Author Topic: Early start on tomatoes - Too early?  (Read 398 times)

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Offline donnyboy

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  • Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Early start on tomatoes - Too early?
« on: July 12, 2017, 10:31:49 AM »
Hello,

My goal this year is to have a ripe tomato grown from seed by Christmas. I'm contemplating sowing some tomato seed indoors under fluro lights this weekend? I'm in Melbourne. Am I jumping the gun?

Are any particular varieties better to start early? I'll definitely be including Blood Butcher as it was my earliest last season.

Cheers,
Ben

Offline Troppo

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Re: Early start on tomatoes - Too early?
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2017, 09:20:32 AM »
I've still got tomatoes growing, flowering and setting fruit at the moment, even though we've had some pretty cold weather and a few heavy frosts. These tomatoes came from a plant that germinated and grew through winter and produced fruit in early spring last year. Its an orange-red cherry that set a lot of fruit, roughly 30 trusses before xmas last year and was basically neglected. Flavor wise its not to bad but has a rather tough skin (I suspect it came from a commercial tomato scrape that got thrown into the patch accidentally). This year I'm growing some offspring from that plant and doing some selection work.
Cold winters, Hot summers - Goondiwindi, QLD - Backyard/Amateur Breeder

Current Breeding Projects:
Red sweet corn... Heat tolerant tomato... Purple snow peas... Improved spaghetti squash

Offline donnyboy

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  • Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Re: Early start on tomatoes - Too early?
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2017, 10:19:14 AM »
That's great Troppo! Tomatoes through winter! We have had a few good frosts recently. My capsicums and chillies are looking a little sad.

After a bit of research I think I might be jumping the gun a little by starting in mid July. If I take a last frost date of end September and work back six weeks puts it at a mid August start. I might just give it a go anyway and start another batch of seeds later.

Cheers,
Ben

Offline geoffrey44

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Re: Early start on tomatoes - Too early?
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2017, 12:00:59 PM »
Hi Ben
I have my earlies started and they are doing fine... Bloody Butcher is looking very good ( as always ) and I  include Early Wonder in this batch. I wont start my main crop just yet but the earlies work well for me. You should have fruit by late November.
You will need to be in a position to protect them from frost but other than that a fair degree of cold seems to be workable.
Geoff

Offline donnyboy

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  • Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Re: Early start on tomatoes - Too early?
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2017, 04:55:02 PM »
Great to hear from you Geoff. The red tomatoes I saw in your garden in mid November last year is the motivation behind my goal of ripe tomatoes by Christmas.

We have just moved into a new place and have heaps of space but many trees that cast a lot of shade over most of the property is making it hard to decide where to build my veg garden. I'm hoping that as the sun gets higher in the sky it becomes more obvious where to put it.

Cheers,
Ben

Offline geoffrey44

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Re: Early start on tomatoes - Too early?
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2017, 07:57:24 PM »
Well those tomatoes were my earlies...they usually go well for me.
However my main tomato crop was a disaster last year and it was only a few late seedlings from the same batch I gave to you that enabled me to have a reasonable albeit late harvest.
One learns from these things but I remain committed to a small  early crop for pre Christmas fruit.

Offline pinefamily

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  • Mid North SA; warm temperate climate
Re: Early start on tomatoes - Too early?
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2017, 06:28:26 AM »
It's very interesting to read about this. I was only talking to my neighbour yesterday about tomatoes, and he told me tomato seedlings can be planted out in August here in the mid north of SA. I'll sow some seeds into toilet rolls in the coming weeks, and grow them in our bay window in the kitchen in readiness.

