Starting Tomato, Cucumber, Watermelon, and Pepper Seedlings

Yesterday, April 7, 2008 , I planted my first seeds of the year. If you’ve never started your own plants from seed before, you’ve got to try it – it’s amazingly simple! Here’s what I did.

First I collected my supplies:

  • A plastic starter tray complete with transplanting inserts (72 cells)
  • Some potting soil
  • Plastic labels (plastic margarine container lids cut into strips)
  • And yes, seeds
Planting Seedlings

Then I filled the cells with the potting soil and lightly patted them down. Each cell then received a finger poke in the center. My daughter and I then dropped two seeds in each little hole. (The weaker of the two seedlings will get pinched out after they’ve sprouted.)

Here’s what I planted:


  • Blushing Beauty
  • Early Prolific
  • Fat ‘N’ Sassy


  • Oxheart
  • T & T Monster
  • Brandywine
  • Betterboy
  • Sugary
  • Sweet Baby Girl
  • Sweet Cluster


  • Summer Dance
  • Improved Long Green
  • National Pickling
  • Diva


  • Sweet Beauty
  • New Queen
  • Canada Early

Of course, I wanted to plant a few more varieties, but I was slow to get my seed order in. So I still wait for Lemon Boy and Big Beef tomatoes, Jade Star and Sweet Favorite watermelons, and Atlantic Giant pumpkins.

Then I covered up my little seeds with soil, dampened the soil with water from a spray bottle on ‘mist’ setting, placed a clear plastic lids on the tray, and placed them all under two florescent lights I had set up. (That gives me four bulbs/tubes set about six inches above the soil.)

Planting Seedlings

So now we wait. I only started planting my seedlings indoors last year (as opposed to directly sowing them in the ground), so I’m still working on perfecting the art. Last year a lot of plants were leggy, but I think I’ve figured out the reasons why – but that’s for another post.

As for now, my question for you is: When do you start your seedlings? Lemme know!

Update: April 12, 2008
5 day old cucumber and tomato seedlings

Here’s what things look like after five days. Several cucumbers are a solid inch tall already, the tomatoes have just started to appear (you can see them in the background, and a few watermelons have popped out of the dirt. I’m always amazed at how fast these things sprout!

Update: April 21, 2008

I got my other seeds (see above) shortly after my last update. Here’s a couple of pictures of what everything looks like now.

15 day old cucumber and tomato seedlings
Peppers in the top left-hand corner, tomatoes center back and center front left, cucumber top right and center right, watermelons outside front.
Pumpkin Seedlings 2 weeks
These are the Giant Pumpkins – started about a week later than most of the above seedlings, but are huge!

28 replies on “Starting Tomato, Cucumber, Watermelon, and Pepper Seedlings”

I’d really like to hear how your watermelons turn out later in the year.

I started some seeds already in February. I’ve got some good sized purple cone flower, sweet basil (already “harvested” some when I pinched back the plants), and parsely. I also have some yarrow seedlings started from seedheads a neighbor gave me. I just took the six healthiest and put them in pots today. Last week I started some liatris bulbs and a couple bags of daylily roots.

I’ve run out of room under my lights and I still haven’t started the vegetables! We’ll probably buy some more bulbs and attached them to some of the wood shelving in the basement.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted on those watermelons. Last year I got two or three softball-sized watermelons that never got ripe. But the year before that I got two basketball-sized melons that were delicious!

My trouble is lack of space too. I don’t have a basement, but I do have two little kids who love digging. There’s only so much space at a height above three feet!

I will post current pics of my plants later today…I started my watermelons and pumpkins last week and they are growing! I’m very interested in how and where you plant your watermelons….as my father claims they just can’t be effectively grown here….( I would love to have a great crop to prove him wrong…lol) A tip for pumpkins…. we plant in peat pots as the roots are easy to disturb….(that is also from my father) How are things growing now???

The watermelons I’ve grown have been in my hoop-style greenhouse (cold frame). I can’t say how ‘effectively’ they grew, but the two melons I got in 2006 sure tasted good!

The watermelons I planted in 2006 were originally in peat pots that I transplanted into my greenhouse in the last week of April. Of the six seeds I sowed, only one actually survived long enough to produce. The ones that didn’t produce were planted in peat pots on April 7th, transplanted into the greenhouse on the 29th. Both were watered on automated soaker hoses. No fertilizer.

