mini gardeners

inspiring gardening projects for children

Last call for sowing tomato seed

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grow your own tomatoes

Summer wouldn’t be quite right without pots of tomatoes growing by our back door. Most of them get eaten on the way in and out of the door but sometimes a bowl of tomatoes makes it to the kitchen table. And we grow lots of cherry tomatoes – the perfect size for popping into a hungry mouth on the way out to play.

Our favourites are ‘Sungold’ and ‘Gardener’s Delight’ because they’re reliable, heavy cropping and scrummy to eat.

This year we’re also growing:

  • ‘100s and 1000s’ – a micro cherry tomato that we haven’t tried before
  • a plum tomato – cultivar unknown, for a bit of variety; and
  • ‘striped stuffer’ – bigger than a cherry tomato but it has the most beautiful striped skin

And then last week, the lovely people from Heinz tomato ketchup sent us some ‘San Marzano’ tomato seeds to try.

San Marzano tomato seed

A bit of research revealed that ‘San Marzano’ is an Italian heritage plum tomato with thick walls and not much juice, making it perfect for tomato sauce. Or homemade tomato ketchup. But it won’t taste exactly like Heinz tomato ketchup because they don’t use these particular tomatoes.

Tomatoes need a fairly long growing season so we did our seed sowing in February and March. But the Heinz seed packet said sow between February and April so we reckoned we could just get them sown in the nick of time.

Here’s what we did:

step by step guide to sowing tomato seed

This is the most dangerous bit of the whole process! Clear the room of any children first and then attack your yoghurt pot. I used a metal skewer, heated on the gas hob, to burn holes in the bottom of the yoghurt pot.  Some people poke holes in the pot using a sharp implement but I nearly cut my hand off trying this once.  You have been warned. (The holes are for drainage by the way, so your precious seedlings don’t drown.)

step by step guide to sowing tomato seed

We used seed sowing compost but multi-purpose compost works just fine.

step by step guide to sowing tomato seed

step by step guide to sowing tomato seed

step by step guide to sowing tomato seed

..and leave until the surface of the compost is moist – this should only take a few minutes. This method of watering is much kinder to seeds; overhead watering, particularly by enthusiastic children, can wash small seeds deeper down into the compost.

step by step guide to sowing tomato seed

Tomatoes like a bit of warmth to germinate, hence the cling film.  Enclosing the pot inside a clear plastic bag would work just as well.  The usual advice is to place the pot on a sunny windowsill but we don’t have any windowsills at the back of the house and the front of the house is north facing. So our pot is now living on the kitchen table as it’s warm and sunny there.

The cling film (or plastic bag) needs to come off as soon as the seedlings push through the soil otherwise they’ll get too warm and grow long and stringy.

Given that it’s late April and we’re keeping the seeds nice and warm, we’re hoping seedlings will appear within the next week.


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