There is such a small window of opportunity in which to sow tomato seeds for outdoor growing in the region where I live, that when the time comes, I can’t get them in the seed compost fast enough!
It’s so tempting to sow seeds too early in the season when they’ll struggle to get through the late winter and difficult conditions – I’ve got plenty of those. Yet when the right time comes I can’t stop adding extra varieties to my over-optimistic list!
Well, at least I’ll have plenty of plants to give away!
Now that light level are up and the days are longer, seedlings are having a much better time.
Introduce them gradually to direct sunlight
It’s best not to place the newly germinated seedlings in direct, hot sunlight.
We want them to have the best conditions, but seedlings need to become used to the hot, bright sun.When they are older, they also need to become used to outside conditions overnight – hardened-off.
A sheet or two of garden fleece between the sun and seedlings diffuses the light and takes away the intensity. My favourite light for growing young tomato plants and tomatoes in general is a hazy day with plenty of light but with diffused sunshine – how fussy is that!
In the UK were lucky to get any sun at all during some periods, although the weather is great as I write.
If seed leaves begin to curl or the seedling wilts when in sunlight, that’s a sign that the light is too strong and they’ll need to be put in the shade. A misting with water is also good after they have been put in the shade. An hour or so later they should be OK.
Some advice says to transplant seedlings to their own individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Others recommend that seedlings should be transplanted after they have started to grow their first true leaves. About four weeks after they have germinated.
I’ve done it both ways and there is not a lot of difference – it really depends on how much space you have because the earlier you transplant into bigger pots the more room you will need. It doesn’t matter how big the greenhouse is, or wherever you put your tomatoes, there is never quite enough room!
Seedling don’t need a lot of water, partly because they have very few leaves, so it’s best not to stand them in a tray of water for more than a couple of minutes. Then, let their soil almost dry out before watering again. If air can get back into the soil – that’s a good thing.
If you are new to growing tomatoes and not sure which varieties to grow, the most likely ones to succeed are the cherry varieties.
- Gardener’s Delight (tall)
- Tumbling Tom (bush)
These two varieties are a good choice and easy to find online, in the garden centre or seed brochure.