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Tomato transplants versus seed

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Tomato transplants versus seed

Post  ander217 on 6/8/2010, 9:47 am

I'm always experimenting in my garden. This year I have tomatoes I started from seed indoors, tomato transplants that were purchased, (both planted in SFG boxes,) and I also have some volunteer tomatoes that came up from seed in my row-garden. I have been noting the differences among them, and thought I'd report what I've learned so far.

All of them were very different sizes for several weeks - the store transplants were HUGE compared to my own home-grown ones, and the volunteer plants were tiniest of all and emerged much later than my transplanting date. Now everything seems to have caught up and are all about the same size. The studiest-looking plants are the volunteer plants that grew from seed, which surprised me because I didn't give them any fertilizer at all, although they are growing in soil rather than Mel's Mix and our soil is reasonably fertile. Perhaps they spent their early days forming strong roots and stem structure rather than forming leaves and growing tall from the "fast food" diet of fish emulsion and compost. Now that they are fruiting I'm giving them a side dressing. They set fruit a little later, and they do not appear to be setting as much fruit as the transplanted tomatoes. I grew several varieties of tomatoes last year, some open-pollinated, some hybrid, so I have no idea what these volunteers are, but the fruits are growing larger than cherry tomatoes, so I suspect it may be a Brandywine or a cross of some type.

So far it seems if I want the earliest tomatoes possible, I should set out transplants. If I'm not concerned about timing, direct-seeding works just as well and much more easily than babying those early transplants along. Even though the store-bought transplants looked bigger at first and fruited a little earlier, my home-grown transplants look just as sturdy. I'll be interested to see which ones handle the stress of summer heat best.

I've read that tomatoes should be transplanted once, even if direct-sown, to make the roots stronger. I didn't try that with the volunteer plants, but so far they seem to be fine growing in their original location. That will be a good experiment to try next year.

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Re: Tomato transplants versus seed

Post  martha on 6/9/2010, 10:46 pm

I'm sure you know, but the volunteers may or may not be particularly delicious. Having said that, I have tons of volunteers, and I can't pull them!

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Re: Tomato transplants versus seed

Post  Jola on 6/9/2010, 10:55 pm

I have similar observations. My home grown seedlings caught up with nice, big store bought tomato plants quickly. I thought that I would have tomatoes faster from those store bought, but my own set up fruits earlier! (that depends, of course, on the type of tomato). I do not buy anymore seedlings at the stores - waist of money.

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Re: Tomato transplants versus seed

Post  rgmoore on 6/13/2010, 6:27 pm

If the tomatoes are of the same kind, there will be no difference at all between transplants and own grown seeds. You see, when you bought a transplant at a local store, then you transplant it at your garden, there is a two to three weeks adjustment period for your transplant which they may grow a little or not at all on this period. Your own grown seedlings will keep up on your transplants on these period of adjustment so basically, it will have about the same time to bear fruits.

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Re: Tomato transplants versus seed

Post  ske on 6/19/2010, 9:52 am

I've enjoyed reading your observations and it makes me eager to have a few experiments of my own next year.

I can add that I have a few little grape tomato vines that voluntarily come up every year. I didn't know what they were at first and pulled a few of them up. Luckily a few survived ME and grew to a point that I recognized they were tomato plants. I've never had to do a thing to them except tie them up (and not pull them up ). I've never had any kind of pest problem, nothing but pretty & tastey grape tomatoes.

They come up in a flower bed at the back of my house conviently next to an arbor where I can tie them up.

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Re: Tomato transplants versus seed

Post  Megan on 6/19/2010, 9:57 am

I direct-sowed my tomatoes and then grew a few more from seed indoors. The direct-sown took longer to sprout but are MUCH stronger looking. They are still small but nothing has bothered them... and they have caught up to the greenhouse-grown cherry tomato plant I was given. The biggest of my 3 plants (all different varieties) looks like it might start blooming soon. (In fact, I am starting to see buds all over my garden... SO exciting!!!)

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Re: Tomato transplants versus seed

Post  valientor on 6/19/2010, 11:33 pm

hmmmm, I have one from the store and one start from my house. Store bought tomato is not in a Wall-o-Water and the home grown is. But still the store bought is bigger so far. Don't know what's going on.

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Re: Tomato transplants versus seed

Post  Chopper on 6/20/2010, 12:13 am

I may follow everyone's lead and try just direct planting next year. A few seed packets should last a LONG time.

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Re: Tomato transplants versus seed

Post  Megan on 6/20/2010, 1:52 am

If you direct seed them, make sure you put a twig or marker by them so you don't rip them out. My 'hot season' plants (peppers, tomatoes and watermelon) got a late start and I was glad I had marked them. Especially with the peppers; I had given up on them and then one day was all "whoa, what is THAT by my marker?!?" Smile

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Sown tomatoes

Post  ander217 on 6/21/2010, 7:43 am

Megan, are yours direct-sown into Mel's Mix?

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Re: Tomato transplants versus seed

Post  aspiegardner on 6/21/2010, 8:01 am

I direct sow everything by seed. I did buy 2 tomato plants this year a parks whopper and a mr. stripey.

The parks whopper is busy and getting tall, mr. stripey slow growing.

NOW the grape tomato seed is like 4' tall with leaves near the top its weird. All the others are little but growing.

It's a bit late here in NE CO but I got a ton of heirloom seeds from baker creek seeds and really wanted to plant them. So I planted a full 4 x 4 of tomato seeds yesterday, crossing fingers they all grow.

We've only had 3-4 hot days so far.

