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Tinier tomatoes

Tinier tomatoes

Big experiment. The last 200 tomato seedlings were started only three weeks ago, way late compared to starting dates in the past. They were also quite crowded in 200-cell trays. Now, I’m transplanting them to 38-cell plug sheets, maybe a little over half the volume of the usual 3″ pots. The experimental part is whether they’ll produce as fast as the rest, which were started earlier and are now in bigger pots. I suspect so (or I wouldn’t be trying it!), but you never know. You can get only so much info and advice before you just have to see for yourself (I’ve read that only special extra deep pots makes a difference, a few weeks of extra growth before transplanting doesn’t). I think I’ve been spending too much time producing seedlings that look great if they were for sale, but are unnecessarily big for setting out in the field. If this works out, I’ll save a ton of time next year.



  1. I’m watching closely. I started my first tomatoes off a bit late this year so I’m looking for all the advice I can get! Still only at the seed leaves stage…

  2. I did more or less the same thing this year, partly in the theory I could save on my electric bill with a few less weeks of lights for the plants. I’m not doing anything scientific like comparing them with other plants started earlier, but I also suspect it won’t make much difference.

  3. MattM

    I would love to know how this turned out. When compared with older/deeper potted equivalents, did these perform closely out in the field over the season?

  4. Michael Crown

    Something else to try is air-pruning pots, such as Root Maker. They create much better roots and might be another way around this prob.

  5. MattM: I don’t have very precise results, because as the season got busy, I didn’t keep notes (this happens!). Definitely, there was no big difference between early starts transplanted from 3″ pots, and the later plugs from 38-cell sheets, but there may have been a week or two diff in transplant to harvest time that I didn’t notice because of the many varieties with varying DTMs. This year, I intend to be more organized for…phase 2. I’m going to do the majority of the toms in the shorter mode, and I’ll make sure to have a few varieties that I’m pretty familiar with in both sets, so there’ll be a direct variety comparison.

    Michael Crown: Thanks for the suggestion. That could work, but I can’t see the extra expense in materials and labor being worth it in this situation, with so much else going on. If I were going for the absolutely earliest possible toms, I’d try really deep pots and 8 weeks. Air-pruning for now goes on my list of things to try on a tiny scale at some point…!

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