How do I start tomatoes from seed?

gwtamaraJanuary 1, 2013


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#1 Get Fresh Seeds For the best chances of success, acquire your 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.

#2 Get a Seed Starting Mix Garden soil is not a good choice, as it compacts too easily and can harbor organisms that cause diseases. A commercially prepared seed starting mix, usually a combination of peat moss, vermiculite and perlite, is recommended. Avoid mixes that have a high fertilizer content, as this causes more problems than good. Commonly used and recommended mixes are Jiffy Mix, ProMix, MetroMix and Fafard. Many other brands, or even homemade mixes, can be used.

Combine the seed starting mix thoroughly with warm water to bring it to a useable state. This may take quite a lot of mixing, as completely dry mixes can be difficult to wet. Sometimes it's best to let the moistened mix sit overnight to be sure that it is evenly wet. The final mix should be damp like a wrung-out sponge, not soaked or soggy.

#3 Select Some Containers Tomato seeds will germinate in anything as long as the seeds get moisture and warmth. After germination and initial growth, the seedlings need to be potted up to larger containers. Containers must be able to drain excess water. If using old or previously used containers, its best to sterilize them with a 10% bleach solution.

Your choice of containers for potting up depends on the number of plants you desire. Professional nurseries use growing "flats" with various-sized plastic cell inserts. Many sizes and kinds of flats are commercially available to the home grower, but they are not essential.

Many home growers use styrofoam or plastic drinking cups with holes poked in the bottom. Just about anything will work as long as excess water can drain.

#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.

Before planting seeds, you must determine when your plants can be safely placed into the garden. Planting outdoors is best done about 1 or 2 weeks after the average last frost date for your area.

Ask friends or use web resources to find your average last frost date, then do the math to calculate your seed starting date.

#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).

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