How long do tomato seedlings need before they bear fruit?

Section 1: Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) History

An Introduction to tomatoes

Tomatoes originated in South America’s Andes Mountains, where wild varieties still survive today. The fruit — which was originally small and yellow — was cultivated and used throughout South and Central America by at least 500 BCE. The pre-Mayan civilization of Central America and modern-day Mexico called the fruit “xitomatl” and the Aztecs called it “tomatl,” which are both very similar to tomato’s modern day pronunciation.

It’s unclear whether Hernán Cortés, a Spanish conqueror, or Christopher Columbus, an Italian-born explorer/conquistador hired by Spain, were the first to bring the fruit back to continental Europe in the late 1400s to early 1500s. Regardless matter who brought it back first, tomatoes swiftly spread over Europe, particularly after people understood the fruit was edible rather than toxic.

Tomatoes quickly expanded across European colonies and trade places all over the globe, including Asia. Each region of the world where tomatoes were introduced soon began breeding their own unique varieties of the fruit that were adapted to the local environments and the specific flavor preferences of the culture and its cuisines.

Now, the USDA estimates that there are up to 25,000 tomato varieties—not bad for 500 years of worldwide breeding! With 93% of all American gardens growing at least one variety of tomato each year, that number might just continue to increase.

We hope you’ll reflect on the remarkable global voyage your tomato seeds have been on before arriving to your garden, and save seeds for future years so their grow journey continues! To find out how, read this tomato growing guide.

Section 2: Seed Germination

You have two options for germinating tomato seeds:

  1. Germinate indoors:  A more time-consuming strategy since you must keep track of watering your seedlings and ensuring they receive adequate light. However, most experienced gardeners start their tomato seeds indoors since that provides earlier harvests and larger yields over the entire growing season.
  2. Germinate outdoors  via direct seeding into your soil : An simpler, less time-consuming strategy, although yields are delayed until later in the season due to the late start. Also, you have a greater risk of plant loss during the seedling stage due to outdoor garden pests.

Choose whatever strategy (beginning inside or outdoors) is best for you based on the amount of time you have to devote, your degree of gardening knowledge, and the resources at your disposal.

Section 2a:

Option 1: Starting your tomato seeds indoors

Tomato-Garden-Berry - germination icons


6-8 weeks before your last frost date is the ideal time to start your tomato seedlings indoors if you want to get an early jump on the growing season and get the largest possible yields. (You may discover your last frost date by clicking here.)

No worries if your latest frost date has already past! If you have 3+ months of nice weather ahead of you, you may simply straight plant your tomato seeds into your garden. Smaller-fruited tomato types need at least 50-60 days to yield fruit, whilst bigger varieties require 90+ days.


Sowing depth:  Sow your tomato seeds  1/4″ deep Add organic seed starting mix or potting soil of your choice (see recommended products below).

Filling your seed cells with garden soil is not a good idea. , because it hardens into an impenetrable block. Instead, we recommend that you buy a ready-made organic seed starting mix or a light potting mix like Fox Farm potting soil.

Experienced gardeners or gardeners starting large numbers of plants often prefer to mix their own seed starting mix. Here’s our formula for making your own DIY seed starting mix.

We suggest beginning your tomato seeds in one of the following containers:

  • reusable plastic seed cells,
  • biodegradable seed cells, or
  • Ladbrooke soil blocks.

Whichever method you choose for your tomato seedlings, be sure to place a firm plastic seed tray or an old cookie sheet underneath them to prevent water from spilling into your floor or furniture.

Don’t forget to identify your cells with plant identifiers so you know which variety is which!



Temperatures in the optimal range for tomato seed germination are 75° – 85°F .

Place your seed trays in a  warm spot in your home (such as a sunny window ) Use a seed heat mat for the greatest results (which is also very helpful for starting other summer seeds like eggplants, ground cherries, peppers, etc.). We’ve had significantly better germination with our summer seeds since using a heat mat.

Tomato seed germination time: Your tomato seedlings will thrive if the soil is kept moist and temperatures are kept between 75° and 85°F. will germinate within 7 days .

