Tomato Wars: Tomato Seed Starting Indoors, Winter Sowing vs. Hydroponics

I don’t have a lot of experience starting from seed, so I decided a few months ago that this would be the perfect time to dive right in. Since then, I purchased a variety of seeds (I still have a few more on my wishlist) & started a tray of impatiens & gazanias indoors. Most of my seeds are best suited to be sown in the ground outside, but I still had a packet of tomato seeds earmarked to be partially started indoors. I thought it would be fun to experiment with different ways to start said tomato seeds to see which method works the best. So far, I started a few seeds indoors, a couple in my AeroGarden & a few more via the winter sowing method. I also plan on sowing the rest of the seeds in the ground once the weather is right.

brandywine tomato seeds picture
The star of the series.

Starting Tomato Seeds Indoors

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, I had planned on hitting up my local garden center to buy another seed starting tray & a seed starting mix, but that didn’t happen. So, I had to improvise & make my own seed starting by mixing up supplies that I already had leftover from last year. I also had to dig around to find a small nursery pot to plant in. You make do with what you have. I mixed that mix with water, planted a few tomato seeds, watered it again, wrapped the pot with saran wrap & placed it near my AeroGarden’s grow light with a hope & a prayer that my random homemade seed mix would work out. Lo & behold, 3 days later & I already had 10 sprouts! It’s been days since planting & the tomato seedlings are growing fast & strong.

starting tomato seeds indoors picture
3 days later & the tomato sprouts sprouted!
tomato seedlings indoors
5 days in & these seedlings are reaching for the light.
indoor tomato seedlings image
The height on these little guys makes me smile.

Winter Sowing Tomato Seeds

Yep, it’s no longer winter, but I wanted to try out the winter sowing method anyway since it seemed so simple. I saved a milk jug, cleaned it out, cut it in half & filled it with the same seed starting mix that I made for my indoor container. I threw in a few more seeds, taped the milk jug back together & removed the jug’s cap. Then I admired how cute the set up was. I don’t know what it is, but it really throws me back to elementary school science projects. I think it’s the duct tape, but I digress. It gets pretty windy here, so I thought it would be best to dig a small hole in my raised bed & snugly place tomato seed jug in there so the wind doesn’t take it away from me. Well, so far the wind has not blown away my tomato jug, but none of the seeds have germinated either 6 days later. It’s a bit disappointing, but I’ll just have to wait & see if this method will work for me.

winter sowing tomatoes picture
Just a milk jug in a raised bed waiting to grow tomatoes.
winter sowing tomato seeds picture
No seedlings yet, but we remain hopeful.

Growing Tomatoes in an AeroGarden

My final seed starting method was my easiest seed starting method. Like I stated in my AeroGarden maintenance article, all of my pods have been thriving except my dill, which never sprouted. I kept meaning to email them for a replacement but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. In the meantime, ya know, I had these tomato seeds, so I thought it would be fun to give hydroponic tomatoes a shot. All I did was plop 2-3 seeds in the dill pod & it was good to go. Less than 24 hours later & I already had 2 sprouts! These sprouts are also growing strong, but their progress so far has been overshadowed by the progress of indoor seed starting mix tomato plants. As of right now, these seedlings seem to be going the slow & steady course after getting off to a fast start.

tomato seeds in an aerogarden picture
You can barely see the little tomato sprouts in the dill pod less than 24 hours after planting, but I promise you, they are there.
growing tomatoes hydroponically picture
5 days after planting & these seedlings are a moving.

Tomato Wars Seed Starting Winner: Indoor Seed Starting

The fast start of the hydroponics made me think this method would be victorious, but the indoor mix finished strong & won the race. Indoor seed starting has been the clear cut winner so far. Of course, this doesn’t mean that these seedlings will make for the best mature tomato plants, but for now, to the victor go the spoils. The spoils being my praises, good for you, indoor seed starting mix!

tomato seedlings picture
& the winner, in it’s saran wrapped greenhouse.

Stay tuned, I plan on making this into a series of articles about my tomato seed progress because I love a good series. I think it will be interesting to compare the progress of the plants throughout the season to see if there’s any difference in regards to how healthy the plants are, which one fruits first, how well they produce, how large they get, etc. Or maybe there will be no difference at all, which would be just as fascinating to me. I’m hoping that winter sowing will prove victorious by the end of the growing season because I would love to be able to start a bunch of different seeds early outdoors next year, plus it would really free up space for me indoors. Right now my main houseplant area is getting a little crowded with my AeroGarden, 3 amaryllis plants, seed starting trays/pots & my terrarium. Too many plants thriving indoors? What a problem to have! Happy gardening, everyone! I hope all your seeds will germinate & your growing season will be bountiful!

Update on 10/02/2020: The gardening season is almost over & the official Tomato Wars champion has been crowned. Who won? Who lost? Check out my end of the season update.

Interested in starting seeds but you don’t know where to start? Check out my seed catalog reviews, 3 best tips for starting seeds indoorsindoor seed starting tutorial.

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