In this newsletter I would like to discuss why it is possible to get unexpected results from first generation tomato seed – also known as F1 hybrid.

Here are just a few questions that I’ve received over the past few weeks that could be related to the quality of the seeds that were sown and not the way the plants were grown!

Also, I have to admit that I am unable to provide all the answers, however, if you have any thoughts on any of the following, I would love to hear from you!

Talkin’ ’bout My Generation
The first question adds fuel to the fire that tomato seeds aren’t always as consistent as we may expect.

I have a Tumbler F1 plant that was grown from seed bought from a well known seed company – the tomatoes have yellow stripes!

This suggests that some of these Tumbler hybrid seeds aren’t first generation tomato seed, so perhaps a few F2 seeds (second generation and unstable) have been added by mistake, by the seed farms in the third world who produce the hybrid seed for many of the wholesalers and seed companies.

Q. Hi Nick do you know why some toms grown from same seed packet in the same grow bag, some have hard skins and some are tender also what does F1 on the packet mean?

A. If the plants are grown under exactly the same conditions I would guess that it could be different generations of a variety in the same seed packet. Most F1’s are bought in quantity from India and China etc. where labour is cheap.

Hybrid seed has to be hand pollinated so seed companies buy seed from the third world where labour is cheap to reduce costs. The quality of this seed is in my opinion and experience, very inconsistent.

Genetics is a complicated affair, but when we spend so much time and effort growing our tomato plants, we should expect the seeds to produce the right variety!

F1 to F6 (not computer shortcut keys)
F1 means that they are a first generation hybrid, that’s the seeds from a cross between two different varieties. The next generation (seeds from the tomatoes of the F1 fruit) will be F2’s and so on.

It’s only when you get to about F6 that seeds become stable again – after F1, tomatoes can grow in all strange shapes and sizes until about F6 (generation 6).

Q. Hi Nick,
I am writing on behalf of my sister-in-law who does not have a computer.  She is over 80 years of age now and has grown her own tomatoes for YEARS!  She uses  Moneymaker seeds from a reputable firm.  She lives in Bognor Regis on the south coast and grows a few plants every year in her greenhouse.

She picked her first ripe fruit last week and it tasted foul!  She was so disappointed!  She tried another fruit from the same plant yesterday with the same result.

She wants to know what on earth has she done wrong?  She uses well mulched soil with bone meal added and is careful that the plants don’t dry out.  She fertilises the plants with Tomorite. Any suggestions as to why this has occurred and do you think the other plants will be the same?

A. To be honest, I don’t know why they should taste so bad if the plants and the fruit look ok. However, sometimes the first tomatoes that mature can taste different from those that mature a little later.

As you say, it will be very interesting to see if all the plants from the same seed packet are affected – it is possible that the seeds have been taken from a bad source and it is the seed source that is the reason for the bad tasting tomatoes.

Q. My Shirley tomatoes are very small , and the ripe ones have skins that are so tough , they are inedible. Any ideas what I am doing wrong? I have a new greenhouse with good compost beds, and liquid feed as necessary. Please help!

A. Tough skins are often the result of wide temperature fluctuations and inconsistent growing conditions.

Early (premature) ripening is often the result of plant stress or over feeding. There could be other reasons such as a problem with the seeds – did all the seeds come from the same packet? Are you growing other varieties and have the same problem with those?

By growing different varieties it is possible to compare one against another and this can be a great aid to solving problems with tomato plants and their fruit.

Changing the subject …

The Bees are Back
In the past week or two I’ve seen a few bees in and out of the tomato flowers – at last I won’t have the taste of pollen when I use my electric toothbrush!

The Five Tumbling Toms
It has been difficult to keep each plant to its own feeding regime, but the funny thing is, Brian (no food no sun) is the first to produce ripe fruit!

These results are a bit misleading because some of Brian’s toms set before the recent problem of fruit setting began – more on this next week.

Many people have experienced a delay with flowers pollinating and setting with the Tumbling Tom variety this season.

Please email me if you would like to: [email protected]


9 Responses

  1. Caroline Flynn
    | Reply

    Hi Nick,
    Thanks for all your advise, it has been very helpfull.
    Could you please advise how often i should be watering my plants.


    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Caroline,
      You just need to keep the soil moist throughout the root area.
      The best way to do this is to water well then let the soil dry out a bit before watering again.
      Soil that is wet all the time will make your plant vulnerable to disease.

  2. johann
    | Reply

    I have been growing tomatoes for 4 years now. I have on few occasions thought of saving the seeds from them but never got to doing it. Can you tell me how to go about successfully saving the seeds and how to store them.


  3. stephen clark
    | Reply

    regarding seed problems some growers are having, i harvest my own seeds every year from my own fruit and this way i know where they have come from, everyone should give this a try. as its so easy to do.



    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Steve,
      I started doing the same last season and I shall continue to harvest seeds from open pollinated varieties that give me good results. I’ve had very good results from Red Alert seeds this season and I’ve already saved the seeds from these plants for next season.

  4. Steve Craig
    | Reply

    Hi Nick. Are you suggesting that Tumbling Tom is an F! hybrid, ‘cos to the best of my knowledge it isn’t. I don’t grow any F1 tomatoes, but I do grow an F1 cucumber. Its called “Sweet Crunch” and this year’s results have been far from consistent. I’m seriously considering dropping F1 hybrids altogether.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Steve,
      If you look on the seed sales websites in the USA, they say that Tumbling Tom is an F1 hybrid.
      I used to think that TT was open pollinated, but I’m beginning to believe otherwise.
      Most of the hybrid seed comes from India, Pakistan and China, so I believe we are probably all using the same seeds.

  5. john
    | Reply

    having read some of your reply lately .I have grown Azreil plants purchased from Moles seeds. I have got up 6or 7 trusses per plant and 8 to 10 toms per truss. the toms are bigger than cherry but smaller than bite size .they are sweet and had my first picking first week in July. I am very pleased as myself and next door neighbour have grown for the last 3 years with good results. kind regards John

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi John,
      It’s good to find a supplier in which you can feel confident.
      Most of the F1 seeds I buy are perfectly OK, it’s just that sometimes I get a pack of seeds that produce very disappointing results compared to the same variety from a different supplier.

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