I have part of a course on tomatoes, ready to go for Homesteading Edu . But the course may not be up for some time. Therefore I'm going to put a rough document on Dropbox and post the link here. Anyone who has questions or comments to share, please feel free. Now is a great time to get your seeds and, soon, it will be time to start them!
If you click on the link, it should open a PDF document with text, but no pictures.
There's still time to start tomato seedlings. If there's a special variety you've always wanted to grow, you can still order it, even, and get it started in time to produce this year. Starting from seed is not that difficult. Here are a couple of photos.
This is what the little plants look like as they emerge from the seed starting medium.
This is how they look just after they have completely emerged.
Here's a photo of tomatoes, 20 days out from starting from seed. This is small, yet it's large enough, that if I wanted, I wouldn't hesitate to transplant them into the garden. It's just too early to do that now. Notice, that for a few minutes of work and a few seeds, I have about a dozen plants for the garden. Even if you purchase a packet of seed, the cost of raising them is generally well worth it compared to purchasing transplants.
George, where I live there is very Little tomato seed available. Supplies are limited to none. I have to grow my tomato's with nothing more than a red tomato to start with. I have several cherry tomato's outside growing in grow bags using terrible starter soil and in some cases just soil from the garden. I found a pear shaped cherry tomato the other day growing in the bushes near someone's house and robbed one of them to try and start a few new plants. The tomato was not fully ripe. The sedes would not germinate. Ron tells me that my tomato was not ripe enough to start the seed. Can you please address this? Whats the best way to start plants if all you have is a tomato and maybe no Access to modern supplies? I managed to obtain another Little pear shaped cherry tomato and I let it get much riper and will try again soon to germinate some new seedlings. By trial and error I have found that Cherry tomato's are the most forgiving but even they be difficult to start in the conditions I have described.
Glen, maybe I should send you some seed for Heidi. That’s a very good heat resistant tomato.
However, saving seed from a cherry type tomato, which you find growing in your area, is also a good way to get something which will grow.
It’s best to let the tomato fully ripen before extracting seed. If the fruit isn’t ripe, the percentage of viable seed will be much lower, sometimes to the point that nothing will grow. Yet, if you take a green tomato and set it on your kitchen counter, letting it ripen there, some of the seed will mature and be usable. Seed draws its life from the pulp of the tomato. So the best, most viable seed, which will last longest in storage and produce the best results when planted, is taken from fruit which is not only ripe, but even close to going bad.
For a small quantity of seed, one can simply cut the tomato and squeeze some seed, pulp and all, onto a piece of waxed paper, letting it completely dry before scraping it off and storing in an envelope or some other container.
It’s a bit better to remove the pulp before drying, as pulp contains growth inhibitors, which will sometimes slow germination. One way to do this is to simply wash the seed in a strainer, using a flow of water, to run through it, while you move it around the strainer to loosen the pulp.
If you have several tomatoes, from which to extract seed, you can use my favorite method: fermentation. Cut the tomatoes around “the equator” and squeeze/scrap the seeds and pulp into a jar or cup. Let it sit at room temperature until it forms a mat of white mold on top. Then, skim off the mold, discard it, and strain the fermented pulp and seed through a strainer, running water over it while you agitate the seed, to get it clean. This effectively removes the growth inhibitors and kills certain seed born pathogens. When the seed is clean, dump it onto some paper and let it dry for a couple weeks before scraping it up and storing it. At room temperature that seed should be good for 3-4 years, sometimes more. In a tropical environment, its viability will probably be much shorter. If you dry it real well, seal it in an airtight container and store it in the fridge, it will likely be good for a decade.
Here’s a picture of seed, dried on newspaper. During the summer we often have these all over the house!
Here’s a picture of the seed when I scrape it off the paper.
Here’s a picture of a baby food jar with tomato seed in it. Using the fermentation method it’s easy to produce enough seed to supply a lot more people with seed!
Mrs. Burgess, who had a farm/fruit stand in Tahlequah for years, had a most interesting way of saving tomato seed. She simply squeezed the pulp and seed onto a sheet of waxed paper and let it dry. Then, when she wanted to plant, she cut pieces of the paper with seed on them, to fit her pot, and set a piece on top of the seed starting medium, covering it lightly with more of the same. Keeping it watered, she would seed have little tomato plants coming up! I suppose they sent down roots, right through the waxed paper! Mrs. Burgess was a wealth of knowledge, mainly gained by experience.
That is absolutely great information. I have one little cherry tomato on the counter right now. It has an interesting shape. A pear shape. I will let it ripen some more before cutting it and extracting the seed. The shape of this cherry is interesting so I hope I can save it. The tomato was found on a plant growing in someones bushes. I have no idea how it survived in the heat and wind we are experiencing now but it must be a strong variety to have survived. The plant was loaded with green tomato's. Walking by, I noticed one ripening so I picked it. This is the second one. The first one I cut into too early and none of the seeds germinated. The flavor of this tomato is excellent(I tried it).
Yesterday, they had a catered luncheon where I work. I took a snapshot of the salad, as it reminded me of how easy it would be to get seed of a grape tomato. Just one of those little fruit would do the trick. I know that most commercial grape tomatoes are hybrid. However, I also have a friend who has grown seed from them. They may vary slightly in size, vigor and shape; but all the F2 generation growouts are recognizable as grape tomatoes, and, they all taste good.
That is exactly what I am doing. I am not sure at all what variety's the producers where I live are using but I have started some plants using a grape tomato from the super market and they look suspiciously similar to what you have in the foto in the bowl. I have a lot less problems growing cherry tomato's. There is actually a lot of variation amongst cherry tomato variety's also. In a pinch, you can use cherry tomato's anywhere you might use a nice big salad tomato also. I used to grow italion tomato's here as they tend to be very heat resistant but I just don't get good yields for whatever reason. You can grow cherry tomato's in very poor soil also and get surprisingly good results. Tomato's have gotten rediculously expensive so whatever tomato variety you grow pays off by actually saving you money on grocery's.
I don't use artificial lights, but rather set the small plants, in their containers, in the South facing window of our sun porch. It's been really hard on them lately. We've been under cloud cover so much, that they are looking a little weak right now. Can't wait for the sun to come out!