seed starting

rad1January 25, 2011

Last year I started tomatoes from seed on Jan 2 and planted out on April 12th and had ripe fruit by mid June. This year I started Dec 15 trying to get fruit a little faster. Everything I read seems to make it sound like a problem to start so early. I dont understand. This is just my 2nd year of growing so any advice would be appreciated.

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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

You can try planting your plants earlier, it's OK...however from December until April 12th is a very long time to keep the plants in the house. You can't really set your tomatoes out before April 12th and be sure they will not get killed by frost.
So having tomatoes in Mid June is actually excellent, and congratulations for you!
Tomatoes rely on pollination to fruit, and generally that is insects - so that is going to happen in your garden (generally)...and so you have to give that tomato time to form after pollination. Your tomatoes sounded like they were nice and on time! You COULD possibly start your tomatoes early and hand pollinate them if they are flowering, but it is really no guarantee of earlier fruit. Why? Because you have to add in the kicker of transplanting the plant in the garden, and that shock that it could (it may not) receive being transplanted. Sometimes late planted plants (meaning a longer way through their life cycle) do not take well to the soil and can get disease easier...they have not had the chance to work with the soil and bacteria and fight disease (not that each variety has any resistance, it is, indeed a variable).
Why do you need to have tomatoes so early? What is it personally that drives you to have tomatoes when it is not seasonably time for them to be fruiting for you? Tomato season is in general from Mid-June until the first frost in your garden. It's natural, and it is hard to control all the variables around it.
One of the finer parts of learning to garden is learning that it comes in it's own time, and that patience is a virtue. Try planting a spring garden and enjoy lettuces and greens. Try seeing if can plant beans and have them before you get your tomatoes ripened...enjoy what comes seasonally and create ease in your life and your diet.
And totally ignore me if you think it's bunk :) I have very healthy tomatoes, in general and I find them very easy to grow and get hugely abundant harvests from most (but not all) varieties (oh, ask me about the stupid stink bugs the lovely chocolate cherry tomatoes they cherished...Grrr).
I don't plant any seeds inside at all and I have my tomatoes begin to be harvested at the very same time as you do. So for at least some varieties, I'm not convinced that planting super early really does put you farther ahead. Take some notes and compare and see how you do..then let us know! It will be fun!

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 6:28PM
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Thank you so much for the advice. I am staggering my seed starting for them and I am going to see what happens. As for the why...I just cant wait to get fresh tomatoes. I suppose I am lacking in the patience area... LOL.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 9:45PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

Rad, the lack of patience is something so many gardeners have, but one of the things the garden teaches is, ironically, patience. The garden also reminds us that there are seasons, and plants grown and abide by seasons in ways that humans have not had to. We often try to manipulate this (and are sometimes even successful), but I find learning to eat with the seasons makes things like the first ripe tomato in late June taste so much sweeter.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 12:22AM
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