Growing tomatoes from seed is simple, but there are a few things to keep in mind. If you go through a seed catalog, especially one targeted toward heritage crops, you'll notice that the diversity of tomato transplants available at nurseries pales in contrast to the range of seeds available. That's because most commercial varieties are hybrid plants created by crossing two very different species: the wild tomato and either a domestic variety or another wild species.
The majority of home gardeners should only worry about growing heirloom varieties, which are naturally grown hybrids between two familiar species: the tomato and some other species such as pepper or pumpkin. These types of plants are easy to grow from seed and don't need much more than regular watering and feeding during their first year before they start producing fruit.
In general, seed-grown tomatoes require less maintenance and produce larger fruits than transplants. It's also easier to control certain diseases, such as bacterial wilt, when you plant directly from seed. However, it takes time -- at least three years -- before you can expect to see truly spectacular specimens on your plants. In addition, not all tomato varieties will seed themselves.
Most varieties will produce seed that will germinate sufficiently to support a small seedling, which should be thinned to the best plant after transplanting into smaller pots.
Planting seeds from fresh tomatoes is no more difficult than planting seeds from store-bought tomatoes. Remove the seeds from a ripe tomato and immerse them in tepid water for 14 hours. Plan to plant them within seven days after drying them on a paper towel. Once planted, the seedlings will need fertilizer and regular watering during dry periods.
The best time to harvest tomatoes is when they are fully red and have just begun to soften. Leave them on the plant until they turn yellow or begin to wither, which indicates that they are done for harvesting. Once you have harvested all of your tomatoes, remove the stem ends of the plants and drop the fruits into a bowl of acidulated water (a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 9 parts water) to prevent any insects from breeding in or on the fruit. This will also help reduce the likelihood of another fruit developing below-ground next season.
Tomatoes can be transplants or direct-seeders. To produce a larger crop of transplants, set out three or four plants per hill. For smaller crops of direct-seeded tomatoes, space plants about 30 inches apart. Either way, add some bone meal or compost to the soil before planting to improve its quality and promote healthy growth. Then, as soon as the plants come up through the soil, feed them with an organic fertilizer such as comfrey tea or fish emulsion.
Because F1 hybrids are used in most shop tomatoes, they are not suited for seed preservation. If you store seeds from an F1 hybrid, the plants you produce will be distinct from the original plant and so uninteresting to the majority of people. However, if you grow an open-pollinated variety or a heirloom tomato, the plants produced can be like those grown from healthy, mature specimens rather than from young transplants.
Growing your own food has many advantages over buying packaged products at the grocery store. You control what goes into the food that you eat, so you can choose organic fruits and vegetables if you wish. You also have the option of growing some of your own food such as potatoes, beans, and carrots. Last but not least, home gardening is fun!
Tomatoes are one of the easiest plants to grow from seed. They require minimal care and can be planted at any time of year as long as the soil is rich in nutrients and doesn't freeze during winter. When planting tomatoes, try to select sites with full sun and well-drained soil. Make sure the site has adequate water for young plants by applying water regularly until the seedlings emerge from the soil. Then reduce the watering frequency slightly while the plants are developing their first true leaves.
Once the plants reach about 6 inches high, start selecting healthier individuals for next year's generation.
Despite the fact that this was centuries before people understood anything about DNA, mutations, and inheritance, farmers in Mesoamerica (where tomatoes were likely initially cultivated) realized that sowing seeds from this specific plant may result in larger tomatoes. And that is just what they did. By planting these large seeds, they were essentially making a selection for larger plants. Over time, this process would result in some farmers growing bigger and better tomatoes than others.
In Europe, farmers also selected for larger tomatoes over time, but it wasn't until the 16th century that this practice became popular here in the United States. That's when Italian immigrants brought their knowledge of tomato cultivation with them. For some reason, Americans preferred smaller tomatoes back then!
Today, most commercial tomatoes grown in the United States are still small to medium size, although there are now also long-time varieties known as giants that reach up to 20 pounds in weight. These huge fruits come from hybrids derived from small tomatoes which have been crossed with larger varieties or species such as _Solanum lycopersicum_ var. _cerasiforme_. While it is possible to grow large tomatoes yourself, they do require more space and resources than small ones.
Large tomatoes contain more nutrients and are generally more flavorful than small ones. They also tend to be more attractive to birds since they provide more food per pound.
Growing tomatoes from a tomato slice is a simple hobby, and the suspense of what will or will not grow from it adds to the excitement. Keep the sliced tomatoes wet by watering them. Within 7–14 days, the seeds should begin to germinate. You should end up with 30-50 tomato seeds. Let some of these seeds grow into plants, while the others can be planted in another container or directly in the garden.
Saving seed from heritage or open-pollinated types assures that the plants will display the same characteristics as the tomato from which the seed was harvested. To reveal the seeds, cut the tomatoes in half widthwise. Cut a "X" into the bottom of the fruit when using lesser types. Fill the container with the seeds and pulp. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm, sunny location. Seeds should be collected when they are dry but not yet black. Spread on paper towels to remove any residual moisture. Store in a cool, dark place.
Heirloom varieties are popular because they offer more variety than commercially grown tomatoes. They tend to be richer in flavor and have larger fruits. Many farmers' markets sell only heirloom tomatoes because they are available year-round and vary in color from green to red to purple. Also called "old school" or "open-pollinated" tomatoes, heirloom seeds are free from pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In fact, some farmers' market growers refuse to sell tomatoes treated with chemicals. Heirloom tomatoes are best saved for planting the following season.
Tomatoes can be crossed with other species of tomatoes or with different types of peppers to produce new cultivars with varied colors, flavors, and shapes. These cultivars often are referred to as hybrids. For example, there is a hybrid tomato that is yellow with red stripes.