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Old April 15, 2007   #1
MaterGal
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Default Stocky tomato plants

What might I do to grow stocky tomato plants? Is there ever a point when you might pinch the top leaves? I read something recently about "fluffing" or gently rubbing your hand over the tops of seedlings. Supposedly, it makes the stem stronger. My tomato plants are about 3 inches tall right now. Is there something I should be doing to make them eventually turn into sturdy tomato plants?
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Old April 15, 2007   #2
pooklette
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The only thing I do to keep my plants from getting leggy is:
  1. I put them only a few inches beneath my shop lights so they don't have to 'stretch' up toward the light.
  2. I set up a fan across the room, point it toward the plants and run it on low. I assume this has the effect of a gentle wind and my plants seem to do much better outside when they get the 'fan treatment' prior to setting out.
That seems to work well for me. I'm not sure on the pinching thing. Wouldn't that damage the plant?

Last edited by pooklette; April 15, 2007 at 12:34 PM. Reason: I'm tired and my grammar showed it.
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Old April 15, 2007   #3
MaterGal
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This is my second year of growing tomatoes from seed. It does seem that pinching them would damage them. I guess I was thinking it works for my herbs, so... Yeah, you're right. The fan idea sounds great. I can do that. Thanks for the tip.
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Old April 15, 2007   #4
carolyn137
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I was just asked at another place about brushing the tops of the plants to make them stockier, so let me go back and cut and paste that post to here later.

As for pinching out the tops, I would never never do that.
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Old April 15, 2007   #5
carolyn137
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Below is what I wrote and cut and pasted from another site as I mentioned above. The person asked about it but also said it was for hardening off, which it isn't, and so that's why the last sentence re hardening off being a different issue.

*******



The initial observation was that in commercial greenhouses, which have narrow aisles, the plants along the aisles were bushier and stronger. And it was due to the workers brushing up against them as they went down those narrow aisles.
The phenomenon is known as thigmotropism, or response to touch.
The Cornell Coop ext in my area suggested that commercial tomato growers brush the tops of the plants with a broom handle a couple of times a day, but as my commercial friend Charlie noted, it takes him and his workers sometimes up to 6 hrs a day just to water what's in the greenhouses, so there's really no time for that.
Besides, all greenhouses have huge exhaust fans and they can help as well. So home growers can stroke their plants and/or run a fan on low speed over the tomato seedlings as they grow,
Hardening off is a totally separate issue. ( smile)
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Old April 15, 2007   #6
Rena
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I grow my seedlings with a fan blowing (pretty brutally high) lol and I flip the trays when I think about it. I give them the night off when I turn my lights on then back again in the morning.
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Old April 16, 2007   #7
Noreaster
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I'm with IMISSCOLO......I have 3 fans going 24 hours, and For 3 years now, I begin this after seedlings are transplanted into 3 1/2 inch pot (about 10 days after germination).

It has amazed me how strong it makes these seedlings in having to face up against "nature's" windy forces. It definitely works in making seedlings much stockier.
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Old April 16, 2007   #8
shelleybean
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I keep my fan on high and on 24 hours a day too. Lights are only on 16 hours a day. The fan dries the soil out pretty quickly but it does help keep them stocky.
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Old April 16, 2007   #9
Bryan24
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This year, we had the best seedling ever. I think we just left them on the back patio table as soon as it hit over mid 30-ish. Moved into the sun during the day. And if it got REALLY cold, we moved them back inside, if they were still in trays. The potted up ones pretty much had to fend for themselves. After a couple of weeks of this, we moved the table into morning sun, afternoon dappled light, where it stayed. Got stocky, fairly compact little plants that were very happy when transplanted, no shock.

Last year, we used a fan in the garage, with lights. It worked well enough, but I think this years worked better for us for a few reasons. First, we're very mild climate, so we took advantage of it. Second, the plants required less attention than they otherwise would.

I did, however read somewhere, some time back, about a lady who used a feather duster, in addition to the fan, to brush the plants, thus strengthening and thickening the leaves and stem. Don't know if it works, though. We've lost our feather duster....

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