On a recent visit to Heighley Gate garden centre near Morpeth, we noted young plants in pots at different stages of growth, the tallest being 20cm.
That’s good news for anyone with a heated greenhouse who wishes to make an early start but too early for my situation, where the temperature still falls alarmingly at night.
Young tomato plants respond badly to cold, the leaves turning blue with a growth check that takes a while to recover from. For this reason alone, I will delay buying one or two tomatoes advanced in pots until the end of this month in preparation for greenhouse border-planting in May.
Even if you’ve been growing such crops from seed and enjoying the results, do consider trying one of the grafted type and see how they compare.
These are named cultivars that enjoy the union with a vigorous rootstock, which results in sturdy, disease-resistant plants bearing heavier crops.
They cost more than those raised from seed and growing on their own roots, but I consider it money well spent, be it on tomatoes, peppers or aubergine.
The latest fruit and veg catalogue from Suttons, to be seen online at www.suttons.co.uk, offers such a range in super-plug and potted-plant form.
Order the former by late April for May delivery, and the latter by early May for delivery later that month.
For example, the blight-resistant F1 cherry tomato Crimson Crush costs £34.99 for a potted plant or £9.99 for three super-plugs.
It’s good to have seedlings on the go again, but when you’ve got an unheated greenhouse, what happens next? We can encourage the germination of vegetable and ornamental plants in a warm propagating facility, but they can’t be left in there too long afterwards because we want sturdy, not soft, growth.
Once the first pair of true leaves appear, they’re transferred to a slightly cooler environment and good light conditions.
Depending on the current barometer reading, this could be the greenhouse, with fleece standing by for overnight protection, or a moderately-heated conservatory.
As growth develops, they are transferred in stages from cell trays to pots, then gradually hardened off for planting outdoors.