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. :)