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How to seed your own tomatoes

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Every little helps when it comes to saving on the shopping bills, and if you get some enjoyment out of it too, all the better! Growing your own tomatoes from seed can be very rewarding, and the difference in flavour to those bought in the supermarkets can be amazing. After 'year one' you can be entirely tomato self-sufficient. This guide describes how you can harvest your own seeds from tomatoes, and grow new plants from them.
What you'll need: 
A couple of tomatoes that you like
Small plant pots, or a seed tray or plug tray
Some (seeding) compost or sieved soil
Water (rainwater is always best but tap water will do)
A pencil
Plastic cups (optional)
Keep aside a small number of tomatoes. These could be from a shop or from a plant you've bought or grown from shop bought seeds. Ideally they should be 'over ripe'; if you have a plant, leave some on it to 'go over'. They'll get a bit soft... Leave them on a bright windowsill or on the soil of the plant and leave them to dry out. They can be left for months, until you're ready to make new plants.
When you're ready to make new plants (spring is best) the dried tomatoes should be shrivelled and may either be a bit soft or like very hard raisins. They may have a little mould on or in them so take care if you suffer from allergies. Break them open and carefully remove the tiny flat seeds from inside.
Separate the seeds as they may be clumped together. They're ready for planting.
Prepare your pot(s) or seed tray(s) with the seed compost (normal compost is fine too, just a bit more lumpy and may not have the nutrients added to 'seed compost'). If you're going to scatter your seeds and thin the shoots out later, fill to half an inch below the top. If you're going to plant each seed individually, fill to the top. Give the compost a good watering and allow to drain.
If you're scattering, sprinkle your newly harvested seeds over the surface and cover with a half inch (12mm) sprinkling of compost, and gently water. Go straight to Step 7.
If you're planting individual seeds, dib the surface of the compost with the flat end of your pencil (stick it in by about half an inch/12mm) in a grid pattern, leaving about two fingers width between each hole. If using a 'plug tray' put a hole in each 'pot'. Drop a seed in to each hole and close the holes with the pencil or your fingers.
Keep your planted seeds in good light and water regularly (carefully so as not wash the soil around/away). You should have some shoots appear within two weeks.
When at least two sets of leaves have appeared on your new shoots, they are ready to be 'planted on'. Carefully lift them with some of the soil (or all, if using a plug tray) and re-pot them. Perhaps into plastic cups (poke a pencil hole in the bottom of each cup for drainage) which are a great and inexpensive alternative to small flower pots.
Plants can be moved on to either larger pots, the ground or growing bags as time progresses, and care/maintenance for each variety of tomato can be researched online.
When you have some nice red tomatoes, pick'em an'eat'em an' let us know how tasty they are! And don't forget to keep a few aside to dry out for the next year.
In summary: dry out some tomatoes, take the seeds out and plant them in the spring. Watch them grow and harvest the tomatoes, saving some to dry for next year.
When handling the young shoots, always hold them by the leaves and NOT the stem. The stems are very delicate when young and can be damaged by handling.
If intending to grow outdoors, 'harden' the plants when several inches tall by placing them outside during the day and bringing them indoors at night. Leave them outside after a couple of weeks and after risk of frost has passed.
Tomatoes will ripen even after picking, but don't pick too early,
If you end up with far too many plants, sell them off for a few pence at a boot sale or give them away to your friends.
Avoid watering plants when in full sunlight as the water on the leaves may act as a magnifyer and scorch the plants.
Growing your own produce can become addictive.


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