings’ growth will be very slow. Johnny’s Selected Seeds has a great seed starting calculator.  http://www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-library/seed-planting-schedule-calculator.html
Seeds can be started in a range of containers from recycled yogurt cups to purchased pots, trays, or cubes. If you’re recycling your containers, clean with a 10% bleach solution: 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. When choosing a container, the most important thing is drainage, so may sure you punch several holes in the bottom of those yogurt cups.
Special seed starting mixes can be useful because they are lighter than potting soil, but they are not necessary; many people find success starting seeds with potting soil that is not full of clumps. However, soil from the garden (or those bags labeled “garden soil”) are too heavy for starting seedlings in pots.
You can select from several brands of commercial seed starting mixes. Most of them contain some variation of the following ingredients:
  • – Coir or peat moss (the base)
  • – Perlite (helps soil drain faster) and vermiculite (increases aeration and moisture retention.) Some mixes contain sand.
You can also make your own. Explore the links below for different recipes.


Plant seeds close for germination, then transplant the seedlings into pots after its true leaves appears. (First, you’ll see cotyledons, or the embryonic leaves, not the true leaves.) Planting seeds close saves space, both in your containers and especially on the number of heat mats or warm spaces. For example, for pepper or tomato seeds, consider a grid of seeds 3 X 3 or 4 X 4 in a 4 in pot.
Small Seeds
  • Fill pot with soil, tap to settle.
  • Make indentations for seed: 1/8″ for lettuce, 1/3″ for tomato.
  • For tiny seeds such as lettuce sow 3-4 seeds in each hole. Try to put no more than 2 tomato seeds in each hole as you’ll just have to untangle them later, which could damage the delicate root systems.
  • Cover seed lightly with seed starting mix or vermiculite.
  • Water from the bottom, not the top, and drain.
  • Cover pots with domes, plastic, or glass because high humidity can help with germination. The covering keeps the top of the soil moist, and keeps it from crusting over. Remove as soon as seedlings appear!
Large Seeds
  • Fill with soil, tap to settle.
  • Make 3 holes for seeds, 1″ deep.
  • Sow 1 seed per hole.
  • Cover seed with soil.
  • Water from the bottom, not the top, and drain.
  • Cover pots with domes, plastic, or glass.


To germinate, seeds need warmth and moisture. (For some seeds, exposure to or exclusion from light can be important, but most of the time, seeds don’t need light until they germinate. Until then, water and temperature are more important.)
Although each plant cultivar has a maximum or minimum temperature needed for germination, most seeds will germinate at room temperature, just faster
and stronger with a little heat, especially summer vegetables. For example, tomato seeds will germinate well when the ambient temperature is anywhere from 70 to 95 degrees, but the optimum temperature for germination is 85 degrees. Lettuce, on the other hand, prefers a cooler germination range between 40 and 80 degrees, with an optimum temperature of 75 degrees. (See the table from PennState for specific germination needs of various seeds.  https://extension.psu.edu/seed-and-seedling-biology).
Find a warm place in your house such as the top of the fridge. Remember that most heat mats will raise the temperature about 20 degrees above the ambient temperature, not to a specific temperature unless you add a thermostat. Don’t use a heating pad for humans as they aren’t designed for continuous use and/or use near water.
Moisture is important because it softens the seed coat and starts the swelling of the seed.
Check moisture daily. If container are on heat mats, you’ll want to check heat and moisture levels several times a day. Keep soil evenly moist, but not soggy. Avoid watering from above unless you have attachment that allows a light sprinkle. Instead, water from the bottom so you won’t disturb the seed. Place the seed containers in a shallow tray with water and allow them to absorb water by osmosis. Don’t leave them sitting too long in the tray. How well watered a pot is can be judged by weight. Get to know how heavy a well-watered container should feel.


No fertilizer is necessary from the time seeds are planted until they begin to germinate. Everything a plant needs to grow is contained in the seed itself! After the first seeds sprouts, remove any covering. Seedlings need the same care as seeds – right amount of water and right amount of temperature – plus seedlings need light, good air circulation and possibly a little fertilizer.

