No matter how big or small, a tomato picked off the vine tastes like summer sunshine. Growing tomatoes can be challenging in the northwest. Springtime is often cool and wet until early June (and sometimes right through the end of June), making it that much harder to get the heat-seeking, sun-loving tomato plants started.
So, why make it even more challenging by starting those plants from seeds? Good question. Here are five reasons why – if you’re planning to grow tomatoes – you should start them from seeds.
1. You love a challenge. Okay, this really isn’t a real reason because growing tomatoes from seed is no more difficult that growing any other plant from seed. All you need is seed starting mix, a container and/or peat pots, a clear cover for the container (lid, plastic wrap), a packet of your favorite tomato seeds and a warm, sunny window.
You don’t need fancy grow lights (unless you lack a sunny window), heat mat or special grow trays. A couple of 3″ peat pots in a plastic lettuce container, sitting in a sunny window will yield enough transplants to share with neighbors!
2. Variety. Pick up any seed catalog and you will find pages and pages of tomato varieties in a rainbow of colors – red, pink, yellow, orange, purple, green, striped and white! Take a spin through the garden department of a home improvement store, “-Mart” or hardware store and you are likely to find the same four or five types over and over. I’m not knocking the tried and true Early Girls and Sweet 100’s, but there are so many beautiful and delicious choices — why limit yourself?
3. Heirloom and Organic. Along with more seed variety you can also select from heirloom and/or organically produced seeds. Heirlooms date back to a time when pesticides and
herbicides were not in use and have been passed down from generation to generation. These tomatoes often taste the best. Unlike hybrid or genetically modified organisms these seeds can be saved and replanted to reproduce again next year. If you are planting an organic garden, you’ll need to start with certified, organic seed.
4. Control. I like to know what goes into my garden. While I don’t grow totally organic, I do like knowing where my plants and ultimately, my food is coming from. Growing from seed gives you control over your growing conditions, from soil type to fertilizer to insect control.
5. Cost. Growing from seed saves money. For the cost of one tomato plant, you can buy at least one, if not two packets of seeds. Each packet usually contains about 30 or more seeds. Don’t need that many? Do a seed exchange or save them for next year. If stored properly, tomato seeds can remain viable for several years. And, if you do grow more than you need, you can always sell the extras to your friends — since the types you have grown are not going to be available at the Home Depot!
And if seeds just aren’t your thing, but you still want something different, growers at you local Farmer’s Market may offer a variety of tomato transplants, including heirlooms. Shop early because those unique varieties often sell out fast.
Have you started your tomato seeds yet? What varieties are you growing this year? Let me know in the comments below!