If the temperatures are cooler than this, your seeds may take an additional 1 – 2 weeks to germinate. If it is too chilly (below 65°F), your tomato seeds will not germinate.


To help with germination,  Keep your seed containers damp but not wet. The moisture level should be comparable to that of a well-wrung-out sponge.

To prevent tomato seeds and soil from dislodging, use a delicate watering technique such as a misting bottle or a watering can with a very light flow. It’s important that your soil mix be thoroughly moistened BEFORE your seeds are added, or you’ll have difficulty getting the soil moist without dislodging the seeds.

The frequency you’ll need to water your tomato seedlings on an ongoing basis varies. Begin by watering your seed pots every 24 hours, unless they are very moist. If this occurs, wait a few hours and check on them again.

On seedling heat mats or in higher temps, your soil will dry up quicker.

Again, go for the happy medium of  soil with a similar dampness as a wrung-out sponge Seeds left in puddles decay rapidly, and small seedlings in crusty, dry soil die quickly owing to a lack of moisture.


Indoor Light:

Place your tomato seeds in front of a light after they have germinated/sprouted above the soil surface. sunny,  south-facing window in your home (For example, the window that receives the most sunshine during the day).

Do note that newer, modern windows block a lot of the light spectrum that plants need to grow, so if you have energy-efficient windows, you might want to consider getting grow lights for your seedlings. Here’s how to make your own grow light system at home.

It is critical that your tomato seedlings get enough light—an A daily minimum of six hours of direct light —otherwise, they’ll grow weak and “leggy” rapidly (tall and spindly).

Tip: If growing in front of a window, rotate your seed trays on a regular basis so that the same side is not constantly facing the sunny window—this will prevent the side farthest away from the window/sun from becoming leggy or extending sideways towards the light.

Outdoor Light:

As daytime temps reach the 60s, you may start placing your tomato seedlings outdoors in direct sunlight. You risk sunburning your seedlings if you don’t “harden off” them before exposing them to direct, unfiltered sunlight.

Further information on hardening off tomato seedlings may be found in the Transplanting Outside section below.


“Cotyledon” leaves are the first two leaves on your tomato seedlings. The next leaves that develop are the first set of “true leaves.”

Your tomato seedlings will develop their first genuine leaves 10-14 days following germination. At this point, you’ll need to consider nutrition , depending on whether your seed starting mix included nourishment or not.

When/if your tomato seedlings need nutrition  If you see yellowing leaves or reduced development, you have two choices:

  1. Use Organic Liquid Fertilizer  – Start applying a water-diluted  organic liquid fertilizer Once or twice a week. (We like using liquid kelp fertilizer.) Dilution ratios differ across products, but Watering seedlings at half strength (half of what the bottle suggests for established plants) is a decent rule of thumb. Be mindful that over-fertilizing your plants might make them more appealing to nuisance insects such as aphids, which can grow fast inside due to the lack of predatory insects.
  2. Transplant Seedlings Into Larger Pots/Cells:  This is also known as “potting up” in gardening jargon. If your tomato seedlings need nutrition or are running out of space in their smaller cells, you can transplant them into larger, 3-4 inch diameter pots or cells using a seed starting mix that contains worm castings, compost, or slow release organic fertilizer.

Next, keep a close eye on your tomato seedlings to make sure they stay healthy: well-sunned, well-fed and well-watered until your last frost date has arrived. You’re nearly done with the transplant!

Section 2b:

Option 2: Starting your tomato seeds outdoors


Sow your tomato seeds shortly after the latest frost date has past. ¼ inch deep in your backyard. Make sure the soil is moist, but not wet, until seed germination/sprouting.


Other than weather, the greatest danger to your young outdoor tomato seedlings is cut worms, which will chew through the stem of your young seedlings, killing them. We employ the “stick method” to keep cutworms from consuming our newborn seedlings.

The “Stick Trick” : Once your outdoor tomato seed has sprouted, find a stick roughly the diameter of a toothpick and gently insert it into the ground directly next to your tomato seedling’s stem. The cutworms are duped into believing the hard stick is the stem of the tomato seedling and go on.

