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Seed Starting Tomatoes

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There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes on the market today, but sometimes it is difficult to find the variety you want already started at your local garden center. This problem can be solved by starting your own seeds. Catalogs, and now the Internet, have the widest selection to choose from.

When choosing a variety, one important factor to look for is the disease resistance. You will often see the letters V, F, N, or T in the description of a tomato. The letter "V" indicates Verticillium Wilt, "F" Fusarium Wilt, "N" Nematodes, and "T" is for Tobacco Mosiac. If a variety has any one or more of the above letters, it indicates the variety has been determined to show resistance to that problem.

Indeterminate means that the plant will have a tendency to spread. Determinate indicates the plant has a compact growth habit. A variety marked semi-determinate means the plant will not spread a great deal, but give it some room.

To start tomato seeds, sow in flats or plug trays. Refer to the seed packet for proper planting depth and spacing after thinning. The medium used to start seeds is very important. There are special mixes designed for starting seeds that can be found at your local garden center. Do not use regular potting soil or soil from your garden, these are not sterilized soils and can cause damping off in early stages of plant growth. After sowing seeds, trays should be put in a place where temperatures are approximately 70-75 degrees. Specially designed heating pads and cables can help achieve this temperature if your seed starting area is too cool. Expect germination in 7-14 days.

When the first true leaves develop, they should be transplanted to larger containers. Plants are ready for planting in the garden in approximately 6-8 weeks. Number of days indicated on the seed packet means days from garden planting to ripe fruit.

There are many new varieties of tomatoes being introduced to the consumer every year. If you are looking for a new variety with excellent disease resistance, try Hybrid Big Beef or Hybrid Celebrity. Hybrid Juliet is a 1999 AAS Winner producing red, 1-ounce tomatoes in clusters like grapes. For a new look in your salad, Hybrid SunSugar tomato is your best choice. This golden cherry tomato is considered by many to be sweeter than any other cherry tomato on the market today. Add interest to your garden and to your dinner table with one of these new varieties this year.

Written by Holly Kuhse
Director of Seed Department
Earl May Garden Centers





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