How To Grow Tomatoes By Seed

young woman holding a tomato plant - How To Grow Tomatoes By Seed

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

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone MapYou’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.

large heated propagatorWater 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.

true identifiable tomato leaves appearingAfter about a month you will notice the first “true” and identifiable tomato leaves begin to appear.

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.

soil test kitBefore 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.

Garden Fresh Tomatoes and Salsa

Sweet Tomato Chutney

What Others Are Reading:

The Mobile Cooking Teacher – Inspiring A New Generation Of Cooks

The Mobile Cooking Chef - Inspiring A New Generation Of CooksWe continue our interview with Keisha T. Prosser – The Mobile Cooking Teacher (view first interview here: Using Your Cooking Skills To Teach Others About Good Nutrition).

Keisha T. ProsserSplendid Recipes: Welcome back Keisha.

Keisha: Hi Randy and thanks, I am glad to be here again.

Splendid Recipes: Would it be fair to say that you as an instructor in cooking are inspiring a new generation of cooks?

Keisha: Yes I feel that I am. Young children and teens today are exposed to a lot of unhealthy foods, such as junk food as it is referred to.

Splendid Recipes: Tell us what are the first things that you are teaching this new generation of cooks?

Keisha: I am teaching them the basics to good cooking.

Splendid Recipes: And what are the basics Keisha?

Keisha: Well, there are five things all cooks should know and incorporate regularly when it comes to preparing a wholesome meal.

young boy in a cooking class

A Young Boy Learning To Cook With Keisha T. Prosser – The Mobile Cooking Teacher

Splendid Recipes: I like the way you say “wholesome meal.” Besides teaching these young children and teens to cook, you are also passionate about the food being wholesome.

Keisha: Yes Randy that is correct. They need to learn that they can make great food for themselves without depending on ordering food out from a fast food establishment.

Splendid Recipes: Okay, so explain to us the five things you explain to your students before you start cooking.

washing hands before cooking

A Cook Or Food Server Should Always Wash Their Hands BEFORE – DURING – and AFTER Preparing Food

Keisha: The very first things you need to do before you even touch your cooking utensils, recipe card or book, and food items, is wash your hands. Washing your hands cannot be overemphasized, as it can prevent food borne illnesses.

A lot of food borne illness come from cooks and food servers who are not washing their hands properly.  A cook, either it be one working in public food serve or a home cook needs to always make sure they wash their hands just before they get started.

That includes after touching raw meats, taking out the trash, going to the bathroom, smoking a cigarette, and even answering the cell phone.

Splendid Recipes: Remind us the proper washing of the hands before, during and after preparing food.

Keisha: Wash your hands under running water for 20 seconds, and be sure it is warm water. You also need to use an anti-bacteria soap and a single paper towel.

Splendid Recipes: Okay now your students have their hands washed. What instructions do you teach about preparing raw uncooked foods?

Keisha: Always make sure to wash your fruits and vegetables before using them to cook with. Also a meat thermometer is not only for use during Thanksgiving. We need to use a meat thermometer all year around, every time you cook with meat.

Food, and that includes raw meat and produce, needs to be cooked at its proper temperature.

Splendid Recipes: Can you tell us the proper use of a thermometer in cooking?

Keisha: Sure. First I would like to say that it is very important to make use of a cooking thermometer, because in the United States alone, 1 in 6 Americans or about 3,000 individuals will get sick and die from food poisoning this year.

Splendid Recipes: And all because a food preparer failed to take precautions and wash their hands. Wow, it’s so important to do that. Okay now tell us about the proper cooking temperatures.

Keisha: The proper way to use a cooking or meat thermometer is to place it in the thickest part of the meat, away from the bone, fat or gristle. Wait for 3 to 5 seconds to read the thermometer.

Splendid Recipes: What are the proper cooking temperatures for the different types of raw meat cooked.

Meat ThermometerKeisha: Well, for beef, pork, or veal it needs to be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (62.78 °C). Ground Meats need cooking to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71.1 °C), poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit (73.8 °C), that includes a chicken that is either whole, cut into sections or ground.

Eggs and any dish that is made with eggs should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71.1 °C), and fish needs only be cooked to 145 F. Fahrenheit (62.7 °C).

