Saving seeds for next season
I think that many of us like to see how early we can produce our first ripe tomato each season. The totally obsessed, like me and quite a few others reading this newsletter, will have ripe tomatoes on the table around mid June – one or two of us even earlier!
I like to take seeds from my earliest fruiting plants, choosing the biggest fruit of course. I’ve been doing this for around five or six seasons with Red Alert, taking seeds from the biggest fruit each season. I now have slightly larger tomatoes on my Red Alert plants than when I first started, and thankfully they taste just as good.
It’s never too early in the season to start saving seeds
Of course if you want them to grow true to type, you should save seeds from open pollinated varieties. When seeds from F1 hybrid tomatoes are sown the following season, you never know what shape, size or flavour you’ll get!
Open pollinated varieties are the ones to save seeds from, and if it doesn’t say F1 or hybrid on the seed packet, it’s probably an open pollinated variety. Also, F1 seeds are a lot more expensive – some can cost around 50p each … you would certainly want those to germinate!
A few seed saving tips
A quick browse around the internet will produce conflicting information regarding how long they should ferment for. I like to ferment mine, keeping them in a glass container, for around five days then use a tea strainer before setting them out on coffee filter paper.
The paper doesn’t stick to the seeds like kitchen roll but still absorbs moisture well. Let them dry for about four or five days before puting them into a suitable container. I use glassine envelopes – the kind stamp collectors use. However, if you use an airtight container, you will need to make sure that the seeds are thoroughly dry, otherwise they may release moisture and rot.
Saved seed from the previous season is usually very vigorous and indicates that some of the seeds we buy aren’t quite as fresh as they should be!
Stem thickness on tall varieties and balanced growth
If you look at the stem of a tall variety, you’ll probably see that the thickness changes (or diameter to be more precise). Some parts of the higher stem may be thicker than the lower stem. The stem displays the growing conditions and the amount of nutrients (especially nitrogen) a plant received at various stages of its growth.
The stem nearest the soil may be thinner than above showing that the plant was started in less than ideal conditions. There may be sections above where the stem becomes much thicker showing very good growing conditions and probably too much nitrogen. In an ideal growing situation, the stem would be a consistant diameter or thickness – except towards the growing tip of course. Stem thickness is one of the ways to help measure the balance between vegetative and generative growth – between growing leaves or growing fruit!
It doesn’t matter too much if we are only growing plants with four or five trusses, but if we want to grow plants that carry more trusses of medium or large fruit, it’s good to be able to control the stem thickness and keep a plant in balanced growth.
It’s always good to make notes about what worked well or didn’t work well during each season.
The reservoir systems did best in the hot weather, out-performing even the smart valves and the auto pot system. The reservoir systems include the Quadgrow planter, the Hozelock waterer and the pot in a bucket set-up shown in a recent newsletter. There’s something rather nice about making a reservoir set-up using a bucket, two pots and a strip of capillary matting. It’s much less expensive than the Quadgrow and four buckets will hold more water than the Quadgrow reservoir too.
The Smart Valve
Smart valves work very well in normal weather conditions but couldn’t cope with the weather being so warm and dry. The people at Smart Tech are working on this issue and should have a solution for these unexpected weather conditions.
The Auto Pot System
One of the issues with the aqua valve (it runs on the wet side), is developing a good root system at the final planting, before the valves flood the trays. As soon as the valves are in use, the soil is often kept too wet for the initial stages of root establishment in a large pot.
In order to get roots off to a good start when transplanting into pots, it’s best to water thoroughly, then allow the soil to run almost dry before re-wetting. This encourages the roots to grow more quickly in search of water as the soil dries out – allowing plenty of oxygen back into the soil at the same time. This is one of the big “do’s” for developing a good root system when growing in containers and grow bags.
Aeration as the weather turns cooler
It looks like this is going to be a blight free season for most of us who are in the UK, although we have had quite a lot of rain lately. To keep the greenhouse or polytunnel well aerated, it’s best to remove plants when they are no longer producing fruit to create better growing conditions for those that are.
That’s it for this week – I hope you are enjoying the best tasting tomatoes!