How to Grow Tomatoes from Seed
Growing tomatoes from seed is quite easy. The germination time can be shortened by using a pre-germination moisturizing process. Place a sheet of white paper towel on a plate, then place two seeds for every tomato plant you want to grow on the paper towel. Place seeds flat and spread them out one inch apart. Cover with another sheet of paper towel and mist with warm water until the paper toweling is saturated, but not soggy wet.
Place the plate of seeds in a warm location for three days and keep the paper towel moist at all times. This will soften the outer shell on the seed and speed up the germination process.
Lift the top sheet of paper towel on the third day and check the seeds for signs of cracking and/or sprouting. If germination signs can be seen, the seeds are ready for planting. If nothing seems different about the seeds, give them another day of the moisture treatment. If by the fifth day there are no signs of germination, the tomato seeds may not be viable.
Use a good quality potting soil mix that contains compost and any containers you have on hand to start the tomato seeds. Specialized seed starting trays are fine to use, but so are egg cartons, yogurt cups, Styrofoam cups or similar containers. When using recycled containers, be sure to poke drainage holes in the bottom and cut a coffee filter to fit the bottom of the container before adding the potting soil to prevent the soil from leaching out when seedlings are watered.
Pour some of the potting soil in a bucket and add one teaspoon full of slow-release, granulated fertilizer to every half-gallon of potting soil. Mix thoroughly and fill selected containers to within one-fourth inch of the top. Add water until it runs out of the bottom of the containers, then allow to sit overnight. The prepared potting soil can sit longer in the containers while waiting for the tomato seeds to undergo their pre-germination moisturizing if desired.
When using several small recycled containers, place them all on a tray for easy transport and no-mess watering.
In Canada, if you’d like to get a head start on the season, it’s best to grow tomatoes indoors up to 4 weeks before the last frost date. Use the pointed end of a pencil to make holes in the soil 1/4 inch deep and 2 inches apart in a large container, or one hole in the center of a smaller container.
Gently pick up the tomato seeds with tweezers and place two seeds in each hole. After all the seeds are planted, use your finger to gently cover seeds with soil. Firm potting soil lightly and mist top of soil with warm water.
Cover top of containers with a damp cloth. This will keep the humidity level high and prevent the soil from drying out. Mist soil surface daily and re-dampen cloth.
Place seed container(s) in a dark, warm location for the next four days. If you don’t have a suitable warm location, place seed tray on a heating pad set on low during this stage of the germination process. Mist and re-dampen the cloth for the next 4-5 days. On the fifth day, remove cloth and place seed containers in a sheltered location where they will receive direct sunlight. Continue to mist soil daily. New green sprouts should be emerging (may have already emerged) from the soil within a couple of days.
Transplanting Tomato Plants
Tomato sprouts will be ready for transplanting when 2 leaves appear on the stem. To transplant, gently lift the seedlings out with a spoon, getting as much of the planting soil with each seedling as you can. Transplant into prepared soil either in a large container or in-ground garden.
Keep soil moist for the first week after transplanting. Then add 2-4 inches of organic mulch around each plant and water deeply once a week. Tomatoes are heavy feeders and will need a steady diet of water soluble fertilizer fed to them every two weeks plus a side dressing of compost 6 weeks into the growing season.
Choosing to grow tomatoes from seed is a cost effective and rewarding experience!
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