Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Growing Your Own Tomatoes – The Pros and Cons of Seeds

Totally missed my 100th post. I'm a centenarian now! :)

Growing your own veg is a brilliant thing to do. You save money, reduce waste and food miles, and it is immensely rewarding too!

Tomatoes are a favourite of many gardeners because they are fairly simple to grow (light + warmth + water + fertiliser = yummy tomatoes), but in my family at least there is a big debate over whether to grow the plants from seeds or pick up young plants from the garden centre.

The PROS of growing from seed
Cost – The obvious benefit of growing tomatoes (and most plants) from seed is that they are MUCH cheaper. Most seed packets (around 50 seeds) retail for around £1 to £1.50, whereas small plants in my local garden centre were 85p each. Even if you buy top quality seeds (F1 hybrids that are pretty much guaranteed to germinate, survive and produce a lot of fruit) for £3 a packet, you will get 15-20 good plants that will produce a lot of fruit.

Greater selection – If you look in a garden centre, they will probably be selling one variety of regular tomato plant and maybe a cherry tomato variety. In contrast, there are 5+ varieties of tomato seeds in my local garden centre. If you look online you will be truly spoilt for choice, with a massive array of seeds available for £1 plus a few pence postage.

Sense of pride – I love the excitement of seeing the first little seedling poking up through the soil. If you raise a plant from germination to fruition you get far more of a sense of pride than planting a tomato from the shop and collecting the fruits later on.

The CONS of growing from seed
Need a propagator – I said that tomatoes were fairly easy to grow, but they are quite fussy blighters. The seeds will not germinate if they don't get the conditions they like. They need to be kept at ~20°C, which at this time of year means that you will probably need a propagator. They also like to be not too wet, not too dry, with lots of light once the seedlings are up.

More susceptible to disease – Tomatoes are susceptible to “damping off”, a generic term for fungal rot which can affect both seeds and young seedlings. You can prevent this by storing seeds in dry conditions until ready to plant and by not over-watering them once planted. You should also ensure seedlings get a lot of light and the air is not excessively humid.

Require fairly constant care – Seedlings generally require a lot more looking after because they are not yet established. This means you will need to check if they need watering every 1-2 days and make sure you move them to a warm location if it will be really cold overnight. You also have to keep an eye out for disease because they are growing at such close proximity to each other and it will spread quickly through the young plants.

Do you prefer growing your tomatoes from a stock plant or from seed? Anyone tried both methods and can compare their yields from the two? For now I'll just watch my tiny seedlings grow in the window. :)


Meanqueen said...

I don't buy plants, it's seeds every time for me. I like the idea that I grow everything from scratch, gives me a sense of achievement. You don't need to buy propagators, you can make them from plastic bottles and plastic bags. The big square water bottles are ideal, yes I used to buy water. Lay one on it's side and cut almost all the way around with scissors, about two inches from the top, this makes the lid. Cut holes in the bottom for drainage.

SpanktheMagicMonkey said...

Although I don’t grow plants myself due to me forgetting about them I would think a good way to make a propagator would be to get a few flexible sticks from your garden. Bend them into an arc / make a tepee and wrap a bit of old bubble wrap around.

Also, congratulations on your 100th post (whenever that was, lol). YAY!

minimiser deb said...

Definitely seeds. I use plastic bottles too.Downside is I always end up with too many plants. But love to be able to give away seedlings and perhaps get different varieties back.

Jane W said...

Definitely seeds too. I find growing from seed very satisfying. I usually start them off on a warm and sunny windowsill and then gradually move them to cooler areas eventually ending up in the unheated greenhouse. I also don't buy the seeds - I dry the seeds from the tomatoes to use for the next years crop. I dry them on kitchen paper for a few days, remove any dried pulp and then fold in paper ready to be used the next year. In fact they do keep ok for a couple of years.

*Jellie* said...

Congrats on 100+ posts!
I've just started growing my first tomatoes so it is great to read all about it. I'm trying both seeds and a couple of small plants just to maximise my chances of success and to learn as much as I can!

kernowyon said...

I grow my chilli plants from seed - and get good success. Similar requirements to tomatoes (and of course they are from the same family) but with light, a bit of heat to get them going, easy even in the UK.

Even a plastic bag around the pot/tray will do to start the seeds of toms and chillis, but important to increase ventilation once they pop up.

skipandscatter said...

My mother used to both grow plants from seeds and buy some from the store. The store-bought ones of course were stronger and grew faster, but it was a lot of fun to see the little seedlings germinate as well.

We have a little patch of earth in front of our house, and when we moved in last spring we populated it with flowers. To our surprise, we also ended up with a huge cherry tomato plant. I don't know how it got there, but one morning as I was taking care of the flowers I stumbled upon the small tomato plant. Maybe it grew from some previously scattered seeds or a tomato that some birds or squirrels abandoned there. We took care of the plant and it grew into the biggest cherry tomato plant I have ever seen and it gave fruit well into the fall. Well, there you have it. Maybe it'll come back this year.

Oh, and happy centennial!

Malcolm Griffiths said...

Thanks for this...So good to see some clear info. on growing from seed.

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