The decision to grow tomatoes from seed is a personal one, as many gardeners prefer to simply purchase plants to transplant directly into their vegetable garden or containers. Those who choose to plant by seeds are a bit more adventurous and prefer the more hands-on of growing tomatoes from seed. Of course, this is a much more time-intensive process than simply buying an established plant at the nursery.
Growing tomatoes from seed isn’t too difficult, and it is tough to beat the contentment that comes from seeing the materialization of your patient efforts taking shape.
Using The Right Seeds
For starters, you have to start with the right kind of seeds. If you’re going to use seeds that produce a hybrid tomato variety you won’t have much results. Why? They just don’t grow true to the parent plant the way a good, old-fashioned heirloom will.
According to Mother Earth News, hybrids are more productive and disease-resistant than open-pollinated tomato varieties or heirloom tomato varieties. But open-pollinated tomatoes generally offer the richest flavors, and the great thing about planting heirloom seeds, you can dry out and save the seeds to plant in future seasons. Hybrid tomato breeding focuses on the needs of commercial producers who favor tomatoes that resist diseases and ship well, often allowing flavor to take a back seat.
Here are a few on-line sources were you can purchase tomato seeds.
After you have bought your favorite heirloom seed varieties, just follow the steps outlined below.
How To Germinate Your Seeds
You’ll want to germinate the seeds indoors, roughly 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost in your area. If you aren’t sure when to start, click the image to the right to be taken to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to check out the “last frost in your.”
To get started, purchase several containers of sterile seed growing mix. Moisten your containers, and make shallow holes about 1/4 inch deep. Then, drop the seeds into the hole and gently cover with dirt.
If you are using larger containers, that allow planting several seeds, you will need to make furlongs 1/4 inch deep. Place seeds into furlongs, at 1/2 inch apart.
Water the containers very gently, and then place them in an area which consistently reaches and holds between 75 to 80-degrees Fahrenheit, such as on top of your refrigerator.
If you happen to have a heated greenhouse, or a propagator to germinate your seeds, then even better.
As soon as you see the seeds begin to sprout, immediately add a strong light source from either a florescent grow bulb or natural sunlight.
This tells you that it is time to transplant your seedlings to bigger containers. This is known as “pricking out” your seedlings.
With a spoon or fork, scoop out each individual tomato seedling. Transplant individual seedlings into containers at least 3 to 4 inches in diameter filled with moistened potting mix.
Gently water in the seedling after planting. When spring weather reaches and holds 55-degree temperatures at nights, move your plants out into the sun for a few hours at a time to harden them off. Gradually increase sunlight exposure daily over a week, until they can sit outside all day.
Before transplanting your seedlings, be sure to check the pH level of your soil to ensure it is not too acidic or alkaline.
Growing Garden Tomatoes says that your soil pH should be between 5.5 to 6.8 for tomatoes. Home soil testing kits can be purchased at gardening and home improvement centers, and many major cities offer soil testing for a fee.
When you are ready to transplant your plants, remove the bottom branches and plant up to just below the bottom leaves to ensure healthy growth and a strong root system.
Add a tomato support in the form of cages or stakes and water gently. As your tomato plants grow, simply water soil when dry and enjoy your harvest!
Here’s a few recipes you can use your ripe home grown tomatoes in.
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