Q. I've heard about so many ways to grow tomato and other tender plants early - from using Wall-O-Water's to taking bottom out of wastebaskets, and they all seem to be a lot of work, with no guarantee of success. What do you suggest for someone who's serious about growing high-value crops like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants?
A. If you are only growing a few plants methods you use may not be all that important. However, if you are wanting to grow a sizeable garden or maximize your production, you should pay careful attention to following procedures as taught by Garden Doctor, Jacob Mittleider. Dr. Mittleider's methods have been extensively tested and proven highly effective in 30 countries around world. If these instructions seem difficult or too much work, just consider that you are learning "The Poor Man's Hydroponic System" that will give you yields of tasty and healthy vegetables between 3 and 10 times what your neighbors get. Here is a summary of procedures:
1. Plant your tomato, pepper, or eggplant seeds 8 to 12 weeks before average last spring frost date - 8 weeks for 8-10" plants in 4" pots, and 12 weeks for 12-14" plants in gallon pots. Peppers and eggplant will take a little longer than tomatoes.
2. Prepare growing mix by combining 25-35% sand and 65-75% sawdust (or other clean material such as peat moss or perlite, etc.), and adding Mittleider Pre-Plant Mix at rate of 1 1/2 ounces per 18" X 18" X 2 3/4" seedling flat. You can make your own natural mineral nutrient mixes by looking in Fertilizer pages of Learn section on website at http://foodforeveryone.org/soil_bed_fertilizing/49/how-do-i-mix-the-pre-plant-formula.
3. Using plain water, thoroughly wet mixed materials, let sit overnight, then plant about 100 seeds in each of 6 or 7 very shallow rows in flat and sprinkle sand over top, just sufficient to cover seeds.
4. Place burlap over flat, water gently so as not to move seeds, and keep soil moist, but not soaking wet in temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees fahrenheit. No light is needed, but cold temperatures will kill germinating seeds, so pay particular attention to maintaining temperatures in this range if possible.
5. As soon as sprouts emerge, water through burlap, then remove burlap and place flat in full light all day long. Waiting even a few hours will cause your plants to "stretch" looking for sunlight, and will create long, skinny, weak stems, from which your plants will never fully recover. Temperatures can now be cooler than for germination, but remember that your plants will go dormant if temperatures go much below 60 degrees for any length of time.
6. Begin watering daily or as needed to maintain soil moisture, with Constant Feed solution of 1 ounce Weekly Feed mix in 3 gallons of water (16 ounces in a 55 gallon barrel). Continue with Constant Feed watering until plants are placed in garden.