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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: All-day light not necessary for young tomato plants

The preferred light-dark cycle for developing plants includes eight hours of darkness, and that a light duration of 14 to 18 hours suits them best.

Dear Helen: Recently, two different people have told me that young tomato plants should get 24 hours of light. Have you heard this?


I heard that recommendation on the radio a few years ago, but I’ve never set my plant lights to stay on all the time. My lights are on for 16 hours and off for eight. The sources I have researched suggest that the preferred light-dark cycle for developing plants includes eight hours of darkness, and that a light duration of 14 to 18 hours suits them best.

Once tomato plants are established in garden or greenhouse, eight hours of sunlight will promote fruiting.

Dear Helen: I’m no expert computer user and I am not accustomed to ordering things online, but some of the seed sources I use either strongly encourage online ordering or no longer put out a print catalogue. How are you managing this issue, or are you a computer whiz?


For someone who uses a computer regularly, I’m as far from a tech-whiz as a person can be. If a significant technical glitch arises, I have to seek help.

For me, it has been something of a challenge to navigate certain seed company websites. Some are super-easy to find desired items, order them, check out and pay; others are enough to make ordinary mortals grind their teeth into a fine powder.

I’ve been completely thwarted by passwords, and being asked to match them to some unknown entity. The demand for a cellphone number is another impossibility for oddities like me who don’t use one. I’ve made a note to order from more than one company by phone in the future, to avoid unnecessary hassle.

So far, my online ordering to Salt Spring Seeds, Brother Nature Seeds, William Dam Seeds, West Coast Seeds, T&T Seeds, Renee’s Garden, Twining Vine Garden, and Plant world Seeds (England) have gone smoothly. They all reply with an email confirmation and summary of the order.

I’ve been astonished at the almost uncanny speed with which my orders have arrived from Salt Spring Seeds.

The site I find most delightful to use is Renee’s Garden. It is bright, colourful, easy on the eyes and superbly simple to navigate. I’m trying a few of their New for 2023 listings. Other general categories include Easy to Grow Collections, Cookbooks, and Gifts.

Clicking on a category of seeds, for example peppers, brings up a page picturing the colourful seed packets, with full descriptions of the varieties offered. For small space and patio gardeners, there is under Vegetables a Container Variety Sampler.

For online ordering I use a credit card with a low limit on it.

Dear Helen: I’ve been looking all over for seeds of the small, elongated “dipping” tomato you described in a column. The seeds were slated to be introduced this year. I’ve not been able to find the seeds on local racks or in any of the catalogues I use.


Though I did not expect to find this new tomato on local seed racks, I have been surprised at how few catalogues have listed it.

Last spring, the company that originated Sun Dipper tomato sent me a transplant to trial in my garden ahead of the seeds’ introduction this year. The slim plant, staked against sturdy wire fencing, was wonderfully productive of elongated, pear-shaped tomatoes.

Those tomatoes were a real hit in the garden last summer. I invited every visitor to sample them. Everyone remarked on the sweet, rich flavour.

I ordered Sun Dipper from William Dam Seeds. I order every year from numerous sources. Three I use regularly listed Sun Dipper. The online ordering from Dam went smoothly and their prices are reasonable.

Dear Helen: I was interested in your column about good local sources of general gardening information. My local book store does not have the newly published, expanded and revised edition of West Coast Gardening: Natural Insect, Weed & Disease Control by Linda Gilkeson. Can you suggest how I might acquire a copy?


My local book store did not have it either. I ordered my copy from the Salt Spring Seeds website ( Click on Store and then on Books.

According to the author, these new books are available in Munro’s in Victoria, Salt Spring Books on Salt Spring Island, Volume 1 in Duncan, and Laughing Oyster in Courtenay.