First Look at a New Tomato

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

And the winner in the race to germination is… ‘Purple Calabash’ Tomato. Because I know some of you will ask, I will just go ahead and clarify that the drops of water on the leaves fell from condensation that had formed underneath the “greenhouse” lid and onto the leaves when I removed it and are not due to top watering or spraying.

Some of you have asked about mold and fungal problems when seed starting. Both top watering and spraying can cause these sorts of problems and should be avoided most especially when the seedlings are young and vulnerable. Watering seedlings from below by pouring into a tray or saucer rather than onto the soil gives you more control over both the quantity and distribution of water to the plant.


Captioning this photo required a long mental pause to determine how long it had been since my trip to Austin. It feels like months have passed when in fact this photo was taken exactly 16 days ago. I asked Davin to take a picture as a memento of my last interaction with a mature tomato plant until July. Although I am impatient, it is encouraging to know that in three to four months the little seedling above will look something like the plants in this picture.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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19 thoughts on “First Look at a New Tomato

  1. I started mixed cat grass seeds along with my other seeds for the same reason- it sprouts almost instantly, very satisfying! The blades of grass are approximately 1 1/2 to 2 inches long now even though I’m still waiting on the others, but I spotted green in the lemon basil and summerlong basil cups today so I’m feeling triumphant.

  2. Wow, your tomatoes were the winner sprouting? My tomatoes were second to last. What all were competing in your flats? My cabbages, broccoli, and onions beat the tomatoes, and everything beat the bell peppers.

  3. I only have tomatoes and peppers started right now and the peppers are always last. It’s a competition between tomato varieties.

  4. I’m in the same situation, except I’ve got peas and beans started, and they’re miles ahead of the tomatoes and peppers.

  5. Ciao Gayla-

    I’ve only started micro-dwarf tomatoes, mainly because I was going mental from waiting. The winner to that end was Hardin’s Miniature, a little yellow USDA cherry tomato. I’ve got 2/2 of that one germinated so far, plus 2/2 Tiny Tim, 1/2 Florida Petite, and 1/2 Yellow Canary. Red Robin seems to be taking its time. I started them on 20 March along with the eggplants and basil. Casper and Listada di Gandia are the only eggplants up so far.

    The big 72 cell scary flat of tomatoes will be sown either this weekend or shortly thereafter.

  6. I am new to seed starting so this may be a dumb question. I had been watering my peat pots from the bottom just as I had read on this site but after a day or so the top of the soil seemed really dry and the bottom of the pot still seemed pretty wet. So I sprayed them (gasp!). My seeds are sprouting though (broccoli, zinnias and marigolds so far), but how do I keep the top of the soil moist enough? Do I just need to water more from the bottom? I wasn’t sure about that because some of my seeds are very small and barely planted below the surface of the soil.

    Any help is appreciated for this novice gardener!

  7. What a gorgeous photo – love the little water drops on each leaf. This will be my second year trying to grow tomatoes – last year was a complete bust! I’m armed with a little more knowledge this time so we’ll see how it goes…

  8. @Gayla
    Ahh… that would explain. For me the Amish Paste’s lead the tomatoes, with the Opalka pastes coming in second. Jeremy drew a Pennsylvania Dutch hex-sign on the label he made for one of the rows of Amish Paste seeds we planted. Guess what? That row sprouted first! Did the hex-sign make a difference? I guess that’s up for debate, but it was rather amusing!

  9. Cosmos were my winner- followed closely by by Siletz and Rutgers tomatoes. Bringing up the rear, of course- the peppers. I nearly chewed my nails off waiting to see if they’d germinate. Today was supposed to be lettuce, sunflower,zinnia, pumpkin and watermelon starting day but a bad head cold had interrupted that. Gives me something to look forward to…

  10. OOH I have wee tomatoe plants as well – so now do we continue to cover them or can they come out from the plastic? And a few of my herbs I see some mold forming – can I just remove it?

  11. I’ve got a question on tomatoes. I’ve recently ordered about nine tomato plants. They’re still kind of babies, but it turns out that they’re indeterminates, not determinates like was expected. In the book it says that garbage bins work well, but if I chose the cheapest ones I found (theyre 13 bucks) that would be 117 dollars. What else could I stick them in that might be cheaper and easy?

  12. hi –
    i am giving seed starting a try for the first time this year. i have my seeds and the materials i need to start them (including the heating mat), everything except the lighting. my basement actually does get a fair amount of light, but nothing direct. i have seen the tabletop/cart lighting systems. is this my best bet? are there other options (maybe that are a little less expensive)?

  13. Hey Gayla!

    Love the site, it gave me courage to try to make a salad, the very long way on my back porch. I’m a first timer, and I threw myself in whole hog and tried to start some tomato seedlings. I’ve been watering and loving and caring for them for about two weeks now, but no sprouts yet! Strawberries and lettuce have already started to sprout, but no tomatoes :-( Am I being impatient? Or should I worry?



  14. Very true about the watering from the bottom. I have a variety of pots – the “self-watering” containers with a reservoir in the bottom are the best. My carrots have started to sprout and plants are just much healthier there.

  15. Oh my, you must have good weather! I started assorted heritage tomato seeds & some cherry tomato seeds indoors at the end of Feb and they have remained at about 2 inches high for the past 2 months. It is STILL too cold up here in Vancouver for them to be happy outdoors (we had a hailstorm last week), but if one starts them late then no fruit ripens before the cold & dark resume (Sept). As far as I can tell, it doesn’t matter a damn how I water them cos tomatoes can’t grow from seed without a greenhouse if you live in the frozen north.

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