Splendid Recipes: What about leftovers?

Keisha: Thanks for asking that question. Even left overs, though they have been properly cooked, still need to be warmed to 165 degrees Fahrenheit (73.8 °C) to kill any possible illness causing bacteria.

Not cooking or rewarming your food properly is another way to get a food borne illness.

Splendid Recipes: Okay, so we have discussed two tips that are important to cooking. 1. Washing your hands, before, during, and after food preparations. And 2. Cooking foods to their proper temperature.

Both of these tips help to avoid food borne illnesses. I think you have 3 more tips Keisha?

cooking-class-students-following-recipe-directionsKeisha: Yes I do. The third one makes reference to a French culinary phrase, which is Misen En Place, which means, putting in place. I explain to my students that being a good cook requires everything to be in its place.

You also need to read the recipe through to make sure you have all the ingredients and cooking utensils needed. Because it’s not fun when you’re ready to start baking some cookies and you don’t have any baking soda, vanilla extract or eggs.

Splendid Recipes: So, once the student cooks have their, Misen En Place as you called it, what’s next?

Keisha: A good cook needs to keep their kitchen area and prep area organized and clean. A cook needs to make sure they keep raw meat and ready to eat foods separate. I recommend that you start prepping your vegetables first. Place them in a bowl off to the side and then start on your raw meat.

It is also important to have separate cutting boards, that is one for your raw meat and another for your vegetables. You can buy color coded cutting board for this very purpose.

color coded culinary cutting boards

Color Coded Cutting Boards

Splendid Recipes: Yes, we have written about that here at Splendid Recipes and More. Our article was Stocking the Kitchen with Useful Gadgets for Healthy Cooking. We wrote that to reduce the chance of cross contamination, why not use flexible cutting boards, which are of different colors for use with different types of food such as raw meat, cooked meat, dairy and vegetables.

Keisha: Yes that is right. I show my students the different colors they need, such as a beige colored cutting board for fish, blue for cooked foods, green for fruits and vegetables, red for raw meat, white for dairy products, and yellow for uncooked or raw poultry.

Splendid Recipes: You mentioned Keisha at the start of our interview that you are teaching your young students the basics to good cooking. Would it be fair to say your hope is, after your students have gone through your cooking classes, that they will rely on their own kitchen, fresh food and their cooking skills to eat healthy.

 Keisha: Oh yes, that is so right.

Splendid Recipes: Okay, that is 4 tips. What is the fifth tip?

shopping listKeisha: The fifth one is making a shopping list. The wasteful thing to do is to go to the super market without a shopping list and even on a hungry stomach.

If you go to the market hungry, then your stomach will actually be your shopping list. You are so hungry, that you may just walk up and down all the wrong aisles. And you end up going home with over 95% of your shopping bags filled with process foods and junk foods.

The best thing is to always make sure you go shopping on a full stomach, and with a shopping list. Having one will help you to avoid walking down the aisles that have boxed cereals, candy, canned foods, bagged chips and other foods.

Splendid Recipes: So the secret to shopping for food, is go to the store on a full stomach, and have a shopping list to buy only what you need, and too avoid the canned and boxed food aisles.

Keisha: Yes, that’s right. The secret is to walk the parameter of the store, and do you know why?

Splendid Recipes: I have an idea, but tell us why?

Keisha: The parameter of the store contains the food you need, which includes fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, and dairy.

Splendid Recipes: So to recap the 5 tips you shared.

Keisha: Yes, the tips included…

  1. Wash your hands with soap and warm water.
  2. Cooking foods to their proper temperature.
  3. Misen En Place or make sure you kitchen area and prep area organized and clean. Also make sure you have everything before cooking or baking.
  4. To prevent cross contamination and food borne illnesses, use color coded flexible cutting boards.
  5.  Have a shopping list, don’t go to the store on a empty stomach, and shop the  parameter of the store.

Splendid Recipes: Will Keisha, that is all the time we have. What will you share with us next?

Keisha: I would like to share about cooking together as a family.

Splendid Recipes: Great we look forward to that. Return March 20, 2016 to hear what Keisha will share with us on cooking together as a family.

Follow Keisha “The Mobile Cooking Teacher” on any one of the following social networks:

What Others Are Reading: