Archive for the ‘Tomato Seeds’ Category

Germinating Old Tomato Seeds, Reloaded

Have you ever found a pack of tomato seeds from a year or two ago and wondered if you could germinate those seeds and get them to grow?  If you’ve ever had this happen, the answer is definitely try it!

Yesterday, I uncovered some seeds that I thought were lost to time.  One was a tomato I had been breeding myself; another was a commercial packet that contained seeds that did not match the variety.  It was from a highly respected seed firm, so the tomatoes were either 1) a mis-labeled pack or 2) crossed seeds.  I’ve had crossed seeds before from a commercial pack, and it’s always exciting to see what might grow out.

How old are these seeds? They’ve been patiently waiting for 5 years!

How Long Do Tomato Seeds Last?

I’ve had this happen in the past, and I’ve successfully germinated seeds that I had for 10 years (see a previous post on seed germination) .  So, I’m thinking that because the seeds were in a cool, low-humidity location, my 5-year-old seeds should germinate OK.

I don’t expect a 90% rate — probably more like 70 to 75%.   But hey, I planted 8 seeds of each of the two packets, so even if I get just one or two good, sturdy plants from each, I will be thrilled.  🙂   (More is better, though, so I can select the healthiest plants to work with.)

Germinating Old Seeds

Older seeds being germinated, along with some fresh (new) seeds.

Older seeds being germinated, along with some fresh (new) seeds.

Because I want the seeds to have the best possible chance, I got together the following:

With the scissors, I cut slits in the bottom of the paper cups (for water drainage).  I filled them to the top with the seed-starting soil and placed each cup in the windowsill greenhouse.  When all the cups were filled, I took my liquid kelp mixture and soaked the soil, letting the water run out the bottom.

I let the cups stand for a few minutes, then lightly pushed the soil down.  When I was satisfied that the top of the soil was moist, I put on the soil surface 4 seeds per cup.  (Normally I’d only plant 2 per cup.)

I put a layer (maybe 3/8 inch thick) of the seed starting soil on top of the seeds and once again, lightly pressed down.

I added labels to the cups with the name of the tomato, and filled the windowsill greenhouse with enough water to come up 1/8 inch up the sides of the cups.  That would provide enough water to make the seed-starting soil moist all the way through the cup, to the top.

Put the top on the greenhouse (to keep the humidity up) and set the whole kit and caboodle on the seed germination heating pad, which would gently warm the bottom of the greenhouse, and by extension, the soil and seeds.

 How Long Will it Take?

Good question!  Normally it takes anywhere from 3 to 10 days to germinate tomato seeds, with about 5 days being average.  Given that these are older seeds, I don’t expect to see signs of germination for 5 days at the earliest, 7 days on average.  Therefore, I wait impatiently.  😉

Tomato Plants or Seeds?

Should you buy tomato plants or grow from seeds?  There are some good arguments both ways, and I sometimes do both.  Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Buying Tomato Plants

There are two main things you need to be concerned with, when buying tomato plants for your garden.

  • First, how do the plants look?  Are they rangey and tall, shorter and bushier or somewhere in between?  The taller rangey plants are not as desirable as the stockier plants.  The taller plants may have been fed a bunch of fertilizer, or haven’t been given enough sunlight, producing the rangey growth.
  • Can you see any roots showing at the bottom or sides of the pot?  If so, the plant is very likely rootbound and will have trouble getting started in your garden.

Also be careful of the following when buying tomato plants:

  • Do not, no matter how tempting, buy plants that already have open blossoms or tomatoes.  These plants will be shocked moving into your garden and very likely will have setbacks (take it from someone who knows).
  • Check the plant to make sure there are no insects or any spots on the leaves.
  • If the plants come with little removable plant labels, you may (or may not) get the variety that you’re expecting.  Charles Wilber tells a story about thinking he was buying Better Boy plants (beefsteak tomatoes) and ended up with cherry tomatoes — someone had either mislabeled or switched labels.  (However, with those cherry tomatoes, he captured a Guinness world record for the largest tomato plant, so all ended well.)

The main advantage to buying tomato plants is that the early work is already done.  If you decide late in the season that you want to grow tomatoes, there may not be time to start from seeds — and the plants fill in nicely.  Also, some people don’t want to be bothered with starting seeds.  These are cases where buying tomato plants works well.

Planting Tomato Seeds

Planting tomato seeds gives you the most variety and control over your tomatoes.  In general, tomato plants are available in maybe a dozen varieties.  Tomato seeds, on the other hand, have thousands of varieties from which to choose!

Sometimes you’ll find heirloom tomatoes as plants (I found Tigerella at the local Home Depot garden shop), but most plants available are hybrids.  I do find a lot of places carry the heirloom Cherokee Purple these days, though.

If you want to take a chance of getting something unusual, you can try ebay.  I have found seeds there of varieties that I could find nowhere else. But remember, I did say “take a chance”?  You may (or may not) get what you’re expecting.  Still, I like it because of the thrill of the hunt — and I have gotten some great tomato seeds!

