written in January:
Why would anyone chose to grow tomato plants from seed? These days most gardeners purchase their transplants at the store. Right off the top of my head I can think of four reasons one might want to start their own tomatoes from seed.
Grow Tomatoes from Seed for the Economy.
Normal tomato transplants can run anywhere from 50 cents to $3.00 each, depending on when and where a person purchases them. A packet of tomato seed rarely costs over $3.00 and generally has a minimum of 25 seeds. Normal germination of fresh tomato seed is over 80%. So, you can get a whole lot more plants for your dollar by starting from seed. Occasionally I’ve even seen cheap packets of vegetable seed (including tomato seed) in grocery store racks as inexpensive as 25 cents a packet. While these discount packets are certainly not loaded with an abundance of seed, one ought to easily be able to use one to start a dozen good plants!
Grow Tomatoes from Seed for the Variety.
The best box store generally sells fewer than 30 varieties of tomatoes. The worst seed company rarely sells fewer than 50 varieties in seed. Some seed catalogs specialize in tomato seed, literally selling hundreds of varieties.
Tomato growers Supply has an excellent selection. But be aware that their descriptions do not detail varietal weaknesses.
For the one who grows from seed, the sky’s the limit. A lifetime won’t be enough to try all the possibilities out there.
Grow Tomatoes from Seed for the Continuity.
By growing from seed, my family has grown one rare variety since 1973. (Read about this tomato here.) Sometimes there are various strains of a variety, which all go by the same, or very similar names. Once you find the one you like best you can easily save seed and grow it from year to year. Also, in spite of being truly excellent, some varieties get dropped from seed companies, and that, with little or now warning. If you raise from seed, you both have and can be a buffer against such loss. Finally…
Grow Tomatoes from Seed for Self Sufficiency.
By growing from seed one saves money, which can be spent on other things, but also, this skill makes it possible to grow many more plants than would otherwise be possible. Additionally, unless living in the far North, there is generally, at least, an early and a fall tomato season. By growing from seed one can have transplants exactly when needed, to make the most of these windows of time.
Unless you live in the far South, it is still kind of early to be starting tomatoes from seed. That means you still have time to go through the catalogs and pick out some seed to try!