Tomatoes << Back to Gardening Tips


Nurseries and garden centers offer a wide range of dependable, disease-resistant varieties such as ‘Jet Star’, ‘Celebrity’, and ‘Sweet 100’, and many sell transplants of popular heirloom tomatoes such as ‘Brandywine’, ‘Green Zebra’, and ‘Cherokee Purple’ as well. But if you want to take advantage of the full range of available cultivars, you’ll have to grow tomatoes from seed. Unless you plan to preserve a lot of your crop, 3 to 5 plants per person is usually adequate. Unused seeds are good for 3 years. Specialty mail-order suppliers also offer individual tomato plants for sale, which could be a good option if you don’t have space for growing your own from seed.

At 6 to 8 weeks before the average last frost, sow seeds 1/4 inch deep and 1 inch apart in well-drained flats. Seeds will germinate in about 1 week when the soil temperature is 75° to 85°F; at 60°F the germination process can take 2 weeks.

In most places, a sunny spot indoors, such as a south-facing window, provides the warm, humid environment young seedlings need. If you don’t have sunny windows, use a heating coil for bottom heat and a fluorescent or grow light overhead. Lack of adequate light will make seedlings leggy and weak.

Once the seedlings emerge, keep the temperature no higher than 70°F, and water regularly. Once a week, feed with compost tea or fish emulsion, and discard any weak or sick-looking seedlings. When the second set of leaves – the first true leaves appear, transplant to individual pots or deep containers (such as plastic cups), burying the stems deeper than they stood previously. Whatever container you use, make sure it has drainage holes in the bottom. After this initial transplanting, give the seedlings less water and more sun. Apply Blessings Blends OMRI-Listed Premium Compost (.5 – .5 – .4) for best results.