What's the secret to raising strong tomato plants?

My parents have also planted tomatoes from seed and so have I most of the time. They plants are healthy and bear  lot of fruit. But I can't help but wonder how to have stronger plants, especially when young - you know those seedlings you raise until you plant them out - they are always quite skinny and tall but not as strong as you would see in plants from a nursery.

Do you feed seedlings with fertiliser? I've never done that. Would that be the difference or would it just make them grow faster/taller quickly.

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  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 53,938

    The secret is not to start them too early and to give them plenty of light.  The ones you see in the nursery are grown in very good light conditions or even under artificial light. 

    I haven't started mine off yet as I only have a mini greenhouse so I start mine off indoors on the windowsill. 

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







  • SuperheroSuperhero Posts: 53

    We start ours off indoors, as well. I usually keep them indoors quite long until they're pretty tall, because I keep forgetting to plant them out.

     

    Should I keep them on a warm window sill or a rather cooler one?

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 53,938

    Whichever one has the brightest light.  image

    Mine go outside mid June, when all danger of frost has passed.

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 24,014

    No feeding till the first truss of fruit is set Superhero. They grow best if you're quite hard on them. They don't need a lot of feeding, but make sure your watering is consistent. When you pot on, bury them a bit deeper - up near the first set of leaves. That encourages them to produce more roots and keep them stable.

    Like Dove, I haven't even sown mine yet. Probably this weekend if I have time, and they'll gradually get potted on and put into a growhouse. They'll stay undercover when they go out - we don't get consistent night time temps here, so that ensures they stand a good chance of fruiting. image

    And somewhere on the hill
    Inside the past we hear the bells
    Catching only parts of thoughts
    And fragments of ourselves
    Till we begin
    Again


  • Don't let them dry out.

    Don't get greedy.  This one gets me every year!  It's far better to have more plants with fewer tomatoes on them.  I always try to squeeze too many from a single plant and it always impairs the flavour and usually means the plant sprawls too much (which can lead to mould in a greenhouse or blight outside).

    It's also worth reading up on leaf removal in order to help the fruit ripen (which also reduces the risk of mould/blight) although this does significantly increase the labour involved for potentially little or no gain.

     

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 53,938

    I grow mine outside and I grow them hard  - only watering when the foliage begins to flag, then giving the soil/compost a real soaking.  Sometimes that means only watering them once a week, even in sunny weather. 

    They get fed when the first truss has set and again when the second truss has set.  That's all.

    We get very little BER or (fingers crossed) blight, and we find the flavour of the tomatoes very good indeed.

    If you listened to Gardener's Question Time last week, you'll have heard the experts recommending a similar regime to ensure well flavoured tomatoes. 

    image

     

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 24,014

    I do the same Dove - wait til the foliage is drooping a bit.  I have to be a little more careful with  because they're  in a small growhouse so often they're not in a lot of soil. I let them get fairly dry though after reading Italophile's info last year. image

    Mine are only fed twice too.

    And somewhere on the hill
    Inside the past we hear the bells
    Catching only parts of thoughts
    And fragments of ourselves
    Till we begin
    Again


  • Hi, for the first time last year I did the potting on burying them deeper - 2 or 3 times before planting into final outdoor site. Made a big difference, fatter plants rather than tall straggly ones.

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 24,014

    Treat 'em mean and keep 'em keen 8000wf  image

    The theory is to let them 'suffer' a little bit and then they'll do what annuals do when under stress - produce flowers, and therefore fruit, in order to reproduce   image

    And somewhere on the hill
    Inside the past we hear the bells
    Catching only parts of thoughts
    And fragments of ourselves
    Till we begin
    Again


  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 7,733

    In addition to the other replies concerning plenty of light and growing them hard (which I fully agree with), I have found that brushing my hand over the seedlings every time I pass seems to help keep them short and stocky, perhaps simulating wind and strengthening the stems?  Anecdotal I know but that's what I do. image   

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
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