Offline geoffrey44

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Re: Early start on tomatoes - Too early?
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2017, 07:31:28 AM »
Ben you may have to be a little cautious. I give seedlings to a number of families on the Peninsular.. Dromana through Merricks  and our observation is that the micro climate down there is some 3 weeks or so behind where I am in Berwick....Last year they really struggled to get pre Christmas ripeness... The plants grew without problems just oh so slow. They didnt help matters by placing the plants in positions where they got noticably reduced exposure to the sun....
The contra side however is that the maritime influence means that there is less risk of frost so that balances things somewhat...One lady who has a lovely vegie garden down Point Leo way has not had a frost for at least 5 years but she has visits from the local friendly bush rat population...which,I suppose , just shows you cant have eveyrthing

Offline donnyboy

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  • Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Re: Early start on tomatoes - Too early?
« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2017, 09:19:54 AM »
Thanks Geoff,

I'd say that there is a good chance our property has its own micro climate again. We are on the side of a hill that rises to the northwest at approximately 20% grade. We have already had one frost. Though that may have been a rare event.

Surely I can find a spot on our block that will get sufficient exposure to the sun. I'm sure I'll eventually learn to get the most out of what I have to work with.

Cheers,
Ben

Offline Templeton

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    • T's Mendelania
Re: Early start on tomatoes - Too early?
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2017, 08:50:41 AM »
Ben,
 Ive started in mid july in previous years, on a heat pad in front of a window in foil lined cardboard box for light. Its certainly possible to get them to grow, but getting fruit, ripe, is another whole set of problems. Pollen production, pollination, and ripening are all compromised by cool temperatures. First tomatoes are gratifying in boasting rights, but are rarely nice eating. A greenhouse is the way to go for the serious early tomato addict.  Mind you, seeking help early for your problem will save years of heartache and expense :)
T

Offline Shmack_1

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Re: Early start on tomatoes - Too early?
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2017, 06:38:30 PM »
I done a trial on tomatoes last year I grew through winter in the greenhouse to be first to market where I am. They grew fine but took along time for fruit to ripen. But the ripe tomatoes had a real sugary texture and lacked that nice sunripened depth and flavour. I think the moral of the story is, we can push plants into and out of their natural seasons but quality will always be compromised. Pretty much why all the supermarket fruit and veg are... Well to put it nicely Sh!thouse....
We need to savour delayed gratification...
I generally start seedlings 2 months before last frost in mini blocks on heat pad and then onto 2" soil blocks in greenhouse... And keep any fertiliser to a minimum so they don't get large sappy and soft...
28' latitude, heavy basalt soil, hot summers, frosty winters, nestled in a narrow valley on the great divide range...

Offline donnyboy

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  • Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Re: Early start on tomatoes - Too early?
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2017, 09:49:48 AM »
I'm still keen to attempt homegrown tomatoes as early as I can. Surely an early homegrown is going to be more flavourful than a supermarket tomato!

I don't think I will go as far as building a greenhouse. Yet...

Was thinking I will water the seedlings fortnightly with 1/4 strength Seasol and keep the fluro within 100mm of the plants.

Cheers,
Ben

Offline Shmack_1

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Re: Early start on tomatoes - Too early?
« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2017, 01:14:02 PM »
When is your last frost down there ?
28' latitude, heavy basalt soil, hot summers, frosty winters, nestled in a narrow valley on the great divide range...

Offline donnyboy

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  • Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Re: Early start on tomatoes - Too early?
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2017, 02:23:19 PM »
When is your last frost down there ?

Not sure... I've read both early September and late September...

Offline Shmack_1

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Re: Early start on tomatoes - Too early?
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2017, 07:51:58 PM »
I don't think you'll have a problem achieving that goal then..
28' latitude, heavy basalt soil, hot summers, frosty winters, nestled in a narrow valley on the great divide range...

Offline Grub

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Re: Early start on tomatoes - Too early?
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2017, 06:41:11 PM »
I found tomatoes outgrew my little greenhouse before the last frost date. They grow very quickly compared to capsicum/chillis and eggplant. So I am starting those guys this month, and tomatoes probably not until late August. I have got ripe cherry tomatoes by Xmas both years I've been gardening now, with the bigger ones following in Jan.

I plan to experiment starting one batch indoors on heating mat in front of window as per past years, and also a batch outdoors with only the mini-greenhouse (unheated, ~30 C on a sunny day but drops below 0 during frost but protected from damaging wind chill). If I the outdoor ones work I won't need to bother with indoor germination any more.
Cool region, Canberra. Courtyard and balcony gardener.
http://actgarden.blogspot.com/