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Is it crazy to start tomato plants (from seeds) now?

  • c

I just moved to an apartment with an area with so much sun and warmth it feels like a greenhouse. I'd love to take advantage of this and grow container herbs and ... tomatoes? I've poked around online and know there are some tomato varieties that do alright in containers, but have read a lot less about whether starting seedlings in the autumn / winter, without grow lights is just a recipe for disaster. Any thoughts? (Also, if you think it'll work, any recommendations for which varieties to plant? I've been looking around on the Park Seed website... so many choices!)

Thanks, Garden 'Hounds!

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  1. My instinctual answer would be to wait a few months... until the days are a bit longer.

    That being said, it would be helpful if you indicated your location/horticultural zone. The answer will be different depending on whether you're in Phoenix or in Winnipeg.

    1. you said without grow lights? fuggedaboudit.
      also, tomato plants get quite large!

      1 Reply
      1. re: alkapal

        I think jakhtar is on the right track. I've been reading a winter sowing website and it seems like the rule of thumb is to wait until after the winter solstice when the days start getting longer again. Of course, if you had grow lights you could trick the plants like they do in greenhouses preparing for early spring flower shows. Some plants are very day length sensitive.

      2. Ah, thanks for the advice. I'm in NYC (so I think that's Zone 5 or 6?). The topmost room in the house has a ceiling that is almost all glass and gets basically 100% of all sunlight you'd have in an open field, outdoors. It's naturally very warm -- around 75 to 80 F in the daytime without additional heat. It never gets below 71 at night.

        Are tomatoes very daylight sensitive, dfrostnh?

        4 Replies
        1. re: cimui

          They are pretty daylight sensitive, and really need more hours of sunlight than many other plants. My instinct is to say no way, no how. But with conditions you describe, why not give it a go?? The worst that happens is that you have to chuck them if they don't work. The best case scenario is that you might be eating fresh tomatoes in March.

          1. re: happybellynh

            thanks, happybelly. i am going to try growing them after the winter solstice. have my seeds, pots and soil all lined up to go. i can't wait!

            1. re: cimui

              As far as varities are concerned, It depends on what your taste in tomtoes is. So long as its short and determinate/to semi determinate (so that it will reach a given height and then devote its energy to tomato production rather than to further vine delopment. If you are into heirlooms (and far enough into them that you do not look askance at tomatoes that are funny colors when ripe) I've had good luck with a variety called Lime Green Salad in pots. I was bred by the same person who created the somewhat better known Green Zebra ,and the taste is pretty similar, plus the plants stay pretty managable in size.

          2. You might want to try to find the pots that allow you to grow maters as a hanging plant, with the pot up and the plant down. I've seen them and they work where there is no soil. Do a comparison with them and conventional pots and see which works better.

            1. I use containers for my plants, I have done container planting for over 13 years and it is amazing what can be grown inside (with the right light) throughout the year. Without lights I would suggest waiting a few more months until the days are longer.

              I would also suggest Burpee or Seeds of Change, both have some really good container seeds and they are the only two I have used and was happy with 100% of the time.

              Be well,
              Annie