Friday, 27 March 2015

Sowing Tomato seeds

Most of my chilli seedlings are doing OK, and growing rapidly under the lights. I reckon they will be strong enough to move out onto the windowsills within the next few days, so it is time to sow the Tomatoes, who will be next into the Growlight House.

[Actually, the Tomato seeds were sown on Sunday 22 March, but I wrote this post for later publication via Blogger's Scheduler facility, since I was going away on business for a few days.]

Just like with the chilli seeds, I was spoilt for choice. I have loads of tomato seeds; some that I have bought and some that I have been given by friends. There are certain types that I like to grow every year, but I always like to try some new ones too - particularly ones that have been supplied and recommended by friends. Shown in the photo below are the ones I initially selected to grow. I say "initially" because things didn't go exactly according to plan. More on that later.

My plan was to grow 18 tomato plants. Most of you will know that I am perennially short of space so I grow my tomatoes in containers.

This was my starting list:
Ferline (2)
Orkado (2)
Maskotka (2)

From Eddy Ceyssens in Belgium
Giant Syrian

From Enrico Ferrario in Italy
Chocolate Stripes
Possena del Vesuvio

From Stephen Shirley of Victoriana Nursery Gardens in Kent
Caspian Pink
Vintage Wine
Giant Delicious
Black from Tula

My normal technique is to sow two seeds in every container, aiming to pinch out the weaker seedling if they both germinate. The containers are old Elmlea (low-fat cream substitute) pots, which are a good shape - tall and narrow. Being tall allows the seedlings to achieve a decent depth of root before needing to be transplanted, and being narrow means I can fit lots of them in a seed-tray!

I fill each container about two-thirds of the way up with general-purpose compost, from which I have picked out any big lumps. I do this the day before sowing, and keep the containers indoors overnight to warm up the compost.

The seeds are then put in position manually and pushed down just under the surface of the compost. I use a plastic plant-label for this. Of course it is also vital to label the containers so that you will know which ones are which. Then the containers are gently watered with warm water. The final stage is to slide them into large clear plastic bags, pegged shut, which will help to keep the humidity high. Unlike the chilli seeds, I am not giving the tomatoes any additional heat. The trays of containers will sit on a windowsill for now, benefitting from the heat of the radiator below during the day. The room in which they will live is equipped with an electric heater set to come on if the temperature falls below 15C, as it may well do at night-time.

The unexpected change of plan I hinted at earlier came about when I opened the packs of "Orkado" and "Ferline", which were remainders from last year. I realised that there were only 3 seeds of each type left. These (along with "Maskotka") are Must Have ones which I grow every year now. Obviously my "two seeds in each container" thing was not going to work, so I put one seed of each type into three containers.

If they all germinate I will therefore have a spare one of each, which is never a bad thing. I know that if I have too many tomato plants I will easily be able to find homes for them. (Rosemary, are you reading this??)

Then I changed my plan again. I suddenly began to think "What happens if NONE of my favourites germinate? I'll be left really short of "standard" tomatoes". Furthermore, I realised that if was going to sow more than 15 pots, I might as well fill two complete seed-trays - in other words 30 containers.

Because of this, a few more tomato seeds just made it onto the 2015 grow-list. Three of "Harbinger", and one each of "Cherokee Purple", "Gardeners Delight" and "Ace 55". The latter is a variety that I inherited from a contact on Twitter, who was having a clear-out. One way or another, I should have a fairly varied selection of tomato plants to choose from!

Before I finish today, I want to make particular mention of the varieties "Clou", "Primavera" and "Primabella".

These are all products of a German breeding-programme aimed at developing blight-resistant tomatoes. Blight is a devastating disease and strikes most gardens in our country most years, so plant varieties that can resist it would be hugely welcome. These three are new types that I have never encountered before, so I will be very interested to see how they do. If you want to get some for yourself, they are available in the UK from Victoriana Nursery Gardens, to whose proprietor Stephen I am indebted for these trial seeds.


  1. I will follow your tomatoes with interest. Having had limited success and our small greenhouse being destroyed by the winter gales, I will probably have to rethink to outside tomatoes this year. What I wanted to say was, Have you tried Tigerella. A most interesting, stripey tomato that looks great and tastes even better. I have given several plants away to friends who have also found them most interesting. Ann

    1. Yes, I have grown Tigerella many times. It is a good one. I just can't fit them all in, that's the trouble! I have also grown Sungella, which is a lovely bright yellow one, medium-sized, and tastier than most yellows, some of which I find insipid.

    2. Ooh goodie, I got some free tigerella seeds on a magazine this year (but after I had sown all my toms) so will look forward to growing them next year instead, hearing how good they are.

  2. Did you watch Gardener's World last Friday? Monty's doing a tomato trial this year with four newish tomatoes which are supposedly more resistant to blight, it will be interesting to see the results. I shall have to make sure I grow plenty of Maskotka, my mum and dad were very impressed by them last year and they're a favourite here too.

  3. We have ended up with Mazotka too after reading lots of good reviews about it.

  4. Ooh, good to hear about those blight-resistant toms. I'm trying 'Skykomish' from Real Seeds this year which is supposed to be blight-resistant too.

    That 'Ananas' looks lovely and I nearly grew it this year but didn't have space, so it's on my list for next! Looking forward to seeing if you like it :-)

  5. The number of tomato varieties out there is truly astounding - Only one variety you listed is commonly grown in North America (Cherokee Purple) and most I have never even heard of.

    I like to pre-germinate seeds for the very reasons you stated above. When you pre-germinate, firstly you find out if the seed is viable as it usually only takes a few days for them to sprout vs. a week or more for them to emerge when sown directly into the soil. Then you are left guessing if you don't see anything after a week - is it just a slowpoke? Should you give it more time? With pre-germinating, you can clearly see if something is happening or not and will still have time to start some new seeds if nothing happens after a few days.

    Sprouting the seeds also eliminates the need to prepare extra containers as you only sow seeds that actually germinate - one per container. I'm one of those individuals that hates thinning - I usually want to keep them all! - so, for me, there is that aspect of it as well.

  6. I love to grow plants. It is nice to see the way you have started to grow tomatoes. I really enjoy eating the veggies which we get from our garden. It is more healthy than we buy from shop.

  7. Now you are going to have to find addition space to put them all. It is always so hard to get rid of tomato plants.

  8. That's an impressive list of tomato varieties. I'm sure all will do well.

  9. An amazing list of tomatoes, most of which i have never heard of, looking forward to seeing what they look like :)

  10. Goodness .... what a wide choice, I'm sure they will do well.

    All the best Jan

  11. Great list of tomatoes. I'm sure you will have a great year. I had a similar experience. Was going to grow Esterina again but found only 2 seeds in the envelope. Another emergency order to High Mowing Seeds (actually, my second this season). Emergency shipment arrived today, so Esterina is on for this year.

  12. Good luck with tomatoes Mark. Your collection is very good, I am prod you also add some seeds from me, cross the fingers for the germinations

  13. Good luck with your tomatoes Mark, you have an awful lot to try out there. I hope they do well.

  14. They look great all lined up mark. Is that a variety called Louisa (one of the small clear bags)or the Larisa? Louisa is my full name, so if it is, I'll have to try and get hold of some :)
    Your plant labels are also very neat, puts my illegible scribbles to shame.

    1. Sorry to disappoint, Lou, but it is LARISA. That label is written by my friend Eddy Ceyssens. I had to query the name when I got the seeds from him, because I also thought it said LOUISA!

    2. Teehee, never mind, Thanks Mark.


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