Tomato Wars: Tomato Seedlings Update (Seed Starting Indoors, Winter Sowing vs. Hydroponics)

Well, it’s been about a month since my tomato seed starting article where I compared seed starting indoors with the winter sowing method & hydroponics. A lot has changed over the last month. To be honest, it’s been a bit of an unexpected rollercoaster of events which I definitely did not expect, but that’s gardening for you. Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. The indoor seed starting method was victorious in my seed starting article. Would it go on to defend its throne in this round?

Indoor Tomato Seedlings

indoor tomato seedlings picture
Whomp, whomp, whomp. These seedlings aren’t looking all that great.

Spoiler alert: the victor of the last round didn’t end up doing so well in this round. I’m not really sure what happened, but after their super-fast start, the seedling started to really struggle after I removed their saran wrap greenhouse. Like I said in previous articles, I am pretty new to seed starting so I’m assuming it’s a user error of mine. Maybe I didn’t water them often enough or maybe the temperature is too cool at my house? It was pretty disappointing because I was so excited by their fast start that I had dreams of sticking random tomato plants throughout my flowerbeds to accommodate them. I counted my eggs before they hatched & I figured 10 indoor seedlings would mean 10 tomato plants. Oh, how foolish I was. A few are still hanging in there & I plan to start transitioning them outside tomorrow. 

Winter Sowing Tomato Seedlings

winter sowing tomato seedling picture
Only the strong remain. Hold on there, little buddy.

The loser of the last round was my winter sowing seedlings considering that they had yet to sprout at the time that I published the article. It ended up taking another week for the first sprout to pop up, so a total of about 2 weeks from planting. After the first sprout appeared, many of its friends followed & I had a cute little tomato sprout garden growing in my milk jug. They were thriving too, I tell you what. The milk jug method made for the perfect little greenhouse. It kept the seedlings warm in our unexpectedly cool spring weather & I have yet to water it since planting. As advertised, winter sowing was a surprisingly hands-off method of gardening for me. All I had to do was plant them & let them do their thing on their own. 

I was thrilled with the results, until one night last week when it dipped below 30 degrees. When I went to check on them the next day, all but one of my tomato seedlings had died off. I went from having a crowded seedling garden to one surviving seedling overnight. Damn you, 29-degree weather, damn you! *shakes fist at the sky* But on the other hand, at least I still have that one seedling. That one seedling that I don’t have to acclimate to the weather outside because it’s already an outside tomato. That too will soon be moved from its milk jug home into it’s new without a milk jug home in the raised bed.

winter sowing tomato seedlings image
How great the seedlings looked one day. The thrill of victory.
winter sowing picture
& the next day. The agony of defeat.

Hydroponics Tomato Seedlings in an AeroGarden

hydroponic tomato seedling picture
Check out stretch in the front!

With all the drama with my other two methods, what happened with my AeroGarden seedlings, you ask? They were drama-free & grew just fine in their little hydroponics pod over the last month. These seedlings are by far the tallest & most advanced seedlings out of all of the methods too. I have to keep the surrounding plants trimmed since they really like to take over, especially the mint & parsley. But beyond that, I have had zero issues with my hydroponics seedlings. I meant to separate them a couple of weeks ago, but I ended up not doing it since I am going to plant them outside soon. I will also have to transition them to the outside, which means I will need to pot them up for the first time in their little lives.

Tomato Wars Seedlings Winner: Hydroponics Tomato Seedlings in an AeroGarden

Slow & steady wins the race & the hydroponics method won this round. They kept on keeping on throughout the month without any issues while the two other methods hit periods of struggle. This may be due to the hydroponics method having the most consistent conditions out of the three methods. But whatever the reason, I’m just happy to have one method that didn’t end up being a rollercoaster ride of disappointment.

aerogarden tomato picture
The victor with the fancy tomato leaves.

Where do we go from here? More tomato wars articles, of course! I’ll keep you updated on their progress. It’s finally getting warm enough to be able to plant them outside in the raised bed veggie garden after they complete their transition to the outside world. Here’s to hoping that they’ll take off in there!

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

Like this article? Check out my 3 ways to grow a ton of tomatoes & my Sun Sugar Tomatoes Review articles.

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