Sow-a-long Update
It’s been four weeks since the “sow a long” seeds were sown and the seedlings are coming along just fine.

All five Tumbling Toms are now in their own 3 inch pots and have been given their first feed. Feeding isn’t essential if they are in good quality compost, but I usually give them a foliar and root drench feed with Miracle Grow or Organic Liquid Seaweed just after transplanting.

Here’s their progess at four weeks.

Why tomato seedlings become leggy
One of the problems with growing tomato plants at this time of year is when plants grow too high searching for light and become spindly or leggy.

Here are a few tips to prevent this happening or at least slow them down.

  • Under-water rather than over-water.
  • Keep plants in as much light as possible – a sheet of white paper directly behind them helps reflect light back on the plants.
  • Higher temperatures (above 20C) when days are cloudy will also make them become leggy.

It’s a difficult balancing act between light, warmth and water. Lots of light – medium temperature – low water.

Of course they do need to be watered but after a good watering, allow the compost to become quite dry before watering again. If the seedlings/plants start to look limp, give them a spray of water, then water them thoroughly again.

Different Varieties – Different Reaction to Low Light
Tumbling Tom is a bush variety that doesn’t become leggy in  low light conditions. However, most varieties do such as Red Alert which will shoot up like a rocket unless kept under control.

I have found that Black Cherry is rather unusual for a tall variety because it doesn’t shoot up as most other tall varieties do. I guess that is one of the advantages of growing a black variety plant that originates from a cool area of the world – eastern Europe / Russia.

April is the Last Chance for Sowing
If you haven’t already sown your first batch of seed, April is the best month to sow because the weather is more favourable than earlier in the spring. However, April is also the last opportunity to get those seeds in seed compost because if sowing in May, the plant probably won’t be ready in time, fruiting, before the cold weather sets in later in the year.

Tomato Plug Plants – Pot Ready Plants
You can of course buy tomato plug plants at the garden centre or by post and this is a very good option for those who have little time to fuss with seeds but would like their own tomatoes.

For more about plug plants and pot ready plants, please go to the tomato plug plants page.

Anyway, I hope that your plants are doing well and I’m always happy to receive emails and answer any questions.

If you have a pic of your seedlings that you would like to share, I would be very interested to see it and put it on the website.

Best wishes,
Nick

11 Responses

  1. sal marino
    | Reply

    when is the best time to start growing patio tomato plants in connecticut

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Sow about eight to ten weeks before your estimated last frost date.

  2. Dee Wright
    | Reply

    I grew Babino tomatoes last year, not being sure whether they were a bush or cordon varety, grew them as a cordon. I am growing the same again this year as they were delicious flavour and I had a massive crop. I grew them in grow bags, but was wondering if individual pots would be better as I have a patio garden and would find pots eaier to move about and if so what size pot ? Thanks for your advice

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Dee,
      I’ve not tried this cordon variety but they look very good with clusters rather like bush varieties.
      I usually grow cordon varieties in grow bags up against a support of some kind like a wall or supported with string from above. If you grow a tall variety on the patio in a large pot, you may have an issue with keeping it upright, especially in windy weather, so it will need to be against a wall or fence or supported from above etc.

      Tomato pots for final position come in about a 9 inch size, but I like to use the larger plastic pots – they’re about 16 inches across at the top but narrower at the bottom. I usually put two plants in one pot at this size (see link below).
      http://www.tomatogrowing.co.uk/html/growing_tomatoes_on_the_patio.html

      Growing in an old bucket – with a hole in of course! – is quite a good idea as it will contain more room for roots than a 9 inch pot.

      Using compost with John Innes added is good for stability as John Innes is heavier than just multi-purpose alone.

      Hope that helps,
      Regards,
      Nick

  3. Avril
    | Reply

    I would like to thank you for taking the time to do the sow-a-long and all the information you have already supplied on this website. I am following the sow-a-long, although I am 2 weeks behind, living Scotland. I have picked up loads of useful and new information that I am trying out this year. I had a not too bad crop last year, with a few problems. I have already learnt where I might have gone wrong last year with watering from the top and watering in general, as I had a problem with fungus gnats. I’m watering from the bottom this year and I’m also going to purchase some perlite. Hopefully I will have an even better crop this year with all your advice.
    I must say how much I look forward to your weekly newsletters. Thank you so much for all your time and information and taking the time to educate people like myself who love home grown tomatoes and teaching us how to do it!

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Avril,
      Thank you for your kind words, it’s good to be appreciated and makes it all worth while – I hope you have a great crop this season!
      Best wishes,
      Nick

  4. Andy
    | Reply

    So far I’ve followed your advice and we have tomato plants but they are definitely much smaller than yours. We started them in a propogator and have transferred to pots with compost and perlite. We’ve not watered them yet but have sprayed them with a weak water and miracle grow and they are on the window will. So now we can water them, should we do this by soaking them for a few minutes in the sink or would that be too long. Also should I be worrying that the plant aren’t as matured as your own?

    Andy

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Andy,
      Soaking them in the sink is ok as long as the soil doesn’t become soaking wet. When watering, I use the weight of each pot to tell how wet or dry the compost is. It’s amazing the difference in weight between wet and dry compost.
      After a good watering from below, let them become almost dry before watering again.

      I’m growing Tumbling Tom which looks more bushy than most varieties at this stage, and they don’t become leggy as many varieties do at this time of the season.

      Another reason for my plants constant growth is that I don’t allow night temperatures to drop too low – maybe your windowsill gets a bit cold at night and this would slow them down. I bring my seedlings into the dining room – much to the amusement of my long-suffering wife!

      It sounds as if you are doing everything right.
      Regards,
      Nick

      • Andy
        | Reply

        Nick
        Thats great, I obviously need to keep them a tad warmer and I’m soaking them now.
        Andy

  5. Joseph
    | Reply

    I have transplanted my tomato seedlings and put them in the unheated greenhouse.I now have doubts about this as they were in a propagator,have I been unwise.
    I am in the process of changing my email address but wiil advise you of the change.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Joseph,
      It is still a bit early to put them out in the greenhouse at the moment.
      Towards the end of April is the usual time for leaving toms out at night in the greenhouse unless you have a greenhouse heater.
      My plants are in the house at night and greenhouse and sunny windows during the day.
      Best wishes,
      Nick

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