The very best intentions, plus ignorance

(The Tomato Chronicles, part 2)

So, to begin with, I bought and planted a lot of heirloom tomato seeds – probably around 70 – and pretty much all of them came up, much sooner than I expected.

Heirloom tomato seedlings just after sprouting

Tomato seedlings, only four days after planting the seeds

And that’s where I went wrong. I was told that tomato seeds need to be kept warm to germinate. What I heard was “tomato seeds and seedlings need warmth more than anything else, except maybe water.” Oops.

I kept my seedlings nice and warm up near the ceiling, about three feet away from the only light in the room. And it’s not a particularly bright light. And my seedlings grew and grew, and I was happy. Until I showed Sue the Master Gardener a picture of them.

“Oh, my, they’re leggy,” said Sue. “Are you giving them lots of light?”

“Oh, yes,” I said. “They’re not very far at all from the ceiling light. Only a couple of feet.”

“Well, they need more light so they won’t be so spindly,” said Sue.

“But if I put them in a window, they’ll be cold.”

Sue is a very patient person. “They only need to be warm till they germinate,” she said. “Too much heat and not enough light is what makes them so tall and thin. You need to get them under lights right away.”


So I spent several days trying to grow seedlings under a fairly wobbly light that kept trying to nosedive right into the starter trays. The tomatoes got taller and taller and twined around each other in loops and spirals and square knots. At last I gave up on lights and moved them to a windowsill.

A tangle of tomato seedlings with long fragile stems

Little tomato plants searching everywhere for light

They may not have been healthy, but they were determined. And I was showing my true colors as an abusive tomato mommy.

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