Once seeds sprout, the heat mat can be removed; though some like it warmer and can stay on heat mats (peppers and eggplants). In general, seedlings grow stronger and sturdier at cooler temperatures, 65-70 degrees daytime and 55-60 at night. Higher temps tend toward too much growth.
Air circulation
Good air circulation is necessary for disease prevention. Thin seedlings if too crowded. Brush seedlings with a hand to strengthen stems (simulating wind) or use a small fan.
Insufficient light causes weak, leggy growth. Window sills are not enough. Indoors, seedlings grow best under fluorescent lights. A standard 4-ft shop light fixture with cool white bulbs is adequate. Place the light 1 to 2 inches above the seedlings. Use a timer to leave the lights on 14 to 16 hours a day. Move the lights up as the seedlings grow. Or use boards, old books, or bricks to raise trays of plants if the lights aren’t adjustable.
Fertilize if seedlings are in pots for longer than 3-4 weeks. Use soluble fertilizer at half strength.
Continue to monitor moisture and bottom water. Let the top crust of the soil dry out before watering again.
Hardening off
Plants that have been sheltered inside need to grow accustomed to conditions outdoors before they move there permanently. Take them outside a little bit each day, first in indirect sunlight such as a porch; then, increase the time and exposure to light gradually. You can also cut back on the watering and decrease the inside temperature a bit. Such “hardening off” will prepare you seedlings for your garden.

You can find much more wonderful information at the Seed Libraries website. Thank you Hillary for the wonderful article and to Richmond Grows for the plentiful resources for seed savers and seed libraries across the country.

Don’t forget about the 10th Annual Seed Swap Saturday, February 2nd in downtown Chico!!

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10th Annual Seed Swap

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~ A Free Community Event for 10 Years! ~

Event Details

  • 11:30am-12:00pm ‘Home Grown Seed Share‘ -open early for people with home grown seed to share AND all people affected by the Camp Fire
  • 12:00pm-3:00pm Seed Swap Potluck Style
  • Plant & Scion Swap
  • **‘Garden Space Connections’ -Help connect gardeners in need of space in 2019 with gardeners who have space to offer
  • Seeds & Plants For Sale
  • Community Non-Profits
  • Food & Beverages For Sale (courtesy of Chico Natural Foods!)

**New this year, ‘Garden Space Connections’! In light of the Camp Fire we want to help connect people who cannot utilize their own gardens this coming season with those who have garden space to share!


What To Bring

  • Surplus Seeds, Bulbs, Plants, Cuttings & Scion to Exchange
  • Used Envelopes/Containers & Pens/Pencils (please label your items)


To Volunteer

We need volunteers to help us make the 10th year of the seed swap a huge success, please consider volunteering for a shift or two. It’s simple and easy to do online: https://www.volunteersignup.org/YLCRA

For More Information

Hosted By

Sponsored By

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SPONSOR THE SEED SWAP? Contact us at info@chicoseedlendinglibrary.org



~ Donations Help Keep The Seed Swap Going ~

The Annual Seed Swap and the Chico Seed Lending Library (CSLL) are programs that are fiscally sponsored by Earthshed Solutions, a 501(c)(3) public charity. If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation to help keep the Seed Swap going strong please follow the link to make an online donation or contact us at info@chicoseedlendinglibrary.org.


New Tomato Varieties


Our warm season seed inventory grew at our last ‘Lettuce Get Together’ thanks to volunteers! We have many new varieties of TOMATOES and new flowers and herbs as well.


  • Tigerella
  • Pink Ponderosa
  • Pink Caspian
  • Jubilee
  • Beefsteak
  • Stupice
  • Black Krim
  • Brandywine OTV
  • Chadwick’s Cherry
  • Marvel Stripe

We have both determinant and indeterminate varieties to choose from; each packet tells you which is which. What does that mean?

There are two main growth habits for tomatoes (from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange):

Determinate varieties grow to a certain height (usually 2-3ft) then stop growing and mature all of the fruit in a short period of time.  Many paste tomatoes are determinate. These varieties are great for canning and well suited to growing in short or split season areas

Indeterminate tomatoes keep growing, flowering and setting fruit until stopped by frost, disease, or really bad weather. Most Cherry and large beefsteak tomatoes are indeterminate, They need to be caged or staked with a really sturdy support.  Most really large heirloom tomatoes are indeterminate. These varieties are great if you have plenty of space, warm summer temperatures, and a long enough growing season.

What herb goes fantastic with tomato? BASIL! And we have several varieties to choose from.


