Growing Tomatoes, Part 1

I’ve been growing my own tomato plants for nearly 40 years, and for the last couple of decades, I’ve even used my own seeds. I started out with a French heirloom variety called Dona, whose seeds I bought in the 1980s from a producer in Saskatchewan when I lived there. That’s the original packet, on the right in the first image. The vendor made packets from his own repurposed catalogues (blue paper). How thrifty was that?! Those seeds retained viability into the 2000s, but eventually I harvested fresh ones. Knowing how open pollination works, I suspect my most recently harvested seeds, from 2018, are probably not identical to the original Dona strain, but they still produce good tomatoes.

Tomato seeds and seed packages
Start with seeds…
tomato seedlings
…which sprout in a week or so.
Tomato seedlings potted on
Seedlings are potted up when they have 2 sets of true leaves…
Tomato plants April 2021
…and grow bigger and tougher outside on sunny spring days, but still come inside at night.

To be continued…

36 comments

  1. Thanks Audrey, this is very interesting, and I’m looking forward to some pointers. My son has recently developed a love of growing things you can eat, and is currently nurturing tomato plants he was given by his grandfather, who is a keen grower of all sorts of things. I’m trying not to get involved, but am intrigued by the thought of growing them from seed. I lack a greenhouse, so rely on windowsills indoors for protection. Personally the only thing I’ve grown reliably from scratch are sweet peas, but very satisfying all the same.

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    1. I also have no greenhouse. I set the tomato seed pot on the hot water tank until I see germination. Then they go in a south-facing window until they’re big enough to transplant into small pots. Eventually I plant them in the biggest pots I have, which is where they spend the rest of their lives. I’ve never managed to grow sweet peas; my place is too dry. Maybe I should try them in pots as well; they have a lovely scent.

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      1. Thanks, Audrey, that’s good thinking. I have no hot water tank now – the so called combi-boiler having taken over here, which eliminates that big copper vessel and its cosy cupboard. I miss it. We used to use it for airing blankets and such – also handy for germinating seeds of course, though I missed that one! I gather seeds from the sweetpeas at end of season, keep them dry and dark over winter, and pot them in mid-February on a sunny windowsill, plant them out in spring – hopefully after the last of the frosts.

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  2. Fun. My husband makes a pasta dish with whole wheat penne pasta, yellow or Hungarian peppers, tomatoes, and pepper jack cheese. Heirloom tomatoes from the farmer’s market really pop the dish to a whole new level. I love heirloom fruits and vegetables.

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  3. I’ve had a vegetable garden for around 30 years. Tomatoes are always a part of the mix, but I’ve never planted from my own seeds. For most of my veggie planting, I’m lazy and buy plants from a nursery. I did plant green beans, peas, carrots, and basil from seed this year though.

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    1. Your vegetable garden sounds way better than mine, Mark. Because of thin sandy soil full of tree roots, and the shade from those trees, my vegetable patch is now the ex-vegetable patch or a sort of herb garden. I even grow my tomatoes in big pots in the driveway!

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  4. Oh, I love garden grown tomatoes. I’ve tried to grow them every year for 12 years, and can’t, Audrey. I don’t have the climate for them. Our growing season is too short and too cool. Sigh. I’ll try again this year, but I’m sure I’ll be back at the farmers’ market for my tomatoes. Happy Gardening!

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        1. Yes, I sometimes wish I had a greenhouse or even a “poly-tunnel.” Those seem really popular in the UK. Someone there whose blog I follow grows her own lemon trees in the greenhouse, and uses the lemons for cooking. How cool is that?

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    1. Kudos, Audrey! That’s wonderful. I’ve always loved gardening too, but I have upped my game since the pandemic and love experimenting even more now, so will look forward to more pasts and wisdom on here!
      Have you ever experimented with the “Suckers?”. Not the expression:), but the actual “stems” that erupt between the main stem and the side shoots – at an angle?
      A friend prompted me last Summer, so I pinched a couple off, stuck them in the dirt, and I couldn’t believe it, but it actually took root and took off. I was intrigued so I brought the pot inside for the winter and a month ago, it actually produced flowers and a tomato inside, to my astonishment. I brought it back outside when it warmed up here, and 2 weeks ago, that one ripened and now the over achiever is flowering and has 2 more tomatoes on it. It’s just an ordinary, small fruit, Patio Tomato, but I imagine your heirlooms would also do as well? Best of luck!

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      1. Thanks for the tip! I always remove those suckers when they’re small, because I grow my tomatoes in big pots, and don’t need side shoots. I’ve never tried overwintering a tomato plant inside, but it might be worth it.

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