The Great Tomato Question: Seeds or Plants?

A 'German Johnson' tomato almost ready to pick
Now is the time to answer The Great Tomato Question.

Should I start my tomato plants from seeds or buy tomato plants at the garden center?

I've done both.

If I start my tomato plants from seeds, the world is my oyster, or rather my tomato. With just a few clicks on the Internet I can order seeds for the exact varieties of tomatoes I want to grow.

I can grow old favorites, like 'German Johnson'.  I can grow heirloom tomatoes. I can grow the newest hybrid tomatoes. I can grow cherry tomatoes and orange tomatoes and pink tomatoes and even green tomatoes.  There is no limit, other than the size of my garden, on the variety of tomatoes I can grow if I start my tomato plants from seeds.

And as far as seed starting goes, tomato seeds are pretty darn easy to sow, germinate readily, and generally grow well indoors as long as you provide them with a lot of light.

Of course, the tomato seedlings do need a bit of care through the process.  You have to water them, and make sure to give them a little bit of fertilizer, and maybe even pot them up to bigger pots before it's time to plant them out in the garden.

But did I mention you can find all kinds of amazing tomato varieties to purchase seeds for online?

On the other hand, if I don't start my tomato plants from seeds, I have to buy tomato plants at the local greenhouse or garden centers.  And I have to settle for whatever varieties they have available.  Most years, that's okay, as long as I can find a source for my beloved 'German Johnson' tomato.

Last year, I sort of had the best of both worlds.  The owners of the local greenhouse grew a few 'German Johnson' tomato plants just for me.  Wasn't that nice of them?  I'm sure if I asked nicely, they'd do it again.

But I do like to start my tomatoes from seeds.  And there are so many varieties I want to try. And I have the shelves and the lights and the flats and the soil.  I just need the seeds.

I guess I have my answer to The Great Tomato Question.

What's your answer?


  1. I will never ever buy my tomato plants at the local garden center. I want tomatoes, not water-filled red blobs, and the local garden center only seems to sell commercial variety without the slightest trace of taste.
    And I still have seeds for at least 50 varieties I didn't try before.

  2. At my other home I had the space and the equipment to grow tomatoes and other vegetables from seed. Alas, I don't have that luxury anymore.

  3. I think that if you are only looking to grow a couple of plants, the garden centre wins through, unless you have one of those packets of seeds which come free with magazines. If you're growing more than a couple of plants, then financially, sowing seeds must make more sense - and there are so many varieties available and they are so easy to propagate!

  4. If you have a particular tomato problem--like late blight--you are trying to overcome, you will need to grow from seed and buy your seeds early before they sell out. It's unlikely you will find plants.

  5. I've done both too and have decided this year to go with plants. Many of our nurseries are offering an incredible number of varieties including heirloom varieties and those that perform well in our climate. Last year I grew tomatoes in my greenhouse and started way too many seeds, kept potting up and giving away until I had about 30 plants which was still too many. They got crowded and only a few produced really well. Having not started from seed in years, I planted 6 packs of seed and couldn't bear to throw away a single plant so they went from a starting flat to four inch pots then gallons, then five gallons. At each potting up step more plants were given away then were kept. It was very time consuming at a time when many other garden projects could have used the time.


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