Tomato seedlings: experimenting with sowing times

Every year I always grow lots of tomatoes. I usually sow them in mid March for planting into the greenhouse border or outside. The plants could be planted in the greenhouse border in mid April in theory but in practice two things prevent this. Firstly I like to make sure there are flower buds developing in the tips of the plants before I plant them out, because I believe this ensures that the first truss of fruits is low down and the plants do not just make lots of stem. Secondly the greenhouse borders are packed with trays of seedlings until late April when I start moving most of them outside to ‘harden them off’ before planting in the garden.

Last year a minor disaster meant that all my early sowings died so I had to repeat the sowings in late March. Having been trauma-free this year, so far, I thought I would experiment with sowing times to see when really is the best time to sow. I also thought it might be interesting to see how much sowing time affected when I got that first tomato of the season.

To do this I chose two fairly random varieties and sowed them on three dates. These were ‘Mortgage Lifter’ and ‘Ferline’, both large-fruited varieties.

To give them the best chance I sowed two seeds per cell into three cells for each. If both seeds germinated I removed the weaker. Transplanting always gives the plants a small check to growth and this way I was hoping to give the plants as easy a life as possible. All were sown in multipurpose compost with some perlite added.

Seeds were sown on February 2, February 23 and March 17, at three-weekly intervals. There is six weeks between the first and last sowing.

It is far too early to make any conclusions yet but I would say that the second sowing is catching up on the early sowing. I kind of expected this because growth would be slower in February because of the poor light and lower temperatures. Even so, there are buds starting to form in the early-sown ‘Ferline’. I am going to have to move some trays and get them planted soon or my experiment will be compromised. There is a dramatic difference between the second sowing and the last sowing at the moment.

Tomatoes sown on February 2

Tomatoes sown on February 2

Tomatoes sown on February 23

Tomatoes sown on February 23

Tomatoes sown on March 17

Tomatoes sown on March 17

More to follow…


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2 Comments on “Tomato seedlings: experimenting with sowing times”

  1. sueturner31
    April 7, 2015 at 10:07 am #

    Mr Malc says …Blimey they’re big. Bigger than mine…. he’s only jealous….

    • thebikinggardener
      April 7, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

      Well there is no need to be jealous – the early ones are big but just look at the late ones 🙂

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