When I saw Merry's question on this post I thought it might be fun to do a post in reply. It's taken me a while, but I'm finally here to do just that. Please note: I do not claim to be an expert; I just like playing in the dirt.
So, without further ado, I give you JavaChick's Garden Q & A!
(I know you're all at the edge of your seats with excitement. Tee hee!)
Merry asked: And when you get back, please tell me: did you grow your tomato plants from seeds or plant them as starts?
I've got Gardener's Envy. (Or Gardener's Chagrin, the symptoms are identical.) The tomato plants that I grew from seed are teeeensy tiny little things. while the one tomato plant that I bought as a start is looking more like yours. Not sure if the fault is in my seeds or in myself.
The short answer is: most of my tomato plants were started from seed, though I did buy a couple at the garden center. My dad, who has been gardening for years, usually buys his at a greenhouse. You're guaranteed to get strong plants that are well along that way, and it's a lot less work. But in the dead of winter, I page through seed catalogs and see all kinds of interesting varieties that I'd like to grow and I can't resist. Because that is the downfall of buying your plants at a greenhouse - at least around here - you don't tend to have as many choices in varieties.
As I say though, it is a bit of work.
I started my seeds at the beginning of April, and from that time on the gardening operation took over a good amount of space in my kitchen. The seed trays got the choice location - right in front of the patio doors where they would get the maximum amount of sun.
I like that tray on top, with the nice high plastic dome. That's what I use to start my tomatoes and peppers.
I start them in Jiffy Pots which can in turn be planted directly in soil. Much easier later on.
Somewhere around the middle of May, I started transferring the tomato plants in to slightly larger containers - yogurt containers work well. I simply dropped the jiffy pot into the yogurt container then filled around the sides and over the rim of the Jiffy Pot with container soil. If the plant was not quite tall enough, I would add some soil to the bottom of the container first.
With most plants, you want to be sure when transplanting that you do not bury the crown of the plant (where the stem comes out of the soil). With tomato plants you can bury the stem up to the first set of leaves, and the plant will grow more roots from the stem. This makes the plant stronger.
At this point, the gardening operation really starts to take over the kitchen. I'm moving things around, trying to find space for as many containers as I can.
Once the plants are established in their new pots, and the weather is decent, I start hardening off the plants - putting them outside for a few hours at a time to get them used to it.
Eventually, I am able to leave the plants outside. The deck gets lots of sun and offers some shelter, so I am able to put the plants out there some time before it would be safe to put them in the ground.
By the time I did put them in the ground, they were looking bigger and bushier. Unfortunately, I don't seem to have a picture of them at that point!
For the sake of comparison...
These plants were started from seed:
They're pretty spindly this year, but I think that is due to the weather - copious amounts of rain (record amounts, endless even), very little sun. The soil in our yard is mostly clay, which means the vegetable garden does not have good drainage.
These came from the garden center:
But these were started from seed:
I think that being in containers is what made the difference this year - better drainage.
Whew! Even I didn't know I was going to go on for that long. Merry is probably sorry she asked!
One more question, from the same post:
Patty asked: Do they just grow cats prettier in Canada? My sister-in-law lives in Edmonton and has two of the prettiest cats--much like yours.
Why yes. Yes we do.