Space-age tomato seedlings

Space-age tomato seedlingsOK, I take it back. I’m not really done with the in-house seed experimentation. I’m just done with the part where I actually have to do any of the work.

See, in my closet, there sits a test tube. A test tube filled with tomato seedlings. Ladies and gentlemen, meet The Plantarium.

This little test-tubey kit was a thank-you gift from the four-and-a-half-year-old and her parents, in honor of my dutiful care of the sunflower seedlings. By care, I mean, the not killing thereof.

Shortly after Steve and I returned the sunflower seedlings to their rightful owner, she presented me with the Plantarium kit, and promptly led me to the dining room table to get the seeds planted.

Here’s what you get with the kit:

  • A test tube filled with lethal gel (I’ll get to this later) that can’t possibly pass any organic gardening tests;
  • A small plastic bag of seeds; and
  • A wooden stick.

The instructions caution strongly against EVER touching the lethal gel (they don’t describe it as lethal, but why else am I strongly cautioned not to touch it?) or the seeds themselves. The four-and-a-half-year-old and I carefully opened the package of seeds and dumped them in, then pushed them into the lethal gel with the wooden stick.

I carried the stick into the kitchen. “This has touched the gel,” I said. “Do we have to burn it or something?”

The four-and-a-half-year-old’s father slid open the drawer holding the trash can. “Drop it in,” he said. “As long as I don’t have to touch it, it’s OK.”

Once that initial bit of seed placement was finished, the next step was to stick the test tube in a dark room. That’s all. The seeds are now ensconced in our guest room closet.

As you can see from the picture, the gel might be lethal to humans, but tomato seedlings seem to like it.

The instructions also caution strongly that one should not re-open the seeded container until it’s time to take out the seedlings. That will be a thrill on its own, folks, because I’m going to have to get the seedlings out…WITHOUT TOUCHING THE LETHAL GEL.

The product claims to have been developed by Globus International in collaboration with NASA scientists. In other words, I have space-age tomatoes growing in my closet right now. Don’t touch.

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17 Responses to “Space-age tomato seedlings”


  1. 1 Yolanda Elizabet April 5, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    What a weird kind of experiment that gel thingy. Personally I wouldn’t bother with it. Just pop the tomato seeds in a pot filled with potting ground, water it and wait for the seeds to germinate. No lethal gel involved at all. ;-)

  2. 2 Lydia April 5, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Very weird — but I’m guessing this would appeal to my six-year-old granddaughter! Please let us know how your seedlings feel about it.

  3. 3 Annie April 5, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    I’d be dying to know what the gel was made of. Why on Earth can’t you touch it? Won’t you be scared to eat the tomatoes that grow from such a medium?

  4. 4 Claire Splan April 5, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    You got me curious about the lethal gel so I tried googling to see what I could find out. I wasn’t able to find out what the gel actually is, but a couple websites indicated the stuff is nontoxic. If that’s the case, I’m guessing the reason that you’re not supposed to touch it is in order to keep it sterile–in other words, to protect the tomato seeds, not to protect you. I’m wondering if the gel could be the same type of stuff they use in tissue-culturing plants. I believe that stuff is called agar and I think it’s a natural substance.

    At any rate, it’s an interesting (albeit probably unnecessary) product. I wonder how hardy the plants will turn out to be, given their test tube conception. Keep us posted!

  5. 5 Carol April 5, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    I agree with Claire, I think the gel is sterile and if you had touched it, you might have contaminated it and be growing bacteria or something like that. I think it is what they use for tissue culture which is done in a sterile environment. Looks like an interesting project!

  6. 6 inadvertentgardener April 5, 2007 at 10:30 pm

    Yolanda Elizabet, I’m kind of into the experimentation of it all, I think. I’m curious to how these seedlings will hold up to the seedlings I ordered from Seedsavers.

    Lydia, I bet your granddaughter would love this! I’ll definitely keep everyone posted on how they do.

    Annie, I’m going to support Claire and Carol’s theory that it’s just a sterile growing medium — that makes good sense. I dunno…if it’s safe enough for the astronauts, I figure it’s safe enough for me!

    Claire and Carol, I think you guys are on to something with the sterile growing medium bit. It’s definitely an interesting project — yes, perhaps a little unnecessary, but aren’t the unnecessary things in life the most fun? :-)

  7. 7 Annie in Austin April 6, 2007 at 10:45 am

    Genie, I’m sure glad Claire found out the reason, because I really wanted to know, too. Although it’s a little disconcerting, isn’t it – to realize that in some cases, we’re considered dangerous to seedlings? Makes me wonder what else I’ve done. Good luck with the tomatoes!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  8. 8 the mint killer April 6, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    as if it would be any surprise, being that i am a plant killer, our tomato plants died when we repotted the seedlings. we didn’t touch the gel, and instead probably speared the seedlings to death trying to maneuver them out of the test tube. bad choice of tools perhaps?

  9. 9 kate April 6, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    I’m glad to hear that the gel just needs to be kept sterile … and good for you to have some seedlings on the go!

    Here’s hoping you’ll be eating big, red tomatoes from these plants – eventually!!

  10. 10 inadvertentgardener April 7, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Annie, I think there’s no question that I am a danger to seeds and seedlings. No question at all…

    Mint Killer, what tools did you guys end up using? Perhaps I’ll plan to choose differently.

    Kate, I’m hoping they work. If not, it’ll be a fun experiment. But still…it’s always better to end up with tomatoes than dead seedlings.

  11. 11 Katie April 8, 2007 at 10:35 am

    That’s a hoot! If you touch the lethal gel does it kill you are the seedlings? Puts life in perspective, doesn’t it?
    I’m dieing to hear how the seedlings turn out.

  12. 12 inadvertentgardener April 8, 2007 at 11:25 am

    Katie, either way, I’m definitely not touching it. No worries — I’ll definitely post a report as the seedlings escape their test tube!

  13. 14 inadvertentgardener April 8, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    Danielle, I definitely will.

  14. 15 Dan June 8, 2007 at 2:31 am

    The gel isn’t toxic, you just don’t want to grow other things with the seedlings.
    The gel has been around for some time (1960) but this could be the new and improved gel, if you want to do some reading on it you can look at this web site

    http://www.plantgel.com/History.pdf

    you can also buy the gel cristels (think gellow) that makes one gallen of this gel you can even color it and use it with house plants. Here’s the site

    http://www.plantgel.com/

  15. 16 inadvertentgardener June 8, 2007 at 8:40 am

    Dan, that’s interesting…and good to know. It’s fascinating stuff!

  16. 17 Merry Gardner April 25, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Hi all, my mother uses this medium to grow new seedlings from her cross polination project plants.. it is Ager and it is the same stuff we used in school to test for ‘dirty contamination’ of sinks in the bathrooms, school desks, kitchen counters etc..you would be supprised to find what bacteria grows where.. but to move the tomato or transplant it from the gell to another ‘soil’ all you need is a pair of disposable gloves and some water and a small sharp knife.. cut the seeds with roots apart .. you can leave the gel that sticks to them it will actually be a benifit to the roots to have some attached when planted.. plant and water well… OR plant the whole glob and when you have two or more fully formed leaves then you can seperate the plants easier and repot again into individual pots.. waiting untill you have a stronger plant with adult leaves will help it survive the transplant.. but it makes it a bit more chalanging to seperate the roots… try soaking in water and then gently massaging the roots apart… works and is easier than it sounds… I want to know what this plant needs for LIGHT?? nothing mentioned anwhere that I can find..


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