A tomato seedling with a rod pushed into the ground (right side) adjacent to the stem.

Section 3. Transplanting Outdoors

Follow the steps below if you began your tomato seeds inside. If you germinated your seeds outside in your garden, you can skip this section and head on over to the Sun, Soil & Water section.


Outside direct sunlight is always more powerful than either indoor grow lights or window light.

Many inexperienced gardeners make the mistake of putting their tomato seedlings directly into direct sunshine before “hardening” them off. This mistake can cause extreme sunburn that severely damages or kills your tomato plants.

Tomato seedlings hardening off in the sun.

To be safe,  Plan on hardening off your tomato seedlings outside for a week.  as follows:

  • Days 1-3: Plant your tomato seedlings in a shaded area that will only get indirect sunlight.  3-5 hours of direct sunlight  throughout the day.
  • Days 4-5: Put your seedlings in a slightly brighter location that will get around 5-6 hours of direct sunlight .
  • Days 6-7:  Place your seedlings in a  full sun spot  (6+ hours of direct sunlight).

Keep the following elements in mind during this changeover period:

  • Water – If your tomato seedlings’ leaves appear limp, this is likely due to lack of water. Maintain a moist but not damp soil.
  • Sunburn – If your tomato seedling leaves start to become white and papery, they’ve been sunburned. Let them to recuperate for a few days in a somewhat shaded location. Again, if you don’t properly harden off your seedlings, they can get severely sunburned, which will either slow their growth to a crawl while they recover or possibly kill them (if they’re small or weak).
  • Cold – Bring your tomato seedlings inside if the temperature falls below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.


A. Last Frost Date

After your area’s last frost date has passed and your tomato seedlings have hardened off, it’s time to move them outside.

Before you begin planting, check the 10-day weather prediction for your area at Hold off on transplanting if the day or night temperature falls below 45°F. This technique has spared us a lot of grief in recent years as harsh weather and temperature swings have become the “new normal.”

B. Tomato Spacing

Plant spacing (the distance between plants) and row spacing (the distance between rows) are critical factors to consider while planting tomatoes. There is some spacing variability depending on the growth habit of the specific tomato variety and type you choose – dwarf, determinate, indeterminate, etc. Check your seed packs or garden store sticker for exact spacing suggestions. Planting your tomato plants too close together can lead to poor air circulation, which can cause tomato diseases to proliferate and spread.

As a general rule:

  • Plant INDETERMINATE tomato plants spaced 3′ apart in rows 4′ apart, and
  • Plant DETERMINATE Tomato plants should be spaced 2.5′′ apart in rows 4′ apart.

C. Tomato Transplanting Trick 

See all those little “hairs” on your tomato seedings’ stems? They are known as “adventitious roots.”

As adventitious roots come into touch with soil, they transform into soil roots. Want your tomato plants to require less water and fertilizer while also holding up better against strong wind/storms?

Here’s how:

  1. Trim any side branches below the top growth point of any tomato seedlings that are taller than 6 inches (use clean clippers or scissors and cut each branch back to the stem).
  2. Next, dig a surface trench in the soil long and deep enough to accommodate the tomato seedling. (Ideally, add compost or worm castings to the trench.)
  3. Place the tomato seedling in the trench on its side, with the growth tip bent slightly up, so that the top remaining branches and growth tips are a few inches above the soil level.
  4. Bury the tomato seedling’s stem.

After a week, the stem will have started to establish roots, and your transplanted tomato seedlings will begin to grow rapidly. To read more about this trick, read our article 5 tomato growing tricks you should start using.

D. Soil Amending 

If you don’t have rich, nutritious soil in which to grow your tomato seedlings, try buying worm castings and organic fertilizer to amend your soil as follows:

  • Castings/compost – When transplanting your tomato seedlings, dig a 1′ x 1′ hole and fill it with 50% castings and 50% garden soil.
  • Organic fertilizer – Loosen the soil in an area 3-4 times the size of the tomato seedling root ball. Mix in slow release fertilizer at the application rate described on the product package, then transplant your seedling into the spot.