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Tomato experiment update

Post  ander217 on 6/21/2010, 8:05 am

I'll give an update on my tomato experiment:

I had twelve tomato plants growing in my garden - three I grew inside as transplants and transferred to boxes with Mel's Mix, three came up volunteer from seed and are growing in soil, and six were purchased transplants from Wal-Mart which I set in my boxes with MM. All were different varieties, so that may skew the results, but here is today's report on them.

The yellow pear transplant from Wal-Mart is dying from some sort of disease.
The Italian roma transplant from Wal-Mart has four large ripening fruit at the bottom, and a few blossoms at top, but the plant isn't growing well.
The Sweet 100 cherry transplant from WM is threatening to overrun the county, and we are getting ripe fruit from it.
The yellow plum from WM is growing well and giving us ripe fruit.
The Big Beef from WM is growing well and ripening its first fruit.
The Big Boy from WM is growing okay and has several green fruit.

Of the transplants I grew myself, the Aunt Ruby's Green Giant looks very strong and sturdy, but it has set only one large fruit and keeps blooming but the blossoms die and drop without setting fruit. (What's up with that?)
The Green Grape is looking much better after I realized it was a determinate rather than indeterminate plant, and I stopped pruning the poor thing. (I'm sorry, little plant. I didn't know.)
The Rutgers was the smallest plant I grew and I thought I would surely lose it. Now it is the second-healthiest-looking of all the tomatoes and is covered in blooms.

Of the three plants which came up volunteer, two were in poor locations and didn't do well. We pulled them up with only one small tomato on them. The other one which came up in rich soil is the best-looking plant in the garden and has many green fruits. Still no clue what it will turn out to be, but the fruits are large.

The bottom line for me is that direct-sowing or growing my own transplants is just as good or better than buying expensive transplants. I know what they've been fed and any diseases they develop will be from my own garden. I hope I never have to buy transplants again.

Just a side note: the tomato hornworms have arrived, and I've found plenty of them on both the direct-seeded plant as well as the Wal-Mart transplants, but strangely enough I haven't seen any on the transplants I grew myself - surely just a coincidence.

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Re: Tomato transplants versus seed

Post  Megan on 6/21/2010, 6:25 pm

@ander217 wrote:Megan, are yours direct-sown into Mel's Mix?

A mickey mouse version, yes. I used the vermiculite and peat, but had everything in and done before I really understood about the compost, so the other parts are manure/humus and a little existing garden soil (which has grown great things all by itself in the past.) So, yes, that's why the weed ID has been necessary.

I do wish my tomatoes would consider blooming! We are still getting cool-ish evenings and I wonder if that is part of it. My cukes are blooming, one squash plant and the beans have buds, and the watermelon has started to grow. My crookneck squash is growing, too, but it didn't bodily leap off the ground the way the other one did. THAT silly thing is nearly shoulder high now!

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Re: Tomato transplants versus seed

Post  Ryley on 6/21/2010, 6:33 pm

Oh wow, am I ever jealous!! Volunteer tomatoes?! I can't even imagine such a thing up here in zone 3!
Great info in this thread!

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Re: Tomato transplants versus seed

Post  trukrebew on 6/22/2010, 12:35 am

Thanks taking the time to post those details, ander. We had some surprise roma tomatoes come up in a flower bed of our first home. I was busy with my newborn son and had let the weeds take over. Thankfully, by the time I made it out there for spring cleaning, I recognized what they were. They became the focal point of our front yard and we ate delicious tomatoes all summer. If only I could replicate those conditions in this home's SFG!

I agree about the store bought transplants. Too much money for a lot of
risk. This year, I raised about 40 seedlings in the house. I lost half
to a hungry chipmunk while hardening them off and gave most of the rest away,
but I now have 9 strong--if short--plants growing that cost only
pennies each!

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Re: Tomato transplants versus seed

Post  LaFee on 6/22/2010, 2:27 am

I started my tomatoes indoors -- and gauged my planting on my past success with growing things.

As a result, I have WAY too many tomatoes -- I've planted 4 in my SFG, which are now about 4' tall, healthy and strong, and setting blossoms (no fruit yet, but I'm trying to be patient!)

I've given away dozens of little tomatoes, and still have a tray of seedlings I'm trying to decide what to do with.

I'd never started from seed before...but I'll do it for sure next year!

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Re: Tomato transplants versus seed

Post  plb on 6/22/2010, 10:39 am

Ander217, there can be a couple of reasons why your tomatoes are not setting. First, you might not have enough bees around; consider using a small, soft brush to pass the pollen from one flower to the other just to help them. Also, misting the flowers with lukewarm water helps the fruit set.
The other reason why they might not set fruit is if the weather is too hot. When the temperature reaches 90, they often stop setting. If that's the case you need maybe to plant them earlier so the fruit will set before you get to the really hot weather, and then the warmth will get them to ripen nicely. Also, as you have noted, you might have better luck with smaller tomatoes since those produce way more flowers that have a better chance to get the right temperature to set fruit.

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tomatoes

Post  ander217 on 6/22/2010, 3:38 pm

Thanks, plb. I have lots of tomatoes that have set and are starting to ripen on other plants except the Aunt Ruby's Green Giant which still has one lonesome tomato. I don't think lack of bees is a problem since we have a huge bee tree about twenty feet from our garden. I suspect high temps is the answer to a current lack of blossom set. Our temperature yesterday was 102 and with the highest humidity yet, I don't even want to know what the heat index reading was. We don't usually get weather like this until mid-July or later, so I wonder what it will do to our total tomato harvest this year.

I've never heard of misting the blossoms. Do you know why that helps?

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Re: Tomato transplants versus seed

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