My tomatoes are going bananas - help!

Discussion in 'Edible Gardening' started by ChilliPepper, Jan 26, 2018.

  1. ChilliPepper

    ChilliPepper Apprentice Gardener

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    I sowed some tomato seed in a heated propagator on the 18th January (Money Maker, Marmande and Red Cherry).

    By the 24th my Money Maker and Marmande had germinated and by the 26th so had the Red Cherry. However, they are long and skinny and aren't giving me the confidence that they will survive. They just have the seed leaves at the moment.

    They were sowed in my own mix of John Innes Seed Compost. I used well-rotted horse manure instead of peat.

    What have I done wrong; sowed too early; used too rich seed compost or what?

    I have checked the RHS advice (but too late!), which led me to think that I had sowed too early. Any thoughts or advice would be helpful!
     
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    • Freddy

      Freddy Miserable git, well known for it

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      My guess would be a lack of sufficient light. Where is your propagator located? There’s plenty of time yet though, for seed sowing. I won’t sow mine until mid-March.
       
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        Last edited: Jan 26, 2018
      • strongylodon

        strongylodon Old Member

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        Sow them in early March and they will be stronger, January is too early but I guess we all want to 'get something going'.:smile:
         
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        • "M"

          "M" Total Gardener

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          Although a comparably inexperienced tomato grower, my gut says too early, too warm, too rich and not enough light.

          However, if life throws you lemons, you make lemonade! ;)
          So, a thought to ponder on: you could try to keep half of them growing, just to see what happens, see if they grow "true" leaves? Once too big for the propagator, you may struggle to keep the momentum though (in terms of heat) and it all may come to nought. :dunno: Yet, our weather is quite unpredictable and a warm snap is forecast, so who knows what may happen yet? Do you have a conservatory which you could grow them on in? Do you have a heated greenhouse where they may even flourish? By beginning your seed early your thoughts need to focus on how you will keep them warm, well lit and thriving.

          The other half you could consume under the heading of "micro greens", adding them to a green salad to get a big, fat, hit of nutrients into your diet at a time when fresh greens are slim on the ground. A win-win really. ;)

          If the half you choose to grow on come to nought, again, use them in a salad as micro greens. In short: your efforts will not be totally wasted and you can put it all down to experience :thumbsup:

          Our local gardening guru sows his tomato seeds after St Valentine's Day (14th February). He does not use a heated propagator, as far as I'm aware, just a sunny shelf/windowsill. I followed that advice last year and had the best crop ever (these were Tumbling Toms, just for the record) :thumbsup:

          Keep us updated on what you decide to do and how it all turns out for you. Just remember, every attempt is an experiment and the results are always fascinating for other users to learn from. :blue thumb:
           
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          • Scrungee

            Scrungee Well known for it

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            And possibly too close together? Which would make them even more drawn and spindly as they compete for the little/inadquate light available.

            Spindly seedlings can often be salvaged by transplantly deeply, almost up to their leaves, but it might be a waste of time if there's nowhere suitable for them to grow on. Every time you pot up you'll need more and more suitable growing space. Potting on using progessively larger cellular trays takes up less space than going straight into say 70mm pots. It also means you can keep planting deeper each time, burying stems will produce stronger plants with more extensive roots.
             
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              Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
            • Scrungee

              Scrungee Well known for it

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              Don't believe the sow by dates on seed packets, they can vary by months for the same varieties.

              I've just looked through my tomato seed packets for a good (bad?) example of this, and just one of the examples of conflicting information was:

              1) T&M Sungold, "sowing time March to April" (no mention of any variation for indoor/outdoor growing), and

              2) Mr Fothergill's [1] Sungold "sow indoors January to April (March/April for outdoor crops).

              I tend to ignore whatever instructions are on the packets and sow indoor (brought on in greenhouse then planted in polytunnels) varieties in early March and outdoor ones (shorter time in greenhouse and brought on in polytunnels before planting in open) in early April.

              Use of indoor (and in greenhouse) growlights, plus greenhouse heating and covering up plants with protection against cold enables some flexibility, but the uncontrollable factor is the weather, some years you can get away with an early sowing, others you lose your plants, two successional sowings will insure against loss/damage of the early sowings/plantings, but it will require almost double the space and effort to gain 2 or 3 weeks.


              [1] Mr Fothergill appears rather optimistic in his expectations of how early tomatoes can be sown for indoor crops. Dobies also have "sow now" against most tomato varieties on their website. Also noticed Unwins use January as date fir first tomato sowings. Are they (and others doing the same) trying to increase market share by making gardeners believe their seeds are suitable for sowing earlier than the same ones from other suppliers?


              P.S. Putting my tomato seeds back in their box, noticed Kings Seeds give Jan to Mar as sowing dates for Red Alert outdoor bush tomatoes, what a load of nonsense! If sown in January, they'll need planting out by April, and get destroyed by frost. I can only get away with sowing them in March if I plant in containers and keep in polytunnels until no risk of frost before moving outside. T&M give Apr to May sowing dates on their Red Alert seed packets.
               
              Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
            • ChilliPepper

              ChilliPepper Apprentice Gardener

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              Many thanks for all the replies and expert advice.

              The propagator is on a windowsill that faces north-west so will get the seasonal light for this time of year. I've got the opportunity to put them into a heated greenhouse later on if they survive! I think the spacing is OK as they are in quite large modules.

              I'll have a think of how I play it but I'll nurse them on for the moment but may just start again in March if all goes horribly wrong! I'm going to adjust my John Innes mix by using composted wood chip in place of the horse manure compost. I'll post again to keep the forum up to date.

              All noted regarding seed packet myths!
               
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              • Purple Streaks

                Purple Streaks Gardener

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                I know it's a bit late for the post but hope you see this ChilliPepper.
                You say you want to move them to a heated greenhouse later on?

                If when you do I would advise to get them from your windowsill in to the greenhouse quick as possible take them just as they are but make sure you keep the propagation lid on and cover with a towel or something while your outside.then leave the lid on for a few days to allow them to climetise in their new home.even if you choose a sunny day for the move.any hint of cold and they will damp off in no time.you would have then lost your seedlings.
                 
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                • JWK

                  JWK Gardener

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                  The post from @Chilllipepper was 3 year ago .
                   
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