The dirt used to fill the hole back in around the tomato seedling should be genuine soil. You should not fill the hole with recognizable chunks of mulch, kitchen scraps, leaves, lawn clippings, or other undecomposed organic matter.

E. Top-Dressing Your Beds With Mulch

We can’t overemphasize how important top-dressing your beds with wood chips or mulch is for building and maintaining healthy soil, regulating soil moisture & temperature, and blocking unwanted plants – aka “weeds.” When you’ve planted your tomato seedlings, cover them with at least a couple inches of mulch. on top of the soil surface  around your plants, if it’s not already there.

Likewise, mulches should always be applied to the soil’s surface (also known as “top-dressing”).

If you’ve ever heard of mulches or compost “stealing” nutrients from garden plants (particularly nitrogen), combining carbon-rich mulches is a great way to avoid this. into  the soil instead of letting it sit  on top This issue is caused by the dirt. You can read more about your plant’s long term soil requirements in the Sun, Soil, and Water section below.

F. Watering

Immediately after planting, give each newly transplanted tomato seedlings a deep watering around the base of the plant. As a result of this:

  • aids in the filling up of the surrounding garden soil around the root ball
  • permits the roots of your tomato plants to freely touch the garden soil
  • Plant growth is accelerated and transplant shock is reduced.

G. The Stick Trick

Freshly transplanted seedlings are often “cut down” by “cutworms,” so-called because they gnaw through the root of immature seedlings, destroying the plant.

We have had complete success in eliminating these pests. We simply find a stick roughly the same thickness as a toothpick and stick it in the ground right next to the stem of our seedlings. When the cutworms come along and feel around the seedling, it is tricked into thinking that the plant is too tough to cut down, so it moves along to its next victim.

The “stick technique” was used to protect a tomato seedling against cutworms. You can see the stick inserted into the ground to the right of the tomato seedling’s stem.


Our indeterminate tomatoes (varieties that continue to develop and produce throughout the season) will grow into massive plants by the end of the growing season, typically rising to 8′ tall or more.

Our determinate tomatoes (varieties that produce a single enormous crop and are subsequently removed from the garden) may grow to be 5′ tall. To reduce disease, increase air circulation to the leaves, make it easier to maintain the plants and harvest the fruit, we always use some sort of “training” system for our tomato plants. * The only exceptions to this rule are short mounding tomatoes and tiny cherry tomato types, which we let sprawl/crawl on the ground.

To anchor our fruit-laden determinate tomato plants, we utilize “half cages” (big cages cut in half using heavy-duty wire cutters).

There are several tomato cage possibilities, but we’ve found that most wire trellises from gardening stores are enough. when our tomatoes are completely developed, they are too little and frail to help . We’ve tried a lot of tomato training systems over the years, but the one that works best for us is our “homemade” 2.5′ diameter x 6′ tall cages that we make from concrete reinforcing wire (here’s an article showing you exactly how to make your own).

The tomato cages we make from concreted reinforcing wire are tall, strong, and can be reused for many years (ours are a decade old now). Our tomato cages were placed over our tomato transplants/seedlings. as soon as they go in the ground . This   When the plants develop, it helps them grow up and through the cages.

It is much simpler to place tomato cages on little plants than it is to force a cage over and around a huge plant!

Concrete reinforcement wire is used to cage young tomatoes.

Part 4: “SUCKERING” 

As your tomato plants grow, you’ll notice that a new branch will form off the main stem, and between them a new growth will form. A “sucker” is a new growth in the “V” formed by the stem and the new branch.

If left unpruned, these suckers will eventually grow into new branches, flowers and fruit. If you’re raising a You DO NOT want to trim your suckers if you have a determinate tomato type. since the plant produces all of its fruit at once (you will have a lower yield). However, many tomato growers will prune the suckers on their indeterminate varieties as it’s said to help produce larger fruits earlier in the season while also helping improve airflow in and around the plant, thus reducing disease.

If you’re just cultivating a few indeterminate tomato plants, we think it’s worth “suckering” them. However, you’re more likely to spread disease if you’re constantly touching your tomato plants.

