Starting tomato seeds is something that I love doing. I start my own seeds every year. I enjoy growing plants from seed and being a part of the entire growth cycle.
It’s exciting to see those little buds emerge and develop into a beautiful (and mighty tasty) tomato.
I do have to admit that I’m also a sucker for organic tomato plants at a good deal. We used to get a few at the farmers market and at our local natural foods co op every spring. They’ve been started very early in greenhouses so they were much larger than my seedlings.
I like to have my own starts and a few that I’ve bought because I can start harvesting a lot sooner. One day, I’ll have my own greenhouse and I can start my tomatoes early and not have to purchase any at all.
I say that until I see the beautiful plants just begging me to take them home. It may be a weakness, y’all. It’s like my kryptonite.
Starting Tomato Seeds – Super Easy
I like to grow heirloom tomatoes so that I can save seeds and grow the same varieties from year to year. I also love unique tomatoes and like to buy a few new types each year so that I can add the ones that we love to our seed stash.
In all honesty, I’ve been known to go a little overboard when starting seeds. If all goes well and I end up with more tomatoes than we can feasibly grow, we can sell the excess plants.
Seriously, I sometimes start hundreds of tomato seeds. I’ve had over 200 plants all started from seed in my garden at times.
Starting tomato seeds shsould be done 6-8 weeks before your last risk of spring frost. If you have a greenhouse, you can start them even earlier.u
To determine your growing zone and frost dates, you can plug your zip code in here: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone
We’ve used all three types of starting units and all have their benefits. With trays, you can start a lot of seeds at once but you’ll have to put up to larger containers.
Depending on the size of your cups or pots, you may be able to just keep the seedlings in them until transplant.
You definitely do want a starting mix as they are formulated to give your seedlings the best start without burning them.
I plant 2 seeds per pot spaced apart and gently bury them at 1/8″ to 1/4″ deep. I generously water the soil prior to so that it is saturated but not standing water. The pots need to be well draining.
I like to water the soil before planting so that the seeds won’t get displaced by the water.
Of course, if both seeds in the pot germinate, I transplant one of those to a new container when they get their first true leaves. More plants means happier gardener, am I right?
You will need to keep your containers either under grow lights if you are indoors or in a greenhouse where they get direct sunlight. Now, you don’t have to have some big huge fancy greenhouse, you can purchase a portable one, or build a small one from windows and scrap lumber that does the job.
Your seeds need to stay between 70° to 80º in order to germinate. You may need to use a space heater to keep the temperature warm enough in if you are using a greenhouse.
Another option for keeping your seeds warm enough to sprout is using heat mats made just for this purpose.
Once the seeds are planted, I continue to water with room temperature water daily or as needed. It is essential to never let the soil dry out, it needs to be kept warm and damp.
Tomatoes are usually pretty quick to germinate. The exact time also depends on the variety but I’ve found that most are sprouting in 7-10 days from planting.
When starting tomato seeds in small cells, you will need to transplant to a 3″-4″ pot when they begin to get their first true leaves. We start our seeds in 3″ pots or plastic cups so we do not transplant them until planting in the ground.
Once the seedlings have reached about 6″ tall or have become root bound (not ideal), they’re ready to be planted in the ground as long as the last frost date has passed. This is where the real fun beings!
If you use peat pots, you can just plant the pot straight in the ground. I do suggest breaking the bottom open a bit to help the roots reach the soil more easily.
If you use cups or plastic pots, you can gently remove the plant from the pot being careful to not damage the root system. Gently spread the roots out and plant your seedlings fairly deep, right up to the bottom leaves.
That’s how easy it is to start tomato seeds. Now, you can sit back and watch your sweet little seedlings grow into beautiful plants that will provide you with delicious tomatoes for the season.
We love eating fresh tomatoes, canning all kinds of tomato goodies, and saving seeds for the next year.
My Video on Starting Seeds:
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