Unless you plant from seed, your tomatoes will taste just like every other tomato grown on your block. Growing tomatoes from seed is not particularly hard. Set yourself apart this summer and try a new variety like “Indigo Rose” or “Lemon Boy”.
If you want to be along for the ride as your tomatoes make the journey from tiny sprouts to sprawling fruit-producers, here are the basics for starting the trip.
#1 Get Fresh Seeds
For the best chances of success, acquire your tomato seeds from reputable commercial sources. As tomato seeds age, their germination rate decreases. It is best to use seed that is less than 4 years old. However, seed that is much older can usually be germinated if has been stored in cool and dry conditions.
Here are a few tomato seed suppliers you should check out:
#2 Use Only Soilless Mix, Not Potting Soil, Garden Soil or Previously Used Potting Mix
Seeds and young seedlings are easily killed by a plant disease known as damping-off, which is caused by soil-borne pathogens.
These pathogens occur in mineral soils, such as the black soil in that bag of potting soil or soil from the garden.
Damping-off kills seeds before they emerge from the ground, but it can also cause small seedlings to rot and die. These seedlings often collapse at the ground level as if they need water, but in fact the damping-off pathogens have rotted the roots and stems.
Avoid damping-off by using only sterile, soil-less mix, such as seed-starting mix. Use a seed starting mix that is mostly peat moss, so it retains moisture. I use Jiffy-Mix seed starting mix that I buy at Walmart.
There are many seed starting mixes on the market; however, I have perfectly good results with Jiffy Mix. Whatever you use, make sure it’s soil-free and sterilized. This is not absolutely necessary, but it will reduce the risk of disease.
#3 Select Some Containers
Tomato seeds will germinate in anything as long as the seeds get moisture and warmth. Containers previously used to grow plants are most likely contaminated with the pathogens that cause damping-off. Planting in dirty containers is a perfect way to introduce pathogens to clean soil.
To keep these pathogens at bay, wash all containers with soap and hot water, then rinse them in a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water.
As cute as it may look to plant seeds in a coffee cup or cereal bowl, it’s almost guaranteed failure by water-logging plant roots. Roots need air spaces as much as they need water, so be sure all containers have drain holes. Add holes to yogurt containers or other recycled containers.
#4 Determine When to Start
Many novices fail at starting tomatoes simply because they start too early. Given the proper care, full-sized tomato transplants can be grown in 6 to 8 weeks. Planting outdoors is best done about 1 or 2 weeks after the average last frost date for your area.
#5 Plant Your Seeds
Fill a small container with damp seed starting mix. Plant your seeds about 1/8 inch (3 mm) deep. Firm the mix lightly to ensure that the seed is in direct contact with the moist mix. The seed needs to absorb moisture during the germination process.
You can plant lots of seeds close together because the resulting seedlings will be moved to larger containers after germination (when the first true leaves appear).
It is a good idea to provide some sort of covering over your germination containers to preserve moisture. You can place the container in a plastic bag or cover it with a sheet of plastic. Allow for some air to circulate but don’t let the mix dry out. Dry seeds will not germinate.
#6 Patiently Wait for Germination
Place the germination container in a warm location out of direct sunlight. Light is not needed during the germination process, but will not be harmful as long as high temperatures are avoided.
Now, it’s actually fun to start tomatoes from seed and patiently wait for germination.
Want to know our secrets of growing tomato plants? Then click here:
Yours truly for a great garden with flowers, berries, and veggies
Polly – Organic Gardener