If you’ve never bitten into a fragrant, vine-ripened, sun-warmed tomato harvested fresh from your own garden, you haven’t tasted a real tomato. And once you’ve done so, you’ll never be happy with the mealy supermarket imposters again. Tomato plants, fortunately, are simple to cultivate and quite fruitful.
Tomatoes are long-season, heat-loving plants that won’t tolerate frost, so it’s best to set them into the garden as transplants (young plants) after the weather has warmed up in spring. You can buy tomato transplants, but there’s something unique about growing your own plants inside. Moreover, by producing your own transplants, you may choose from hundreds of tomato types that are accessible as seed but seldom as transplants.
There are hundreds of tomato types available as seed, making it difficult to choose a few for your home garden. Here are a few things to consider:
- Choose the sort of tomatoes you want, such as cherry tomatoes, slicers, or tomatoes for sauce or paste.
- Assess the mature plant’s size. Determinate tomatoes grow to about 3 feet tall and are the best choice for containers. Indeterminate tomatoes may grow up to 6 feet tall. All tomatoes benefit from supports, such as Tomato Cages or Tomato Ladders.
- Check for signs of illness resistance. Tomatoes are sensitive to a variety of illnesses, which may or may not be present in your area. To be on the safe side, I always grow at least one variety with resistance to verticillium and fusarium (designated by a V or F after the variety name).
Despite the name “potting soil,” the optimum medium for seed beginning contains no dirt at all. Employ a sterile, soilless seed starting mix indicated for seed beginning. Never use garden soil, which often has poor drainage and may host disease organisms.
Our Organic Seed Starting Mix was used to grow the seedlings on the left. The seeds on the right were planted in regular potting soil.
You can start your seeds in just about anything that holds soil and has drainage holes — I’ve used small yogurt containers and even egg cartons with holes poked in the bottoms and waterproof saucers underneath. But, I’ve found that using commercial containers, such as biodegradable pots and seed-starting trays, is more convenient.
Warmth and Light
Seeds germinate best at warm room temperature (70-75 degrees F); you can speed germination by providing bottom heat with a heat mat. Seedlings thrive in cold room temperatures about 65 degrees F once they’re up and developing.
The adjustable LED bulbs on this Stack-n-Grow light stand guarantee robust, sturdy seedlings.
Although you can start your tomatoes on a sunny windowsill, you’ll get better results growing them under some type of LED grow light. Winter and early spring sunshine is not as bright as summer sunlight, and there are fewer daylight hours. Inadequate lighting might result in weak, spindly plants. A light garden with adjustable lights is ideal for seed starting.
Step-By-Step Seed Starting
- Thoroughly moisten the seed-starting mix, and then fill the containers to within 1/2″ of the top. Stiff but not compress the mixture.
- Fill each little container or cell of a seed starting with two or three seeds. Cover the seed with about 1/4″ of soil and gently firm it over the seeds.
- Water well to achieve optimal seed-to-mix contact. You may use a plant mister or just trickle water over the top. It is not necessary to saturate the soil; only damp the top layer.
- Place the pots in a warm spot or on top of a heat mat. The seeds do not need light at this phase.
- Keep the mixture moist but not dripping wet. Use the greenhouse top on your seed-starting system to assist retain moisture. Instead, you may cover the pots with plastic wrap.
- Inspect the pots on a daily basis. As soon as you see sprouts, remove the covering and place the pots in a sunny window or under grow lights, keeping the lights just an inch or two above the tops of the plants.
Maintain the soil’s moisture but not saturation. Dry seed-starting mix is lighter in color than wet seed-starting mix, indicating that it requires water. Some gardeners run a fan in the room with their growing seedlings; good air circulation reduces the chances of disease problems, such as damping off.
If you’re growing plants on a windowsill, rotate pots daily so plants grow upright instead of leaning toward the light. If you’re growing plants under lights, maintain the lights only a few inches above the plants as they develop.
Just one seedling per pot or cell will result in the strongest, healthiest plants. Thinning (removing extra seedlings) is a tough task for many gardeners who hesitate to dispatch the seedlings they’ve been nurturing. Yet, it must be done. Choose the strongest, healthiest seedling and snip out the others at the soil line with a pair of scissors. You can try to transplant the extras into different pots, but you risk disturbing the roots of the remaining plant and, realistically, how many tomato plants can your garden accommodate?
It’s time to start fertilizing when the second set of real leaves develops. The first two leaves are referred to as “seed leaves,” whereas following leaves are referred to as “real leaves.” Use a water-soluble fertilizer at half the recommended dosage once or twice a week.
The distinction between a seed and a genuine leaf.
If your tomatoes outgrow their pots before it’s time to plant them outside, they may need to be relocated to bigger containers. Don’t allow the plant to get pot-bound, with the roots filling the container, or growth may be stunted. Read How to Repot a Tomato Seedling for further instructions.
Transplanting into the garden
Wait until until the average last spring frost date before transplanting tomato seedlings into the garden. If a late frost threatens, be prepared to protect the seedlings with season-extending garden fabric, row covers, or plant coverings. If everything goes as planned, you’ll be collecting ripe tomatoes in eight weeks or less.
Is it worth growing your own tomatoes?
Nothing tastes as luscious and delectable as a freshly plucked, succulent vine-ripened tomato. The tomato is very beneficial in many areas of health prevention, and easy to grow in a home garden. I hope these arguments have persuaded you to grow your own tomatoes this summer. Good luck with your gardening.
Why are tomatoes so hard to grow?
There’s either not enough calcium in the soil, or the pH is too low for the plant to absorb the calcium available. Tomatoes need a soil pH around 6.5 in order to grow properly. This pH level in the soil also allows them to absorb calcium. Inconsistent watering practices can add to this issue.
What is the trick to growing tomatoes?
More Sun Equals More Fruit
Plants should get seven hours of sunlight every day. Let your plants to develop as well. Put seedlings 30 to 48 inches apart, with rows separated by 48 inches. Leaving space between tomato plants will let light into the lower portions of the mature plants, improve air flow and help prevent disease.
Does tomato plants come back every year?
Indeed, it is a resounding yes. Tomato plants are perennials that thrive for many years in their original tropical growing zone. In cold climates, however, they do not survive winter outdoors because they are not frost-tolerant. As a result, most gardeners plant tomatoes as annuals.