  • Dark Opal Purple
  • Genovese
  • Italian Pesto
  • Mammoth
  • Profuma di Genova
  • Queenette Thai basil

Now all you’ll need is a good sourdough baguette and some quality olive oil and you’re in for a real treat!

Check out the latest seed inventory pages for the full breakdown of what Chico Seed Lending Library has for you to borrow, grow out, harvest and return!




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Seed Starting Tips -Spring

2017-03-20 11.29.05

If you attended the 9th Annual Seed Swap you now have loads of seeds for your gardens. In this post we’ll give you some basic vegetable and herb seed starting tips to help you on your way to a bountiful garden.

This is last opportunity to plant some cool season crops! Many cool season crops are planted in late summer or early fall for harvest over winter and spring. However there are some vegetables that can be planted in early spring if they are fast maturing. Cool season crops are those that grow best and produce the best quality when the average temperatures are 55°F to 75°F and are usually tolerant of slight frosts.

Warm temperatures will force some crops to “bolt” which means it will go into flower mode rather than leaf/stem growing mode. And for things like Broccoli where we eat the immature flowers this is not good if the flowers mature faster than we can harvest and enjoy them!

Look for information on the seed packet or online to see how long each variety takes to reach maturity and plant those that will be ready for harvest within 60 days or less and/or are slow bolting varieties. We’ve marked crops with an * to note which you should ensure are fast maturing.

Some Summer crops can be started indoors now or in a sheltered area with heat applied to prevent the seed from rotting. Summer crops require heat and while crops in the Tomato family can take 1-2 months until transplanting size squashes, melons and beans only take a couple of weeks so shouldn’t be started indoors until mid to late March. Many herbs can also be directly sowed in the garden for harvest and enjoyment later in the season.

Seed to start indoors or in a warm sheltered area:

  • Artichoke
  • *Broccoli
  • *Cabbage
  • *Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • *Collards
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leek
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes

Seed to direct sow/plant outdoors (all but root crops can be started indoors if desired):

  • Asian Greens (bok choy etc.)
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Chives
  • Fenugreek
  • Lettuce
  • Mache
  • Mustard
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Turnip
  • Borage
  • Calendula
  • Cilantro
  • Clover
  • Dill
  • Lemon Balm
  • Parsley

NOTE:  These are recommendations pooled from successful farmers and gardeners according to our “typical” seasons. Use this information as a good starting place but don’t interpret it as absolutely perfect for every location. Some years may vary and some yards have unique microclimates so don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you and your gardens.

Many thanks to Sherri Scott, CSLL seed librarian and Grub Grown Nursery owner, for her wisdom in compiling these seed starting resources.



Tomato banner 8-9-16
TUESDAY, AUGUST 9th from 4:30 – 7:00pm in the meeting room of the Chico Branch of the Butte County Library (1108 Sherman Ave. Chico, CA).

Do you have tomatoes coming out of your ears?

If you do bring in some of your favorite varieties for a Tomato Tasting and Seed Saving Demonstration! You’ll learn how to process & save your tomato seed for next season and taste some delicious local tomato varieties. And even if you don’t have buckets of tomatoes come on in anyway and enjoy!

At 4:30 we’ll start with our Seed Library Orientation for those who are new or would like to know more about how to best utilize CSLL. We’ll provide information about how our seed borrowing system works, our different levels of seed saving for returning or donating true to type seed and how to advance your knowledge of seed saving in general.

Around 5pm we’ll start packing seed for our inventory and discuss our monthly seed topic which is TOMATOES!

At each and every ‘Lettuce Get Together’ you are able to:

  • Become a member of CSLL (the only requirement is to be an existing library card holder; if you’re not it’s free and easy to do!)
  • CSLL Orientation to learn how to best utilize the seed library
  • Check out up to 5 seed packs per season
  • Seed saving education and discussions (discussions include timely local gardening information)
  • Package up diverse seed varieties

We hope to see you at our ‘Lettuce Get Together’. You can join our ‘LGT’ on Facebook too!

In Seedy Abundance,

~The Chico Seed Lending Library Team
Sherri Scott, Jane Hirtel, Joan Bosque, Stephanie Ladwig-Cooper and Sarah Vantrease

(CSLL is a collaborative program lead by Earthshed Solutions, GRUB Education Program and the Butte County Library)

CSLL Logo color 2016