Chicago Gardeners, Don't Start Tomatoes From Seeds

Chicago Gardeners, Don't Start Tomatoes From Seeds
After fellow garden blogger My Skinny Garden published her post recommending hybrid tomatoes to beginner gardeners, it got me thinking.  How else can the gardening experience be simplified to ensure success that leads to gardening becoming a lifelong love affair instead of a tryst that ends bitterly after a few months?  If this will be your first year gardening in Chicago and you are thinking of starting tomatoes from seed, do not bother. That's does not mean don't bother with gardening or growing tomatoes, but rather, don't bother growing them from seeds. 
Did I just type that? I guess I did.
For urbanites who are interested in gardening and growing some of their own food, Chicago is an embarrassment of riches. From gardening classes, symposiums, workshops, and festivals to plant sales. We have access to so many gardening resources that not only edify us but also make gardening easier. 
The middle of March is the time to start tomatoes from seed in Chicago, but just a month later is when the plant sales start in Chicago. April is when the gardening season in Chicago kicks off with various plant and seedlings sales around Chicago. Tomatoes and various other herbs and vegetables are popular items at these sales and generally start at $2.00 and go up depending on the size and whether they were grown organically. Many community gardens, garden clubs and urban greening organizations put on plant sales to raise funds for their projects. Not only is buying tomato seedlings a good way of helping out in our community, but you're guaranteed some tomato growing success by getting a head start with seedlings someone else has already grown. The only downside to buying your tomatoes at plant sales is that you may have to get up early on a weekend.  
I'll keep you posted on plant sales where you can buy tomato seedlings around Chicago. If you're a community garden or urban gardening group in Chicago and are having a plant sale that includes tomatoes you've started from seeds you can leave a comment with the date and time below. See the tomatoes archive for previous posts on growing tomatoes in Chicago, and see the seeds archive for previous posts on seeds. 
Update: Garden Girl in the comments recommends beginner gardeners who want to grow tomatoes start with determinate varieties.See this post about determinate and indeterminate tomatoes
Update: The first chance to buy tomato plant seeds and other vegetables will be at the Green & Growing Urban Gardening Fair on Saturday, April 30th
Update: See my post on Chicago Gardening Events for May 2011. It includes a list of plant sales around Chicago where you can buy ornamental, edible plants seedlings. 
"Like" my garden page on Facebook. I treat my page more like a blog, with topics and events that I don't get around to blogging here. Subscribe to my gardening videos on YouTube. Read my seed starting and seed saving tutorials on the MrBrownThumb blog.


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  • No seed? Gasp! Actually, I think that's a great tip. Seed growing requires more commitment and more equipment. Starting out with a nice healthy plant increases likelihood for great results and will bring people back to urban gardening year after year. I started out with hybrid plants and am now transitioning over to heirloom seed. Who knows what color my thumb will be after this season! ~BW, Wicker Rooftop

  • In reply to wickerrooftop:

    BW, Hope you have a lot of success this year with the heirlooms. They're fun plants to try, and you can usually find them at the plant sales I'll be blogging about. Thanks for stopping by.

  • In reply to wickerrooftop:

    My love affair with gardening did in fact start with a tomato, and it was a hybrid seedling I got at Meijer many lo mumble years ago. I think most people new to gardening don't start with seeds right off, probably with plant divisions from friends or buying plants. It's nice getting to know the plant itself for at least a season, before trying to start it yourself, imho. One of my latest volunteer gigs is starting veggies from seeds (mostly tomatoes and peppers) to raise to sell at a May fundraiser for a local community garden. I definitely think plants are a better gateway drug than seeds. :)

  • In reply to wickerrooftop:

    Yep, starting with plants is definitely a way for new gardeners to get started. Based on my own experience I'm not sure I agree on the hybrid vs heirloom thing. I have mostly grown heirloom tomatoes, have never had a problem with them, find them to be much more flavorful, and have always had huge harvests - even now in small raised beds where everything is very closely planted.

    In small urban gardens, and especially in containers, determinate varieties, whether heirloom or hybrid, are smaller, easier to manage plants. It seems to me the choice between determinate or indeterminate might be a good criterion for newbie food gardeners,who might want to start with the smaller, more manageable determinate varieties.

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