Things are growing pretty good now – though I’ve had to re-seed a few things.

I only had 2 come up out of 5 and I hope they make it……hmmmm, I need a hot bed or cold frame… the south of the house! Ps….only 3 more weeks until garden time!!!! I hope the weather stays nice!

It is so goo to see that your plants are growing well. My tomato seedling which are 20 days old started to grow well till now. All the leaves are becoming lifeless and dull. Not sure what the problem. I am getting worried. Any suggestions?

Hmmmm, perhaps you can further explain what they look like. Are they turning color? Drooping? Leaves curling? Or even better if you can, email me a picture and I’ll write a post about it! ([email protected])

Thanks for the great pictures and information. I live in Zone 0/North of 60 and have no chance of ever moving my plants outside the house. I planted my tomatoes and peppers in mid-February. If you thought your plants were leggy, imagine if they were planted on a window sill in the arctic when there was only 8 hours of daylight. But they are all flowering now and I’m anxious to see if they’ll produce ripe fruit. (Now we have 20 hours of daylight, and I have to make an effort to give them enough hours of darkness).
Next year I’m not sure if I will wait or not, but I may build a shelf greenhouse to provide more light. Cheers, great blog!

Thank you for posting your pictures of pumpkin seedling. I teach Kindergarten and will be taking my class to the pumpkin patch next week. I have been trying to collect pictures showing the pumpkin life cycle. Many of my kids have never experienced a garden, most live in apartments. I look forward to sharing your pictures. Thanks again!

I have also grown watermelon. Here in Nova Scotia I start planting watermelons outside around end of May (now). I start them under fluorescent lights a few weeks before (12 weeks ago) and then after a few weeks I place them by a sunny window (melons like sun). I purchased the Canadian variety (opposed to Californian variety which is not grown easily here). Last year I had a melon that was larger than what you buy at the store and very sweet. I am planting mine today or tomorrow along with the cantaloupe and squash. It has remained cool during the nights here (3-9 C) which is to cold for indoor started plants to go out. When the temperature overnight does not drop below 10C you can plant your melons (15C is best but in Nova Scotia without a green house you would be waiting until late July to plant them). I recommend placing a blanket of plastic wrap around your plants stem to keep the soil warm and moist below (you should also use loose well drained soil for best results). Partially bury the plastic wrap or other soil blanket material so it does not blow away and become trash! Good luck on your gardens : )

I am also trying to grow watermelon in canada (northern ontario, and was told that it could not be done. I have never grown melons of any type and I would love to know more. I have a package of ‘giant watermelon’…which i have yet to make a garden space for.. But it is still cool here at night (0-5 degrees celcius), so I figure that I have time. What kind of container should I use to start them indoors? and are they easily transplanted? because i want to grow them in pots for as long as I can…Im just wondering if it is even feasible with large watermelon? I’m not necessarily aiming for them to grow huge, as long as they taste good! 🙂
Any input would be much appreciated!

Lin: I know for certain you can grow watermelons in Canada (as I have) – though I don’t have personal experience in Northern Ontario. I found this article that I’m sure you will find helpful! It’s got all your watermelon growing questions answered!

I was wondering how you prevent your tomatoes, which you start as seedlings inside), from becoming too ‘leggy’. I planted a bunch inside and most of them are leggy! How can I stop this from happening next year? Thanks Dave!

It’s all about the light! The more light you can get them, the better they like it. Grow lights work great – or if that’s out of your budget, a cool and warm bulb in a florescent fixture just slightly above your plants work pretty good – though they too will get a little leggy after a while if that’s all the light they get.

Hey there! 🙂

Wonderful post. I have a question you may or not be able to help with: my watermelons shot up in my container (plastic small sections with plastic lid) and so we transplanted them to a container Black plastic large bucket type) outside, now it was really warm but they were watered and had plenty of good soil- what do you think went wrong? Because they were wilting by the end of the day and then I transplanted to a clay pot inside and they continued to wilt! I’m heartbroken because they were doing so well- do you think we should have just transplanted them directly into our garden? Your advice would be most appreciated as it seems you have green thumb.


