Site icon Maryland Grows

Timing those tomato plants, and identifying garden seedlings

I started my tomato seeds only yesterday, and no, that is not an April Fool’s joke. That is a goal achieved: resisting temptation to get going too early. Getting out of March tomato-free. I finally did it!

Here are the reasons I waited so long:

Tomato plants from a previous year, pictured a couple of weeks before they could be planted

Confession time: when I was a newbie gardener, I couldn’t wait and started my tomato plants in February. It was not a success. Over the decades since, my starting time has been creeping forward. In the last few years, it’s been in the last week of March. Finally bumped up to April! My plants will not be huge in mid-May, but that’s fine; as long as they’re strong and get a chance to harden off before planting, they should settle in happily. Probably more happily than the trees of yesteryear.

On another seed-starting topic, I often hear from gardeners who have sown seeds directly in garden beds and then can’t tell the desirable plants from the weeds. As far as I can find, there isn’t one definitive source for what brand-new vegetable sprouts look like, but you can do a search and likely find an image for what you’re trying to grow. Another hint: if there are a bunch of similar sprouts that are lined up, those are probably the plant you want, assuming you sowed them in a line.

It’s important to remember that the cotyledons or seed leaves, the first leaves that show up after a seed has germinated, often don’t resemble what we call the “true leaves” of the plant, which are the ones that might look familiar to you if you’ve seen the plant before. Here are a couple of examples from plants that might be sown outdoors (although these weren’t):

A typical cabbage family seedling; this one happens to be purple pak choi, but those heart-shaped seed leaves are distinctive. Note how different they are from the true leaves.
This is a spinach seedling. The seed leaves look like grass! – except not, because there are two identical ones, and grass would put out one at a time. The true leaves are shorter and more rounded.

It’s very exciting to have seeds coming up and plants growing! Happy April!

By Erica Smith, Montgomery County Master Gardener. Read more posts by Erica.

Exit mobile version