If you choose to sucker your plants, be sure to use sterile equipment and clean them well before going on to the next plant to avoid accidently spreading tomato illnesses (especially problematic in warm wet climates like where we live in the southeast US).

We stopped suckering our indeterminate tomatoes a few years ago because we typically grow 50+ tomato plants each summer, and we just didn’t want to spend all day suckering them. We haven’t seen any reduction in fruit size or production. That has definitely decreased the amount of time we have had to spend suckering, giving us more time for fun and eating!

Section 4: Sun, Soil, and Water


Tomato plants  thrive in full-sun spots (6 hours or more of direct sunshine every day). However, tomato varieties that produce smaller fruit (such as cherry and currant tomatoes) can produce good yields in lower light environments, even part shade.

Growing tomatoes against a bright-colored wall or fence may also enhance production since light and heat are reflected.


Tomato plants perform best in  rich soil with lots of organic matter .

Five techniques which you may employ to significantly increase soil health and biological fertility are:

  1. “hugelkultur”  (click here to read about this technique);
  2. polyculture plant guilds (See “Guild Plants,” the next part of this guide.)
  3. 3-6 inches of wood chips/mulch on top of your soil  twice per year in the fall and spring;
  4. using  living cover crop mixes  rather than leaving your soil fallow;
  5. using  compost from hot composting methods  (Berkeley method) or  worm castings . Either: a) Apply the compost/castings on top of your beds, or b) Make actively aerated compost tea (AACT) to use as a soil drench or foliar spray. (Option b provides the best bang for your dollars.) These spraying techniques significantly enhance the number and variety of beneficial microorganisms in your soil and on your plants.

All five of these soil building approaches may increase soil richness to the point where your tomato plants may not need any further fertilizer or water during the growing season after their root systems have formed.

If you have poor soil or you do decide to use fertilizer, we recommend that you NOT use non-organic/synthetic fertilizers as these will have a compounding harmful effect on your soil over time. Use a slow-release organic OMRI-listed fertilizer instead.


Tomatoes need approximately  1″ of water per week in normal summer conditions .

As your tomato plants mature, their root systems will develop and will be able to get more water from the surrounding soil and mycelial web (the symbiotic fungi in the soil). If your soil is good, your plants’ root systems are developed, and rain is consistent, you may not need to water your tomato plants at all.

If you do need to water, be sure to:

  1. In the morning, water the plants’ roots rather than their foliage (not in the evening). Wet leaves, especially overnight, can increase the risk of fungal diseases.
  2. Deep water (shallow watering can lead to shallower root systems).

Section 5. Helpful Guild Plants/Companion Plants for Tomatoes 

Definition: A plant “guild” is a polyculture plant system (several plant species planted together) that is specifically intended to foster symbiotic connections between species, boost plant production, and increase survival rates among the individual plants in the guild system.

You may have witnessed plant guilds accidentally if you’ve ever visited a “wild” habitat (mature forest or prairie). Like people, plants tend to perform better in companion communities than they do as isolated individuals.

In one of our garden beds, we have peppers, tomatoes, squash, and other plants.

Some Common Plants to Consider in Your Tomato Guild:


  • asparagus
  • beans
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • celery
  • chard
  • onions
  • peas
  • peppers (especially hot pepper varieties)


  • basil
  • bee balm
  • borage
  • chives
  • dill
  • hyssop
  • lemon balm
  • parsley
  • tarragon


  • geranium
  • marigolds (French and Mexican)
  • nasturtiums
  • petunias
  • yarrow

A beautiful tumbling tomato gracefully cascades across the rock walls in our front yard. Thyme, eggplants, squash, marigolds, and other plants are also sprouting up around the tomato plant.

Section 6. Edible Landscape & Containers 

Part 1. Planting Tomatoes in your Edible Landscape 

Surprisingly, some individuals do not believe tomato plants are suitable for landscaping. We can’t really relate since there is nothing that draws us into a garden like a lush tomato plant loaded with sun-warmed fruits.

