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Tall Leggy Tomato plants

I must be doing something wrong. My tomatoe plants get so leggy. I keep them under grow lights 24 hours a day.(after I read that Mike McGrath said that was the best) They live in a somewhat cool room, about 65 degrees. I keep the grow light close and move it as they grow and now all of their heads are in the bulbs, I can't move them any higher.
They look healthy and I always get tons of big, juicy fruit, but why don't they look like the ones from the garden shop? You know, thick stemed and busy. I do feed them with foliar spray every two weeks. Can I chop their heads off? My Roma's are on the short side but my cherries are really looking like vines. My slicers are still young. Maybe I can do something with them yet.
I still have 2-3 weeks before putting them out and I'm afriad I'll have to put up trellises in my spare bedroom. What do you all do?
 
Making a splash on the Kings River in Northwest Arkansas. Zone 6a
Jae,

Do you usually start your plants early? Perhaps you might want to consider starting them next season, just a couple of few weeks later. Your in Z6 and I'm just barely above you in Z6A7B...and I only just seeded mine this weekend. I used to start mine in mid March, and wound up in the same predicament you're in now!

One other question: As much as I love McGrath....if he said to keep the plants under lights 24/7...I'm sorry, I think he's wrong. Most every other bit of literature on flourescent growing recommends [u]16-18 hours[/u]. Plants need to "shut down" or "sleep" for a period of time during the day. They can't be photosynthesizing all the time. You'll notice that nursery plants are grown only with available daylight within the greenhouse. There's no supplemental lighting. That means they're in darkness from sundown till dawn. As they would be when planted outside. I believe this period of "dormancy" is what bulks them up. Also, have you noticed that when you put your plants outside to harden them off, they slow down (remarkably) in their growth, yet their stems get fatter? This is why I think that in addition to starting them too early, they're getting too much light.

I've never cut mine back (when they did get leggy), but I suppose it's worth a try. You won't kill them. Long as the rootball is okay. (BTW: The roots aren't girdled are they?) If they are, you might want to consider transplanting them into bigger containers and burying their stems as much as you can.

I'm sure there'll be other suggestions. Just keep your fingers crossed that it warms up enough so that you can at least put those 'maters out in a protected area to harden them off.

Meanwhile... Good luck and....Let em sleep a bit! Razzer

gardenz
 
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i've read that you should keep flats on heat and light 24 hours UNTIL they start to sprout. once they sprout, cut back to 16 hours and take them off the heat. i actually think my first round of peppers never sprouted because they never got a 'rest' being on lights and heat 24 hours for a couple weeks.

i start things too early all the time, usually ending up with some leggy tomatoes, and here are my recommendations:

+ make sure the light is just a few inches above the plants. more than 3" and they will have to stretch to reach the lights.

+ many books recommend touching or blowing on the plants to keep them from getting leggy. sort of like producing a light brreeze like they would be exposed to in the garden. in the march/april og, they recommended keeping a small fan on seedlings to provide the same stimulation to prevent legginess, and also to cut down on mildew/mold. brilliant! we did this and it has worked really well.

+ when i transplant, first to peat pots and then to the garden, i bury the plants all the way up to the first leaves. this creates a stronger root system, so even plants with some legginess will have more support.

hope this helps!
 
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I have legy tomatoe seedlings tot but they are only about three weeks. It never bothered me if my tomatoes got leggy because i know they can be buried deeper and will do just fine.I've also done the same with melon seedlings.
 
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Thanks for all of the suggestions. I'm hooking up the timer, I guess about 16 hours of light. The roots are still OK, but if I had the room, I'd repot them into larger, deeper pots. I might get my wall-o-waters set up and warming.

I think I just start to go crazy, wanting to be gardening and jump the gun and getting my tomatoes started. I need to make a chart as to when to plant, when to start plants, etc., and STICK to it.
 
Making a splash on the Kings River in Northwest Arkansas. Zone 6a
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I agree with the earlier posts.

In addition to cutting back the light, get that small fan blowing on the seedlings. You will have healthier plants and they will bulk up a little bit due to the breeze moving them around.
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Zone 3 NW Wisconsin: Left the city in '98, hardly been back since!
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