Why are MY tomato plants so small and the store bought ones so big?

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Leah IL, Jun 7, 2005.

  1. Leah IL

    Leah IL momto6

    Aug 14, 2004
    My aunt bought tomato plants at the store and they are huge. My seedlings are tiny still. Can I expect them to catch up or did I really screw up my plants? They are only about 6" high but seem healthy and strong.

  2. Marcia in MT

    Marcia in MT Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 11, 2002
    northcentral Montana
    Sounds like your plants are the perfect size! Don't equate taller with better, as there are so many other factors to consider:
    The other plants are older, hence, bigger; and,
    The other plants have suffered from lack of light while in the store and have stretched. This is the most common thing that happens. The plants are soft and will likely suffer some (or a lot of) transplant shock when they go outside while they adjust to the wind, direct sun, change in watering, etc. If they are so tall that they have too much top for their root systems, the problems are magnified.

    Although you can bury the stem on a tomato and it will make more roots and save the top from some stress, I think it's always better to get a shorter plant and avoid the problems altogether.

  3. MaineFarmMom

    MaineFarmMom Columnist, Feature Writer

    Dec 29, 2002
    I agree with Marcia. I'd much rather plant a four week tomato than an older plant. You avoid the seedling being root bound which lessens transplant shock. It took me years to decide to try younger plants. I wish I'd done it much sooner.
  4. birdie_poo

    birdie_poo Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    ...and, you know what your plants are getting, not some unkown chemical that just makes them look big.
  5. pompeiijazz98

    pompeiijazz98 Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    I have found that starting from seeds right in the soil and not transplanting is the only way to go: I planted some seeds in a pot on my deck, and later bought one and transplanted it in a pot, my seeded plant is a lot stronger and healther than the transplanted one. Fruit on the former is already appearing, while the transplanted one is still trying to root itself.
  6. sullen

    sullen Question Answerer

    Oct 14, 2004
    I planted my 6 inchers last month, and they are still 6 inchers. I got a bunch of heirlooms from a greenhouse so I would have some.
  7. BertaBurtonLake

    BertaBurtonLake Well-Known Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Hi Leah.. (what a lovely name)

    Don't worry too much that your babies are small now. They will catch up to an probably outperform the "boughten" ones. In my experience, tomatoes which I have started from seed do much better than the plants I have purchased in the long run.

    I started my seeds in newspaper cups inside in February and transplanted them outside on May 21. When I planted them outside, they were 4-6" tall, depending on variety. I planted them to the first set of true leaves, so they looked so puny...only 2-3" above the soil. They are now 12" tall...lush and green with strong stems. They will need to be trellised this weekend as they are all indetermiate varieties except for the Martino's Roma (we use the "Florida weave" method of trellising).

    In addition, day and night temps influence tomato vine growth. We had a very chilly (for our area) spring and early summer here so it was not until temps did not dip below 60 at night and were 80 or above in the daytime that they really took off.

    I also don't water them when they are little unless the soil is dry at a depth of 2" or more to encourage vigorous root growth. When they start setting fruit, I water a little more often, but only at the plant base, so as to prevent cracking.

    Hope this helps.

  8. sylvar

    sylvar Well-Known Member

    Nov 1, 2004
    Still a little cold up there in Maine isn't it? Mine didn't take off till we started getting the warm weather last week. They really like it in the 80's