Tomatoes Zone 5

gardenunusual(5b)February 21, 2011

Hello all,

Curious to know if anyone is wintersowing tomatoes in zone 5 or even 4? I have patio, fresh eating, cherry, and a few early types.

Will there be enough time for the later types to fruit if started this way?

Will it be to soon to start them?

Can I plant a bunch in a large container, then split them up when they're ready?

I am thinking of doing them indoors, but if I can avoid that and do them winter sowing and have better plants, I'm game.


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It's a little too early for me to start thinking about winter sowing tomato seeds. According to my notes, last year I set out my first WS container of tomato seeds on March 28; had sprouts April 29 and they grew into healthy, prolific plants. I specifically WS types that were short DTM (days to maturity) so I'd have a chance to harvest them before the first snowflake fell. I recall it was August before I ate my first WS tomato but they bore plenty of tasty fruit before the frost got them.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 6:17PM
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Good to know, thanks Gardenweed.

August... such a long time, but well worth it.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 7:02PM
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I winter sow them! They work great.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 7:36PM
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Good info. Today, I check my roses, and the tomatoes I grew have re-seeded and started growing.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 8:05PM
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    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 9:55PM
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floodthelast(5 N. OH)

I'm trying mine sowed early this year. I winter sowed them before but did them more as tender annuals almost spring sowed. We'll have to compare notes.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 10:51PM
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I am almost, ALMOST, tempted to try tomatoes again. The last time I tried them, I had them in containers, and I watered them way too much; the few tomatoes I got cracked and turned black. Did some research after the fact, and figured out what else I did wrong. Might just try it again this year and besides which, I need 3 more WS containers to get to 100!! Can't let Zone 5 get behind!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 3:17PM
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Tomatoes are just too good to pass up. They are so easy to grow and so tasty.

Don't give up Shirley!

Tomatoes love calcium (eggshells) and used coffee grinds with the filters. Good drainage and soil, they should be okay. And lots of sun. There are some varieties that are good in containers.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 8:13PM
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aquawise(zone 4 Utah)

I Start mine in Feb, Inside under lights. This way I have Toms to eat by the 4th of july instead of late aug. Mine are now 5" tall been re-potted once and are now out in the greenhouse.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 10:12AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Wow aquawise, that is early for tomatoes in zone 4!

I "spring-sow" my tomatoes, along with all the other heat-loving plants, in late March/early April. I sow them in cups, line the cups up in plastic boxes, and put those up against the south side of the foundation of the house. This is one of the warmest spots in the yard, and I don't bother covering the cups or seedlings. Even if we get a later frost, it doesn't seem to hit the seedlings up against the foundation.

The tomatoes usually ripen in August, which is a little later than I would prefer. I have started them under lights, which means earlier yields, but sowing them outside is much easier.

A pic -

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 11:22AM
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rosemctier(z5/6 waynesburg PA)

shirley, if you see a variety called tumbling tom, you might try those-- i bought a 4 pack from our local nursery and had the best luck i ever had with tomatoes. cherry sized, very very prolific, excellent for containers. i have seen seeds for sale in catalogs and on ebay. i have also had very good luck in the past with yellow pear tomatoes-- they grew like weeds and i was finding volunteers for years. i can't grow a large tomato to save my soul-- not enough sun combined with a weird cool micro-climate.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 12:56PM
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My first two WS tomatoes:

'nuff said?

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 5:44PM
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    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 5:45PM
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After reading the info here I decided to do both. Start mine under lights & ws some & compare! Kinda want toms earlier than Aug. I started mine last night using the coffee filter/baggie method. Thinking I'm gonna do some peppers inside & out too!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 7:02AM
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I tried germinating seeds with coffee filters, and some in paper towels b/c someone on GW mentioned this study done saying used coffee filters aided in better germination.

I found the coffee filters dried out faster. Better luck for me with paper towels.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 7:43AM
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Why must it be either/or? I'm thinking of buying one tomato transplant to set out early and then WSing the rest of my tomatoes.
Last year I set out plants on April 15 and had tomatoes by the end of June. I liked that. But since I am a container gardener, I grow a determinate variey. Although the plants produced a second flush of tomatoes, they weren't as good as the first.

