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Old January 11, 2018   #1
sageib
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Default early tomatoes

Hi Tomatoville,
I am a new member, and here is my first question. I start my tomato seeds the first week of February, indoors, in SE Michigan, using high intensity T-5 fluorescent grow lights. The plants grow very well, and are literally 30 inches tall, and are fairly sturdy and stocky by the time they go into the garden in late May. Most seed companies indicate their time to harvest from the time the transplants first go into the garden soil. So, given my plants are almost 15 weeks old from seed to garden, shouldn't these plants produce tomatoes sooner than plants that are 6 to 8 weeks old from seed to transplanting in the garden?
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Old January 11, 2018   #2
Koala Doug
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I would assume that the DTM (Date To Maturity) would be less in your case than the seed companies generally indicate. Of course, there are other environmental factors that come into play, but you should get tomatoes a little earlier than your neighbors.
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Old January 11, 2018   #3
BigVanVader
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The bigger the plant the more transplant shock. I have found it best to not let my plants go past 10 weeks before transplanting. If your going to push further you will need to up pot to a bigger container until ready to plant outside. Another issue is early flowering, which will stunt the plant and reduce production. If they flower before or soon after planting then you will need to cull those blooms until the plant has had enough time to show new growth after planting.
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Old January 11, 2018   #4
carolyn137
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I don't go by the number of weeks,since too many variables involved in that for me.

I go by the size (height) of the seedlings and have always set out seedlings that are about 4-6 inches tall.

The smaller the seedling the quicker it adapts to outside conditions IMO, well not just my opinion since there are others who do the same thing.

Others here in several threads in the past have compared seedlings set out early with those set out a bit later due to weather,and they have found no difference in which ones give the first fruits since the ones set out earlier almost always catch up.

No way will I set out plants that already have blossoms if I can help it, so there's that as well. And when weather demands that they are set out horizontally,not vertically.

And there are those who have compared seedlings of the same size and variety, that is, two identical plants,one where the blossoms have been taken off ,the other one blossoms left on.

Carolyn
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Old January 11, 2018   #5
bower
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Hi sageib, welcome!

There are many approaches to getting earlier fruit, and one of them is to start them earlier, as you do, and pot them up decently to get them large before transplant. But the person I know who has practiced that (KarenO), would often have fruit as well as flowers on the plant before transplant time. Naturally those fruit that set before you put them out should be earlier than the "dtm" from the time of planting out, I would think. Anyway you'll probably hear more about it from her.
I have a short and cold growing season here, but I don't have space for big pots indoors. My plants are flowering or close to it by 8 weeks and that's when I plant them, but I don't cull early blossoms as I want those early fruit. I've never seen them cause any harm with the varieties I've grown - if the plant doesn't want to set yet, they will drop the blossoms themselves, anyway. But most of them are happy enough as long as they get planted when the flowers start. And planting out at 8 weeks, I usually have lots of fruit set by 15 weeks - even some ripe ones on early varieties. So I'm wondering if you don't have flowers and fruit at 15 weeks? because if not, there is likely no benefit to the long time under lights, and maybe they are shutting down the fruit cycle until they get some root space.

This past year I had to hold my plants indoors (in beer cups) for an extra two weeks because of extreme cold weather. This definitely delayed them in setting up fruit, and it had a variable impact depending on the variety - some were really badly affected, others not so much.

So I think it depends on two things (1) how big of a pot do you have them in, and is it big enough for them to start setting fruit as if they were in the ground, and
(2) different varieties of tomato will respond differently to the treatment.
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Old January 11, 2018   #6
MickyT
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carolyn137 View Post

And there are those who have compared seedlings of the same size and variety, that is, two identical plants,one where the blossoms have been taken off ,the other one blossoms left on.

Carolyn
I'd be very interested to hear from those who have done this what their results were like
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Old January 11, 2018   #7
carolyn137
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MickyT View Post
I'd be very interested to hear from those who have done this what their results were like
I can't conjure up specific folks, and don't have time to do a search here or via Google, but I can give you a general answer which I hope will help.

There are two stages of growth/development in the tomato cycle.First is called the vegetative phase where new growth results in roots and stems and foliage.

The sexual phase is next which results in blossom formation followed,usually, by Pollen from the anthers pollenizing the stigma,which results in ovules in the tomato ovary being fertilized which forms a baby fruit if you will.

Energy for the plant to do all of this is derived from photosynthesis in the leaves and involves mainly ATP and GTP.

It takes more energy to sustain sexual than vegetative growth.It takes at least 3 to 4 days in one cycle.

So if you take off blossoms,you save energy.

So for most folks taking off blossoms with most varieties does not lead to earlier fruits since the next cycle starts in just 3-4 days..

If I goofed above please let me know here in this thread since I have been typing fast to get some bills paid,property tax bill, and some others,ready to go out tomorrow.

