Tomato seedlings growth pauses at about 2 inches for weeks

Discussion in 'Seed Starting / Propagation' started by Beeker, Jul 17, 2021.

  1. Beeker

    Beeker In Flower

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    I am trying organic gardening.
    No matter if I direct sow outside or if I start them indoors, my tomato seedlings decide to take a break from growing at about 2 inches for weeks.
    When I direct sow, they sprout reliably, and do very well at first, but then pause and won't start really growing until they are at least a month old and if I start them indoors, earlier in the season the they refuse to get any bigger until I plant them outside and then wait for mid-summer to start growing. As usual at this point in the season, my tomatoes are now only a foot tall. Every year, I get a small handful of tomatoes and throw out a whole bunch of little green marbles in October.
    I purchase only heirloom seeds and have tried many different vendors and varieties.
    Is it weather? Direction? Soil?
    Please help. Any and all advice is welcome.

    I just had a thought; it seems like they pause at their 3rd set of true leaves. Does that mean anything?

    Thanks in advance.
     
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  3. Odif

    Odif Young Pine

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    Maybe not enough food. If the weather is too cold, they won’t grow either
     
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  4. Sjoerd

    Sjoerd Mighty Oak

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    Toms....yeah, they can be difficult, but usually it has to do with circumstance and HOW you grow them.

    I know that the actual growing season in New England is shorter than for folks (and plants) further South. It is the same in my country. We are in the north-west here, but down where the flooding is going on at the moment their season is much longer. The climatic and timing influences are so great that we have to grow our toms in a greenhouse.

    To illustrate this: we are doing a test this year with growing a certain type of tom outdoors (two plants) and the same type in the greenhouse. The plants outside are at this moment are a tad less tall than the ones in the greenhouse and have less trusses.

    Big temp swings between days and between daytime and nighttime temps can work against you (the plants). The only way that I can have some influence is to grow them in a protected way—in a greenhouse. I have also grown them in little cages that I made out of chicken wire, cellophane wrap and 4-5 sturdy sticks to hold it all together. I posted pics and explanation on here years ago.

    It is important that the air that the toms grow in remains warm at night, but in my opinion even more important is that the soil over and surrounding the roots holds the temp.

    New England and Holland are almost on the same latitude, perhaps some parts of NE are even more northerly. This means that you will have to do something about maintaining nocturnal heat. If you do not, your plants will be stunted and mat even fail. The blossoms can also fail off in some cases.

    If you want to take steps now, we can talk about it. Let me know.

    p.s. Toms are heavy-feeding plants. Perhaps they need even more enrichment. Try and find a good tom or rose fertiliser to help your plants eat enough.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2021
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  5. Netty

    Netty Chaotic Gardener Plants Contributor

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    My first thought was perhaps they needed fertilizing.
     
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  6. mart

    mart Strong Ash

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    When were these tomatoes planted ? They usually need more fertilizer than you can provide with organics ! What are you feeding with ?
     
  7. SeanLI

    SeanLI Seedling

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    I would 2nd or 3rd adding fertilizer . Perhaps the soil biology you are planting into isn't very robust?

    The more organic matter, the better the soil biology.

    Otherwise tomatoes just want water and as much sun as you can manage.

    Be sure to water lightly multiple times per day. A seedlings' initial root system is short and shallow.
     
  8. SeanLI

    SeanLI Seedling

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    What Sojerd said is important. Planting too early when you might still get a few nights in the low 50s or high 40s will mess up a warm weather veggie's development. Not necessarily frost, which would kill. But a deep chill will stunt the growth.

    So even if you start in a nice warm indoor area, if you transplant them and a cold snap hits, your babies are in trouble.

    And that happened to us this year. We got some temps in the 40s overnight in late May, if I recall properly.

    I think if you planted some tomatoes now:
    (1) into some nice nutrient rich potting soil,
    (2) kept it in the sun as much as possible, and
    (3) watered it lightly and often...
    you would have tomatoes by mid September, before any killing frosts.

    Best of luck!
     
  9. Beeker

    Beeker In Flower

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    Thank you all for the info and advice.

    It sounds like a really bad season issue.
    The beginning was warm days and cold nights which is usual for our area.
    Followed by a heat wave (could the hot sun have sterilized my soil?) and then cloudy and a lot of rain. The sun is only just starting to come out for an hour or two per day now. It has been very cloudy, hot and humid for a few weeks.
    I have them in raised beds that I filled halfway with topsoil and stirred in store-bought organic compost and peat moss. I'll stir in a little more food for fear that the weather cooked it out and/or washed it all away.

    Do you recommend I wait until the nighttime temperature is at least 50 before I plant them?
    Or invest in a couple of small greenhouses, like Sjoerd does?

    Thanks again!
     
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  10. Odif

    Odif Young Pine

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    I feed my tomatoes every week
     
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  11. mart

    mart Strong Ash

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    I also feed mine every week or two ! II use commercial fertilizer that is at least 13- 13- 13 !
     
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  12. Beeker

    Beeker In Flower

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    I was afraid to feed them too much since they are so small, especially since I am doing organic gardening. What do you recommend?
     
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  13. Sjoerd

    Sjoerd Mighty Oak

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    Beeker, my rule of thumb for feeding my toms is to not begin fertilising them until I see the first little tommy fruit...however small it is. Sometimes the Bride feels compelled to begin with their feeding when the flowers appear.

    Then I wait and see how the weather goes and how the plants come along. When things are rolling along, I alternate giving just water and water with comfrey tea.
    Again, I let the weather and rate of development dictate the frequency of watering and feeding. It isn’t an exact schedule for me. I do not want to over or under-feed my toms, so I am prudent.
     
  14. Beeker

    Beeker In Flower

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    Thank you, Sjoerd.
    I'm a flower-feeder too.
    How do you harvest your comfrey and make the tea?
    I think I recall you posting about it but can't find it.

    Everything takes off well when those flowers start arriving, but just getting to that point is difficult.
    This is a rough season, but even my early toms are at pace with the regular.
    Squash is doing very well and carrots have gone to seed.
     
  15. Sjoerd

    Sjoerd Mighty Oak

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    Hiya Beekeroo.
    I just remove the stalks with leaves on them(but not the flowers), chop them up and chuck them into a bucket with a good lid, and fill the bucket with rainwater, or water that has sat out in the open for at least a day.

    I let it breakdown for at least two weeks.

    When ready to use, I pour the smelly liquid through a sort of sieve , and this “tea” I then mix with plain water and give it to the toms.

    Take a look here:
    https://www.gardenstew.com/threads/comfrey-a-different-kind-of-fertilizer.9181/#post-86219
     

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