Tomatoes are one of the most popular (and most talked about) backyard garden vegetables. It’s about that time to begin tomato seeds indoors so they’ll be ready to plant in mid-spring. If you live in a warmer region, you can plant tomatoes in the garden just about now, but you’ll still need to start them indoors first.
Before preparing seed trays or planting anything, understand the structure of your growing season. For example, don’t choose tomatoes that take 90 days to mature if you have a short summer. Also remember that the “days to maturity” on tomatoes start counting from the transplant date, not the germination date.
Start tomatoes pretty much like you would start any other seed, in seedling trays. Cardboard egg cartons are the perfect size to get seeds germinating, and they are biodegradable, which makes things a little easier when you go to transplant to a larger container. Fill the egg cups with a moist soilless mix (like coconut fiber) add the seed and cover with a little more mix. Gently cover the carton with a sheet of plastic and place the carton in a warm area. Water daily so the mix is consistently moist, but never sopping. Using a scrap of mesh or cheesecloth over the carton will allow you to water without dislodging the seed.
When seedlings emerge, remove the plastic and ensure that they are in a bright area. They don’t necessarily need direct sunlight, but constant brightness is good. Paper cups are another wallet-friendly tomato starting tool. As the seedlings get larger, transfer each sprout to a paper cup with some holes poked in its bottom. When they grow their first set of true leaves, transfer them to larger cups. Be sure to rearrange the positions of each cup so they receive a balanced and equal amount of light.
Tomatoes will be ready to transplant about four to six weeks from starting as seeds. Be sure not to plant outdoors until a few weeks after the last average frost date. Tomatoes have next-to-no tolerance for frost!
More tomato tips:
- Choosing Tomato Plants | Can You Dig It
- Transplanting Tomatoes | Can You Dig It
- Growing Eggplants | Can You Dig It