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Old January 11, 2018   #8
KarenO
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sageib View Post
Hi Tomatoville,
I am a new member, and here is my first question. I start my tomato seeds the first week of February, indoors, in SE Michigan, using high intensity T-5 fluorescent grow lights. The plants grow very well, and are literally 30 inches tall, and are fairly sturdy and stocky by the time they go into the garden in late May. Most seed companies indicate their time to harvest from the time the transplants first go into the garden soil. So, given my plants are almost 15 weeks old from seed to garden, shouldn't these plants produce tomatoes sooner than plants that are 6 to 8 weeks old from seed to transplanting in the garden?
I heard my name mentioned...
Short answer, yes.
Firstly, DTM is much more accurate from germination to first ripe fruit. From Set out means too much variability. Imo Of course a healthy 15 week old plant properly hardened off and blooming will fruit sooner.
There’s more than one way to grow tomatoes don’t believe anybody who says there isn’t.
well grown large blooming transplants planted out at the correct time, not early will definarely allow a short season grower to harvest tomatoes sooner and over a longer season. A greenhouse or good cold frame helps tremendously along with the dedication to care for the seedlings for a longer period of time.
The secret is they do not go in the garden early. They go in when it is reliably warm, in my area that is the end of May for plants sown about the 20 of March and they are grown in large enough pots and fertilized. Minimum 1litre, pref 1 gallon
I reliably have at least some ripe full sized tomatoes by the second week in July
Until frost.
Northern gardeners who follow the traditional wisdom of planting out small non blooming transplants at the end of May will not be able to grow most good mid season tomatoes well or will not have ripe fruit until mid -late August and frost is then a threat. If you limit yourself to early varieties it’s not so important (which many northern gardeners do) but I don’t enjoy them and much prefer the huge selection of mid season beauties.

Last edited by KarenO; January 11, 2018 at 10:52 PM.
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Old January 12, 2018   #9
MickyT
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carolyn137 View Post
I can't conjure up specific folks, and don't have time to do a search here or via Google, but I can give you a general answer which I hope will help.

There are two stages of growth/development in the tomato cycle.First is called the vegetative phase where new growth results in roots and stems and foliage.

The sexual phase is next which results in blossom formation followed,usually, by Pollen from the anthers pollenizing the stigma,which results in ovules in the tomato ovary being fertilized which forms a baby fruit if you will.

Energy for the plant to do all of this is derived from photosynthesis in the leaves and involves mainly ATP and GTP.

It takes more energy to sustain sexual than vegetative growth.It takes at least 3 to 4 days in one cycle.

So if you take off blossoms,you save energy.

So for most folks taking off blossoms with most varieties does not lead to earlier fruits since the next cycle starts in just 3-4 days..

If I goofed above please let me know here in this thread since I have been typing fast to get some bills paid,property tax bill, and some others,ready to go out tomorrow.

Carolyn
Thanks Carolyn for that great explanation, which of course leads me to more questions. Does this cycle continue all season and is it regular (3 days sexual then 3 days vegetative)? Does the amount of sunlight affect the length of the phases? When fruits have already set, do they grow and ripen during only one of these phases or simultaneously while the plant continues to cycle through them?
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Old January 12, 2018   #10
tryno12
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speaking of MI, i would like to know how/what variety that person was growing last summer near the Clawson Park Car Show near the Royal Oak land - tall conduit poles - like 12' high, maybe 15 plants, and many nice looking maters between his and the neighbors driveway
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Old January 12, 2018   #11
zipcode
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Yes, time inside doesn't fully compensate time outside and I think that has mostly to do with light intensity (sun is still much stronger than grow lights) and possibly day/night temperature difference.

The mild climate where one grows the seedlings combined with high nitrogen leads to delay in flowers. One can count number of leaves to first flower cluster. For same variety one would assume it's always the same. It isn't and can vary up to 3-4 leaves more if conditions are too cozy.
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Old January 12, 2018   #12
bower
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MickyT View Post
Thanks Carolyn for that great explanation, which of course leads me to more questions. Does this cycle continue all season and is it regular (3 days sexual then 3 days vegetative)? Does the amount of sunlight affect the length of the phases? When fruits have already set, do they grow and ripen during only one of these phases or simultaneously while the plant continues to cycle through them?
"Vining crops like tomatoes produce vegetative and generative growth at the same time"
http://web.extension.illinois.edu/lms/eb107/entry_6973/

But Carolyn is talking about the early vegetative growth, before the plants start to produce flowers.

There is more info about the triggers for vegetative vs reproductive growth in the attached pdf by Dr. Merle Jensen.
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File Type: pdf MerleJensen-Steering-Tomatoes.pdf (86.3 KB, 11 views)
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Old January 12, 2018   #13
Koala Doug
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bower View Post
There is more info about the triggers for vegetative vs reproductive growth in the attached pdf by Dr. Merle Jensen.

Thanks for the PDF - there is some good and useful information in there.
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Old January 12, 2018   #14
carolyn137
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bower View Post
"Vining crops like tomatoes produce vegetative and generative growth at the same time"
http://web.extension.illinois.edu/lms/eb107/entry_6973/

But Carolyn is talking about the early vegetative growth, before the plants start to produce flowers.

There is more info about the triggers for vegetative vs reproductive growth in the attached pdf by Dr. Merle Jensen.
Yes, if you read above I was outlining about early vegetative growth first, and tried to explain about the sexual phase next and where energy came from,etc, that's in a post above.

But the I was asked a different question..... if it made a difference if and when EARLY blossoms were taken off as to early fruits and that's the last issue I dealt with here.

Carolyn
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Old January 12, 2018   #15
MarlynnMarcks
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Default Starting tomatoes in February

When I lived in Roseville, a suburb of Detroit, I started my tomatoes in small cells in a mini greenhouse in a south facing window. When they grew to aout 2 sets of true leaves, I transplanted them to drinking cups from fast food restaurants. I let them grow to as big as they wanted and set them out Memorial Day buried completely til only 2 sets of leaves showed above ground. Then I put a Tomato Boomer on each side of each plant. I had the biggest (not tallest) earliest, strongest and most productive tomato bushes in the neighborhood. I was the envy of all tomato growers in the vicinity. (Too bad I can't do it down here in Florida with all the nematodes). Sooo, I suggest you go ahead and try it.
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