Tomato Wars: End of the Season Update (Seed Starting Indoors, Winter Sowing, Hydroponics vs. Direct Sowing)

Back in the spring, I thought it would be interesting to plant brandywine tomato seeds in a variety of ways & chronicle their growth here. I am relatively new to growing plants from seeds, so I was excited to experiment with different seed starting methods. I started this Tomato Wars series off with an article detailing how I planted the seeds & followed up a month later with the progress of the seedlings. Now that the gardening season is almost over, how did my quest to find the best way to start tomatoes seeds go? Read on to find out.

soil picture
This little patch of soil is where the tomato seedling used to be.

Tomatoes Started Indoors

Ah yes, the very first winner of my Tomato Wars series, the seeds that I started indoors. I was so proud of those little sprouts a few months ago. Sadly, they wilted & kicked the bucket about one month after I planted them outside. Luckily, they were the only tomato sprouts that I planted that didn’t make it, but it was still super disappointing for me to watch. The sprouts struggled indoors & they continued to struggle outside. I assume they just weren’t strong enough to handle the transition to the outdoors. You live & learn.

fading tomato plant picture
All (fading) leaves & no flowers/tomatoes.

Winter Sown Tomatoes

Out of all of my methods of starting tomato seeds, winter sowing was definitely the most up & down process. It took them a while to get going & then when they finally started to take off they were taken out by a chilly night. I was left with one lone tomato sprout which I was able to successfully plant in my raised bed veggie garden.

Initially, the plant grew well compared to its indoor-grown competitors since it was already acclimated to the conditions of the outdoors. However, it grew slowly & soon the tomato plants that I bought in the plant nursery & planted nearby started to crowd it & shade it from the sun. I probably should have given it more space from its neighbors, but hindsight is 20/20. The plant never really grew that big & as of right now, the plant still hasn’t flowered/ produced any tomatoes.

growing brandywine tomatoes from seed picture
We have brandywine tomatoes! Plus a sneaking sun sugar cherry tomato on the right.

Hydroponically Started Tomatoes

My hydroponic tomato plants were the victor of the seedlings round. I ended up with two strong seedlings that took the transition to the outdoors well. I had to pinch off one of the seedlings in order to give the remaining plant the best chance for survival, which was hard since I hate pinching off plants. But it was the best thing that I could do for the plant & it started to take off soon after.

This plant also struggled with growth & it did not grow as fast or as big as the tomato plants that I bought from the nursery. It has flowered though & it has two tomatoes! While it’s just two tomatoes, I’m still super proud of them since they are the first tomatoes that I have ever grown from seed. I wish there were more than just two of them, but beggars can’t be choosers.

tiny tomato picture
Hopefully this tiny tomato will get the chance to grow.

Direct Sown Tomatoes

A new competitor entered the race when I planted my seedlings outdoors. I decided to plant a few seeds directly into the ground so I could get the full seed-starting experience. They sprouted with a few days after planting & caught up with the other tomato seedlings lickety-split. Their quick progress made me think that I wasted a bunch of time trying out the other seed starting method when I could have just planted them directly in the ground.

So far, out of all of the methods, the direct sown tomato plant has been the largest of all of my grown from seed tomato plants. It has produced flowers & one single tiny tomato that I hope will be able to grow before the cold weather takes the plant.

raised bed tomatoes picture
What is left of my veggie garden at this time of year.

Tomato Wars Winner: Hydroponically Started Tomatoes

Considering that only two of my seed starting methods produced tomatoes & only one of the methods has produced a decently sized tomato, it’s safe to say that hydroponics is the clear winner of this entire tomato experiment. 

growing tomatoes from seed picture
Objects may appear larger than they seem.

Final Grown From Seed Tomato Thoughts

The goal of growing tomatoes is to, you know, grow tomatoes, so I am a bit bummed with how my whole tomato wars journey has gone. I didn’t dive right into growing tomatoes by seeds to only grow a total of three tomatoes. However, it was definitely a learning experience for me & it was fun to watch the plants’ progress throughout the season. I still plan on starting tomatoes from seed next year, but I might cut out the indoor seed starting method completely. I am also planning on harvesting seeds from some of the tomatoes that I grew this year. Stay tuned for that article soon. Happy gardening, everyone!

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