Growing Tomatoes From Seed

Growing tomato plants from seed isn’t very difficult – and can be highly gratifying, when you go to pick those beauties off the vine.  The hardest part for you will be trying to decide between the thousands of tomato varieties available to you.

Two basic kinds

Just remember that there are two basic kinds of plants. How you care for them will be slightly different as well as how and when the crops are ready for harvest.

Choose determinate varieties if you want a crop more or less all at once. This is perfect for those of you who like to can your own sauce or make home made salsa. Determinates are more bushy, too. Romas, pear and bite-sized cherry tomatoes are typical of this kind.

For those who like a more consistent production of tomatoes, choose indeterminate plants like Early Girl or Beefsteak. These plants will get tall and viney and need to be caged or trellised as they will grow to heights of 6 or more feet.

Starting out

You can begin your tomato starts inside about six or eight weeks before you plan to place them outside. In most regions in the U.S., this means late February to March. So, to start, you can place the seeds one by one about an inch apart on a tray of potting soil. Some more experienced gardeners will scatter the seeds randomly, but this can be difficult for a new tomato gardener to deal with.

Then cover them thinly with soil and press well and spray the soil surface. You may as well stretch plastic wrap covering the tray to help maintain consistent soil moisture and heat.

Tomato seeds need to be kept warm all their life including now so it is advisable to keep the seed tray in a consistently warm spot like on the clothes dryer or simply on the windowsill.  (Until they sprout, your seed tray can be kept in the dark – just remember to move them to a sunny location once they sprout.)

As soon as your baby plants start to surface, take away the plastic wrap. Tomato seedlings need damp potting soil but be mindful never to soak the seedlings.

Tomato plants really need plenty of natural light and sun light is best. Should you be raising your plants in a tray in the window, be sure that you reposition the tray on a daily basis. This will make sure that all of your baby plants have exposure to light which helps the seedlings to grow evenly.

If you notice that your little tomato plants reach and bend toward the light this means that they’re possibly not getting adequate daylight. Tomato plants also can develop skinny and leggy in cases where they don’t get sufficient light whilst in the house.  All this means is that they want more consistent direct sun.

Re-potting to Individual containers

Whenever your baby plants get to be almost 2 inches tall, the time is right to transplant them from the seed tray to small planting pots. With care you’ll want to divide each tiny plant seedling being mindful to not harm the root base. You need to pick up the new plants by the cotyledon (or first) leaves rather than the stem.  The young plant stems are very fragile and can easily be damaged at this stage.

In your new pot, make a hole with a pencil or end of spoon just about the size of the root base of your seedling. Place your baby plant in the hole and back-fill it with some manure or compost.

Gently push the compost down around the root base to make sure that the roots get complete contact with the potting soil.  Then water the plant right away.  I like to make a Miracle Grow mixture (or homemade compost tea) and keep it on hand for just this purpose.

Your maturing seedlings ought to remain in the natural light and possibly turned in the event the natural light is not even. Once the new plants are getting to be somewhere around six to eight inches high, you ought to transplant them once more directly into the garden or their final planting pots.

But before you do finally plant out, it is advisable to harden-off any new plants prior to positioning them directly into a backyard garden plot. Hardening them off only means to help them to get accustomed to your outside environment.

To harden off:  locate seedlings outdoors in the sunshine only a few hours every day (bringing them in each night) increasing their time outside by an hour or so till they are out for the full day.  It can take a week or so do do this.  I have “fried” plenty of baby plants just because I immediately put my plants out without conditioning them to their new environment a bit at a time.

Bury your new plant “up to the neck”

Once your young plants develop at the very least 6 leaves you will actually want to bury them well down in the earth so that just the leading 4 leaves are exposed. (I have even done this with older plants with more than 12 leaves – even a 15″ plant.)

It’s a fact that tomato plants can produce roots all down the stem, and by burying the stems well down in the soil can make certain that your tomato plants develop robust roots system.

This, in turn, produces a more robust plant which will in turn better tolerate the load of the tomatoes. This ultimately produces a stronger plant and healthier crop avoiding rot and disease associated with fruit raised on a weaker plant.

And there you go!  Your own lovely strong tomatoes from seed!!  You Go!