The tomato seedlings are starting to appear now. It's been rather cool and wet for spring this year, so those best suited to germinate in those conditions might get a genetic head start over any that aren't. Since i'm interested in those that do well in my climate that's perfectly fine.
Just with the variety Sweet Cherriette alone I have quite a few observations. I saw it in the Adaptive Seeds Catalogue and it was a must have for a direct seeding experiment. A 35 days to maturity from transplant current tomato bred by Tim Peters. I was like "wow!" And ordered the large size seed packet.
So I took the seed and put in a 4 foot long strip in the March seeded experiment. I also started starts inside one of which I planted outside on the last day of April and the rest in Early May. The may 15th frost I encountered equalized the heights on these for the most part.
Of the March planted direct seeded seedlings one is about to flower it's first blossom- it may be the first direct seeded seedling to do so.
However the transplanted and frosted seedlings all resprouted. Some of these are doing great and are now flowering profusely.
Then I had the packet in my pocket at work and since the seed was organically grown I offered a bit to my boss. So I ended up seeding a community flat with ~50 seeds. When it came time to transplant them my boss only wanted 6 so I ended up taking 41 seedlings home.
We were fertilizing at work with a couple of high P fertilizers and at home I was using Alaska 5-1-1 and natures choice organic miracle grow 10-3-6. We ran into some environmental problems at work with the weather and some of our tomatoes got some yellowing. Also in my greenhouse at home it got really hot. The fan on the greenhouse kept tripping the reset on a ground fault interrupted outlet and the tomatoes left in there just loved the heat!
Anyway the 6 plants I left at work stayed tiny. Those I took home and transplanted into slightly larger pots grew better. However I transplanted two into gallon pots and one of these two hit the jackpot of perfect tomato growing conditions. It got to about a foot high and a foot wide while it's former flat mates stayed much smaller. I reckon if I had the skill and time the entire flat could have done the same. I also transplanted it outside into it's final home a five gallon pot and it didn't seem to suffer.
So with this one variety I've seen a range of errors and potentials with transplanting vs. Direct seeding. I've also learned especially with small seeded varieties and species that it takes a lot more seed to direct seed then to transplant. Germination rate is well over 90% for starting indoors with sweet Cherriette this year but way less in the several patches I direct seeded.
Transplants with this variety are also currently winning the race for size and early productivity vs direct seeded individuals. Despite having been severely frost damaged!
However It's also starting to look like a variety that will indeed work for direct seeding without season extension in my climate though.
I would also say in general that tough cold tolerant short season varieties are performing better than expected after being forced to resprout from the base after frost. When direct seeding having an appropriately tough variety may indeed matter!
Deb Rebel wrote:In three months when the plants have aged out (most tomato plants are venerably ancient at 120 days) you won't see much difference between direct seed and pre started, but. If I want an early start to fruit production I will start the plants first. Use a fan to gently blow across your starts/seedlings and toughen them up (it makes them sturdier) and during up pot you can deal with any legging by burying them deeper. If I do a combination for tomatoes, of the start indoors and seed direct, I will easily extend season with determinates as the seeded ones will start to produce later, the period of production will overlap with the end of the starts.
I have a single plant of Bison I started in December. It is a Determinate and it's venerably ancient as you say. It's trying to bloom and set but I suspect it may be done growing even after resprouting. I was hoping to do some winter breeding like Joseph does but except for the Bison I think the rest of the 22 plants I started in December are dead now. Most died in pots when I didn't get them transplanted fast enough over the winter.
I also am noticing what I think is a juvenile phase in Tomato seedlings. This phase is nicely obvious in sweet Cherriette and extra obvious with my extra large seedling. It grew a foot talk and a foot wide in the juvenile phase. It's early leaves could be any variety. Now it's getting ready to bloom and the new growth is starting to show it's solanum pimpinillifolium ancestry. It was also extra obvious after my May 15th frost. The resprouts were no longer in the juvenile phase but looked more like Solanum pimpinillifolium and started blooming right away.
At work the variety sweetie did something like this. We had hoped to use some of them in hanging baskets. The young starts had far to rigid of stems. Then months later too floppy to stand up and look good for the customers without staking.
At work my boss decided to start tomato plants early because customers like to buy them extra large. However this far exceeds the 6 to 8 weeks so often reccomended on tomato seed packets. The. We had to hold the plants a long time because customers were fickle in a long cold spring. Bottom line? At 6 to 8 weeks fabulous seedlings. Now- some nutrient deficiencies and problems with plants that need staking arose. We had to throw out seedlings of some varieties for yellowing and lab testing said it was "environmental" not a disease. Transplanting helps but getting things in the ground is best.
Wow does it make a big difference though how you handle a seedling! Taking advantage of the fast growing juvenile phase to get them big, transplanting in a timely manner, right fertilizer at the right time, and boom- giant seedling vs tiny.