Every time the sun comes out, which unfortunately isn’t very often, I get that strange feeling come over me – the overwhelming urge to sow a few seeds!

I guess it’s something primitive in our genes, the desire to grow our own food. Anyway, I can’t wait until March!

If you haven’t already chosen your tomato seeds for this season, “Plants of Distinction” have an excellent range of varieties, here’s the link: http://plantsofdistinction.co.uk/vegetables/tomatoes.

Days from transplanting
Something to look out for is the number of  “days from transplanting” this gives an indication of how quick a variety is to mature. Around 75 days from transplanting or less is an early variety.

Testing 123 …
One of my great interests when it comes to growing tomatoes is testing and I know that some of the newsletter subscribers are also keen testers!

Germination methods and media
This season I aim to test several different growing media from the seed stage.
I’m not just looking for healthy growth, but also strong thick stems and plants that are short and bushy rather than tall and skinny.

Of course I could use grow lights and heat pads etc., but that would defeat the object of my test … to get the best results possible (without the extras) by choosing the right growing media.

Here are the four methods for the sowing and early seedling stage.

  1. Multi-purpose compost (contains feed)
  2. A John Innes seed compost (contains feed)
  3. Root-It Sponges and “first feed”
  4. Jiffy Pellets and “first Feed”


Multi Purpose CompostMulti-purpose compost
The more you pay, the better quality you get.
One of the main issues is the amount of nutrients the compost contains … too high for seedlings possibly?


John Innes Seed CompostJohn Innes seed compost
This has to be a reliable choice because JI seed compost contains a low nutrient content for seedlings and the pH and mix is consistant.



Sponges in Propagator TrayRoot-It Sponges have the advantage of the best possible air and moisture ratio. Combined with “First Feed” should make optimum growth.



Jiffy PelletsJiffy Pellets are good also, and when used with “First Feed” should provide good results.

First Feed is an “all round” liquid food that is suitable for seedlings and young plants.


If I had to guess, I would say that the outcome will be:

Root-It Sponges – best results
JI seed compost and Jiffy Pellets – joint second
Multi-Purpose compost – last

I’ll start this week and keep you updated, but remember, it’s best to wait until mid-March in the UK before sowing proper.

Deal of the Week …

B&Q Windowsill Propagator

B&Q windowsill propagator with pellets for £4.28

Not the quality of the Root-It product (below), but still a good buy!
Pellets are made from peat, coir or compost and are sometimes called plugs. They can be bought seperately too.


Windowsill Propagator
Windowsill Propagator and SpongesWindowsill Propagator with Root-It Sponges. Just the right shape for the windowsill for maximum light. The most effective way to germinate tomato seeds and stimulate root growth during the first few weeks.


Mystery Object

Mystery Object W2
Mystery Object of the Week
Answers below please


Protecting Plants from Disease
We all need protecting from things that may happen … whether by insurance or inoculation!

Tomato plants growing in the average garden or greenhouse in the UK are living in mortal danger of being attacked by something nasty and they need protection too!

I’m sure that almost all of us would like to grow our tomatoes organically and peat free. The only problem is, our plants are growing too far North … by about 500 miles!

Tomato plants dislike:

  • damp conditions and condensation
  • poor air circulation
  • cold temperatures
  • over-watering and saturated soil
  • to name but a few!

The bottom line is … we are usually asking a lot from our plants but giving them very little protection in return!

The Options
Take a serious risk with the possibility of a poor harvest or even losing your plants.
Have a plan of prevention and spray on a regular basis.

Either option doesn’t sit well with me, but I believe that we have to be realistic and accept the fact that tomato plants will only avoid disease every season, by preventitive spraying.

Available Protection:

  • Synthane
  • Bordeaux mixture
  • Milk – MILK!!!

I always used “Dithane” but it has been withdrawn from the market (not a good sign!).
So now I use Bordeaux Mixture (aka copper sulphate) which can be mixed in small amounts. One container will provide enough for several seasons – good value and it works.

If you still want to be totally organic, you will need to use every trick in the book to be successful in a poor season.

There have been some serious studies that suggest spraying with milk can help prevent some diseases including those caused by bacteria, viruses or fungal spores.

Apart from the well known tomato blight, there are a huge number of different fungal diseases alone.

Although milk may not be a magic potion, it may be effective against certain diseases in certain circumstances. However, any organic protection that is harmless to plants, and us, has got to be worth trying.

Some of you may have already realised that spraying with milk, high in calcium … goodbye “Blossom End Rot” and hello milkman!

I believe that semi-skimmed mixed with water 50/50 is the best way to apply it.

I shall still use Bordeaux Mixture this season, but will set aside some tomato plants for the milk treatment … if I can keep the cats out of the garden!

Best wishes,

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