[phpbay keywords=”heirloom tomato seeds” num=”4″ siteid=”1″ customid=”TomatoSeeds” sortorder=”BestMatch” templatename=”columns” columns=”4″ paging=”true”]

However, I often also get tomato seeds on Amazon.  Yes, I am eclectic in my purchases!

The biggest disadvantage of planting your own tomato seeds is that you have to do it well before the time you need to put them out in the garden — in general, 4 to 6 weeks ahead.  Also, you need to have a warm dark place to germinate the seeds, then some place to put them where they will get adequate light after they’ve germinated.

I tend to germinate far more seeds than I do buy tomato plants, partly because there isn’t enough of a variety available locally for the plants.  I also like to grow organically as possible, and it’s highly likely that store-bought tomato plants will have been fertilized chemically.  On the other hand…sometimes a plant just calls out to me and begs to be taken home!

Tomato Plant Updates

Here are some tomato plant updates for the week (as well as tomato seed updates).  Sorry I haven’t been around much this week — I’ve been busy with my tomatoes (not to mention with my other veggies).

Supersweet 100

supersweet-100-tomatoesI mentioned in my first tomato update post that I had three SuperSweet 100 plants, and I was going to run an experiment with them.  One I kept inside in a south-facing window.  Another I took outside to a protected area with strong indirect sunlight (as well as a couple hours of direct sun).  The third I went and planted in its final container outside.  Three weeks later, how did they fare?

It’s been rather cool here lately, so the plant I kept inside in a south-facing window is by far the tallest and has the most leaves.  However, it’s verging on leggy.  I’m keeping it inside for the time being, seeing as the forecast is for temps in the upper 30’s next week — if I sent it outside now, I’m afraid it would have a severe setback.

The one I planted in its final container in the garden is the next most developed; it has medium-sized new growth — not as much as the one I left inside, but it’s stockier — not leggy at all.  It has a nice, dark green color.

The third that I left outside in a protected location is the smallest.  I decided to go ahead and plant it in its final container out in the garden area, so it could get some more growth.  Dark green leaves, though, so that’s good.


All my Brandywine started to grow quite well by about the 10th, when I potted them up twice since then.   I was thinking I had the red version of Brandywine, but they all ended up potato leaf style, so I either have red Brandywine with potato leaves or pink Brandywine.  Hmmm.  I’ll have to wait and see the color of the fruit.

Pineapple Tomato

These are for the Great Tomato Experiment, and they are doing very nicely.  I transferred them to the next size container, and am keeping them inside for now, given that lower temperatures are forecast during the week.  All my Pineapple seeds germinated nicely, so I have four plants to choose from — the three strongest will take part in the experiment.

White Bush

I originally said that one of my White Bush seedlings had been going for the sky.  Well, it had, then a short while later it looked like it was going to keel over.  So I brought it inside and hoped for the best.  It hasn’t been until the last few days that it’s started looking healthy — now it’s growing fine again.

The Rest of the Tomato Plants

Juliet tomatoesI have Juliet, Tomatoberry, Big Rainbow, Kellogg’s Breakfast all repotted up.  I brought one Kellogg’s Breakfast inside, and everything else I left outside.  Yellow Cherry is also outside, but I’m not sure how it will fare.  I probably should bring it inside.

New Tomato Seeds Germinated

I tried for some of my legacy seeds, and so far, Green Grape and Loxahatchee are the only two up.  I had also planted newer seeds for Green Zebra and Tumbling Tom, and they both came up.  For the legacy seeds, still waiting on Black Krim and Cherokee Purple.

Loxahatchee is a strain I am developing.  I originally saved the seed from an unknown globe-shaped tomato that tasted wonderful, and hoped that the resulting plant would also have great-tasting tomatoes.  I didn’t know if the tomato was hybrid or open pollinated, so I wasn’t sure what I’d get.  At any rate, I’ve selected plants for three generations whose tomatoes tasted the best.

Whoops!  For some reason I was down to just 6 seeds — not sure where the rest ran off to.  So I carefully planted 3 of the seeds.  Two have germinated so far, and hopefully the third as well.

For these, I want to do two things.  First is still select the largest of the great-tasting red globes — that will be two of the plants.  The third plant I want to use as the female cross with another tomato variety.  Not sure which I want to use for the male parent of the cross.  I’m debating using Pineapple, Kellogg’s Breakfast or maybe Druzba.  I’ll have to see how this generation fares, first.

Yesterday’s Seeds

Finally, I planted two new varieties yesterday — the heirloom tomato Black Sea Man and the hybrid Fabulous.  (If you plan on planting seeds and need some guidance, check out the germinating tomato seeds post.)

With Tomatoes and Flowers

Almost forgot, I have tomatoes on Patio, Celebrity and Husky Red (a cherry-type).  I have more blossoms on all these, plus also with Mr. Stripey (Tigerella) and Park’s Whopper.  It’s been a cooler winter than normal, so everything is growing slower than usual; I should have already had at least some almost-ripe tomatoes by now.  I’ve still got a ways to wait, though.

Tomato Seeds

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