It’s hard to say for sure, but I’ll give you my first guesses. Chances are it’s a combination of a few things. First of all, melons hate to be transplanted, so try to do as little as possible. You might want to start them in peat pots so you can plant the whole thing in your garden. I’m not sure how big your watermelon was when you transplanted, but the bigger the melon, the more difficult it is to successfully transplant. It’s a balancing act to know how early to start them indoors so they mature fast enough, yet aren’t too big to transplant successfully by the time you want to put them out. Also try to transplant on a cooler, cloudy day. Intense heat tends to stress transplanted plants. I hope that’s helpful and I hope your watermelons make a recovery!

That was most helpful- I thought the heat and over transplanting might be the problem. I appreciate your help! 🙂 Also, how big do you think they should be because they were seedlings about three inches high at most and two leaves (at the top) on each seedling? I didn’t think this was very big. Also we didn’t use peat pots but we scooped up all of their soil with them and planted them outside. They were in peat-sized divisions.

last year i planted three watermelon (early canada) and three cantelope plants what I did not know was you only need to water them every three or four days two of the watermelon’s died the one had some golfball size fruit . However I had some cantelope that were over four inches across that was my first year with that kind of fruit/melon this year i have a variety of peppers same watermelon and cantelope and lots of flowers and tomatoes totaling almost three hundred plants . so far I have over thirty peppers and thirty tomatoes corn,broccolli,basil,thyme,and many others.this is my third year gardening i live in northern alberta and am 24 years old.

Hi, Im new to the whole gardening and planting business, but it’s always been my dream to start a vegetable garden. In Edmonton, the season is pretty short, so Im starting tomatoes and other plants indoors. Id just like to know how to set up the fluorescent lights (in addition to the sunlight the plants get) over my plants. ive put them in a 5 shelf greenhouse bought from home depot. Thanks!

Roula, if it were me, I’d make sure I had one cool and one warm fluorescent bulb. Then I’d mount them just a few inches from the tops of my plants.

I started my seeds indoors all mine have came up good but i used the green house cover on mine to keep all the moisture in how long should i wait before not keeping the lid on them

Megan, I usually take the cover off mine when the first true leaves start to appear.

Hi … Im looking some info about how to start a vegetable garden this os the first time and Im looking an advice. What kind Of vegetable seeds do you recomend or which are easier and what are better to avoid because Im Beginer and i would like to have a nice vegetables.

When you transplant your tomatos ,make the hole deeper or lay your plants a bit flat so that 2 thirds are covered and they WILL grow stronger.

I’ve started some Crimson Sweet watermelon. They’ve all sprouted some taller than most. The problem is I’m unsure if I should plant them outside yet,since they only have two leaves. Out of ten plants 3 have wilted petals not stems. Wondering what have I done wrong? Any suggestions. I live in Texas zone 8

I have been planting watermelons since the early 1970’s.(usually get hailed out). (I am in eastern Montana, no frost from May 20 to mid Sept.) Now, I get some pieces of tin roofing and slant them from the northwest so that if a hailstorm comes from the northwest, some of the plant is protected. The tin wall is around 5 feet tall. Also I put hardware cloth directly over the plants, covering 6 feet. I still have some of the vines exposed and I use one inch in diameter chicken wire until it runs out.
But I really like the Sweet Favorite. It is inconsistent in flavor, but some are fabulous and it ripens one month after setting on here (catalogs do not list it as a very early ripening melon.)
But if you want to speed up the growing, I transplant a pot of two plants, put a small plastic covering over the two plants and put a heat lamp close to the plant. I can’t remember if I use a 100 or 60 watt bulb. I turn the lamp on at night and have a thermometer laying away from the plant to see that the temperature gets to 85-100 F overnight. I also cover the plastic with clothes or towels to help keep the temp from 85-100 F. Some days are cool and cloudy and I leave the lamp on during the day. The plants grow fast and you get a good head start for earlier melons (try with cucumbers also).
I also use a larger plastic “greenhouse” over a small bunch of about 30 Ambrosia sweet corn plants (don’t use a heat lamp). I pant two seeds to a pot probably April 20 and transplant May 1, then cover with clear plastic. I get sweetcorn the last day of July. I also have two more succession plantings and get corn from late July to mid September. Sometimes I have to throw leaves and grass clippings over the greenhouse if we get snow in early May.

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