That's when WS tomatoes could step in and give me all the tomatoes I crave in large numbers. As I see it, combining the two methods would give me the best of both worlds.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 8:53AM
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Coffee filters do dry our faster but I just give them a squirt of water from a water bottle. I found the my roots would get stuck in a paper towel if I didn't catch them quick enough. To each their own, right? I just love the variations & tips we all share on GW!!

Tempis-exactly why I am going to indoor sow some & ws some to stagger my toms!! Plus factor in I have 16 differ kinds, I should really have some nice selections at various times!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 12:49PM
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kqcrna(z6 SW Oh)

I've started them inside under lights, bought plants from a nursery, and wintersown them. All seemed to produce fruit at the time appropriate for the DTM. I've been growing Matina for a short DTM for early fruit, this year replacing that with Stupice. I'll also sow a couple of brandywine and beefsteak types with longer DTMs for late fruit. I think it's fun to try new types.

The thing I would warn about for wintersown ones, don't be disappointed if they're still tiny at plantout time. They'll catch up once the hot weather hits.

These were my wintersown toms last year.
When planted out in May

This was in August


    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 4:11PM
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Karen - the WS tomatoes in the photo I posted are Stupice. I ordered seeds from Diane's Flower Seeds and they WS very well. I WS the seeds March 28; they sprouted April 29. I planted them in containers that I watered using plant nannies filled with seaweed extract & worm p**p tea. They are very small-size tomatoes but short DTM. I'd be interested in hearing what you think of them after you've grown & tasted them.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 7:13PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Gardenweed, are those really your very first WS'n tomatoes? ...isn't that funny they both look like buttocks!

What great ideas on this thread, I think I'm going to do both this year - buy a couple tomato plants and sow some myself. That way there will be ripe tomatoes earlier in the summer. Especially since the cucumbers always ripen way before the tomatoes, even though I try to start the cucumbers later to synch them up so I have both for salads. Once the Ws'n tomato plants get going they are very productive all the way up through frost, but that isn't usually until mid-late August.

Anyone tried the tomatoes that Trudi has on From what I understand she specializes in tomatoes.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 7:44PM
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I'm trying the Chico III and Chudo Rinka of hers. A friend gave me a green grape variety from Wintersown as well.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 8:04PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4) is a great source for tomato seeds. Years ago I rec'd an envelope of several varieties of tomatoes from Trudi, via They all grew well and include some varieties that I still plant. It was my first year of growing heirloom tomatoes. Now I grow many varieties of tomatoes and am delighted to receive more seeds in swaps.

Most of my tomatoes are started under lights inside as our growing season is so short. I have ws some and even let a few self seeders grow with fruit being set much later.

I sow three seeds per cell/cup and either cut the extras off or transplant into other larger pots later. My book club friends and neighbors are happy to take any extras.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 9:09PM
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PVick(6b NYC)

Until I found WS, I started tomatoes inside, on a sunny windowsill. Did OK, but WSing them is sooooo much better. I've started them as early as February and as late as May.

Since I didn't know that only certain kinds are recommended for containers, I sowed whatever suited my fancy.

I must admit, I won't grow these in a container again - the plant is a monster! But the toms are deelish! This batch managed to make it inside:

Another harvest, with some hot peppers and long beans thrown in:


    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 11:46PM
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I WS'd several last year that I got from Trudi. They sprouted and grew well, but the deer topped most of my plants(including the ones I started indoors)causing them to be very late setting fruit and the cooler-than-normal weather caused those fruit to be bland. I'm trying again this year with my leftover seeds. I'm still working on my deer prevention strategy...

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 12:46PM
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You can WS them, but there is no rush, they dont start growing until its about 50 at night, early may.

They dont need to be chilled or anything, they just wait until its warm enough.

I get tomato "weeds" growing all over the place from the compost I put out.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 8:50PM
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terrene(5b MA)

PVick, love your pics! Amazing you grow such nice tomatoes in containers. They're making me drool. :)

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 2:02AM
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