For people with warm summers who can expect indeterminate tomato varieties to reach 10’ or longer, consider flaunting its kudzu-like proportions by growing it like a climbing rose on a trellis or garden arch. Visitors to your garden will be taken aback when they discover they are staring at tomato vines rather than a more classic decorative.

For extra oomph (and as backup if tomatoes in your area succumb to blights later in the season), you can grow a “cypress” vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) at the base of the arbor. Let the cypress vine to weave in and out of the tomatoes as the red, pink, or white trumpet-shaped blossoms attract hummingbirds. This plant’s leaves are also made up of airy, needle-thin filaments that do not shade out a fast-growing tomato!

In overcast, cold, or shorter-season locations where even indeterminate tomatoes remain rather short, we propose buying a topiary frame (or making your own) to train your tomato on to simulate a pillar or standard rose.

If you have doubts about a tomato plant’s potential to look well in the landscape, or if your local cooperative extension office states your area is prone to tough tomato illnesses like late blight, you may use the camouflage method.

This involves using hardscaping elements like benches or vigorous crops as plant partners to hide or soften the effects of tomatoes in the ornamental garden. Just make sure your tomato has enough space, air movement, and sunshine regardless of how you mix it into its environment to ensure a great crop.

Using “shoes and socks” in edible landscaping with tomato plants

The “shoes and socks” technique of landscaping with tomatoes. The tomatoes are planted at the rear (can you see the red and green fruit? ), with shorter marigolds placed in front of them to create a vibrant border. The marigolds help obscure the lower leaves on the tomato plants as they die and wither during the season.

Planting 2-3 foot tall “shoes and socks” plants in front of your tomato is a fantastic idea. Since the lowest tomato leaves tend to look the worst as the season wears on, covering the with other plants (like shoes to hide your ugly socks with holes) is a good strategy to consider. As shown in the picture above, marigolds act as “socks.”

You may also put more eye-catching elements in front of the tomato plant’s base, such as a sculpture, pots, or a brightly painted seat, to cover any “ugly” bottom foliage.

Tumbling tomatoes, eggplant, cilantro, and lilies are all housed together.

Using odd tomato variations

Some tomato varieties are bred to be extremely dwarf and are best used as front-of-the-border accents or for dangling over prominent garden walls or stair edging. Determinate tomatoes are developed to produce all of their growth and fruit at once, then die back after harvesting (popular with market growers and with people who enjoy canning in big batches).

Determinate and semi-determinate tomatoes can work with the above design ideas but you should plan for them to be shorter (and thus use shorter garden supports for them to climb on). You’ll need to consider what plants you’ll replace them with after they’ve been harvested and begin to deteriorate.

Plant tomatoes (half-cages), peppers, and squash in a landscape bed. The lowest leaves of this tomato plant are starting to perish. This space might alternatively be covered with a ground-crawling winter squash or melon plant.

Part 2. Planting Tomatoes in a Container

A. Tomato container/pot size and pacing for maximum harvest

Minimum container size recommended: 9-15 gallons (for 1 plant), 12-20 in. diameter, 8-16 in. depth.

Happy tumbling tomatoes living in a container.

We’ve been growing tomatoes in pots on our patio for a few years and have discovered that Sub-Irrigated Planters (SIPs) are the best and simplest method to produce bigger, healthier (i.e. no blossom end rot & excellent fruit set) tomatoes.

When growing a tomato variety in a container, the first thing to consider is: How top-heavy will it be at the conclusion of the season? Check the package description to determine the sort of tomato you’re dealing with.

  • If it’s a large indeterminate tomato We propose anchoring the pot and/or choosing a particularly hefty container for diversity (clay, not plastic).
  • Determinate and semi-determinate Varieties may grow large, but they will most likely not need as much preparation.
  • Dwarf tomato Variety may be regarded as an ornamental pepper plant (typically 8 inches to 3 feet tall) and will thrive in smaller pots than their gigantic cousins.

B. Tomato support, caging, staking

Once you’ve decided what size container to use, you’ll need to decide if your tomato will spill out of the pot like a steadily-enlarging octopus or if you plan to cage or stake it for vertical growth. Your method of support should either: a) fit within the tomato plant’s pot, or b) mount above or behind the plant.

Preparing these tiny aspects ahead of time can make a big difference in how good your tomato appears later in the season (an unhappy tomato is not an appealing tomato!). Well-designed tomato planters should stay where you put them and be able to provide the plant with enough moisture and nutrients in between reasonably frequent waterings and feedings.

C. Choosing tomato pot/container color

Now to the fun part! You may use whatever color or pattern you like as long as your container has at least the minimum required capacity (more is preferable). We advise against multiple plants in the same container unless it is a very large raised growing bed (instead, just surround your tomato pot with other potted plants).

When choosing a color, consider that a pink-fruited tomato in a neon orange container should probably be surrounded by other over-the-top, tropical-looking plants to create a lively theme. Nonetheless, you are free to choose whatever color scheme you want—the sky is the limit… in fact, sky blue isn’t a bad idea for your container since it would nicely contrast with the dark green leaves and any tomato variety’s ripe fruit color.

Section 7. Common Pests & Diseases

A. During (Indoor) Seedling Stage

Since there are no predators to regulate pest and disease populations, indoor plants and seedlings (including tomatoes) are more vulnerable to pests and illnesses.

Problems that you may experience during the germination and seedling stages of your tomato plants include:

  • Aphids
    • Tiny sap-sucking insects that thrive on young plant stems and the undersides of young leaves.
    • Signs include sticky leaves, twisted leaves, and plants that are weaker, limp, or withering despite appropriate water and nutrients.
    • Organic treatments include insecticidal soaps, horticultural oil sprays, and organic pesticides (neem oil is very effective). The longer you can keep your seedlings outside, the less aphid issues you’ll have. Aphids are a favored food of ladybugs, parasitoid wasps, and other predatory insects that you most likely don’t have in abundance in your house.
  • White Flies
    • Description: Tiny, white flies that breed under plants.
    • Symptoms and natural treatment are the same as for aphids (above).
  • Fungus Gnats
    • Tiny dark-colored gnats; little white-colored larvae reside in soil and feed on the roots of young plants.
    • Symptoms: If left untreated, seedling development slows and seedlings perish.
    • Organic Treatment: Add beneficial/predatory nematodes to your soil to prevent or cure fungus gnats.
  • Damping Off
    • Description: Death of young seedlings caused by fungal disease.
    • Young seedlings wither and die, often unexpectedly.
    • Organic Treatment: The greatest remedy for damping off is prevention. Two most important methods of prevention: 1) don’t overwater, and 2) try to keep your seedlings in an area with good air flow. Other preventative measures include: Make use of a sterilized potting mix. Before reusing seed trays, sterilize them. If a seedling or seedling tray becomes moist, remove it from the seedling area immediately.

B. After Transplanting Outdoors: Identifying & Treating Tomato Pests & Diseases

Listing the full range of possible outdoor pests and diseases that can affect tomato plants would require a full book to cover! Do you need help identifying and treating a tomato disease? Clemson University Extension offers a wonderful tomato disease detection and treatment guide (with illustrations).

Related Questions

  • How big should my tomato seedlings be before transplanting?

    three to four inches tall

    Most tomato seedlings are ready to move from the seed starting trays and into a larger container when they are three to four inches tall and have three or more sets of leaves. They should be moved into a bigger pot at least four weeks before planting outside to allow the root system to mature.

  • When should tomatoes start producing fruit?

    Tomatoes mature about 20 to 30 days from the time they first emerge, so your tomato plants should start producing fruits 40 to 50 days after you put them in the ground.

  • What are the 5 stages of a tomato plant?

    Jones (2013) and Garca et al. (2011) define the five development phases of tomato as germination and early growth with first leaves (between 25 and 35 days), vegetative period (20 to 25 days), flowering (20 to 30 days), early fruiting (20 to 30 days), and mature fruiting (20 to 30 days) (15 to 20 days).

  • When can I transplant tomato seedlings outside?

    When the seedlings are 3 to 4 inches tall and the overnight temperatures are regularly above 50 degrees, tomatoes are suitable for transplantation into the garden.

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