How to Grow Tomatoes From Seed in Michigan

Overview

Michigan's long, hot and sunny summer days are ideal for growing great amounts of tomatoes. Depending on the variety, tomatoes will take two to three months to mature in a Michigan garden, so you will need to start your seeds inside before the frost goes away. Whether you choose determinate tomatoes for a large crop all at once or indeterminate varieties for a smaller crop all summer long, plant Michigan tomatoes for a treat from your garden.

Starting Seeds

Step 1

Start plants between mid-March and the beginning of April, depending on the part of the state in which you're gardening. Detroit's last average spring frost date is in late April, while the UP's last frost is usually around the middle of May. Start your seeds accordingly, planting about six weeks before your frost date.

Step 2

Fill peat pots with potting soil, leaving about 1/2 inch below the edge of the pot to allow room for watering. Plant two tomato seeds in each peat pot and water thoroughly. Place all of the peat pots on a tray and place the tray in a warm place.

Step 3

Move the tray to a sunny window when the seeds have sprouted. Water the pots regularly and do not let them dry out completely between watering. Turn the tray around every time that you water so that each plant gets sun on a different side every day.

Step 4

Clip off the smaller plant in each pot when both plants have two sets of true leaves on them. Nip off the plant near the soil line with a fingernail or small scissors.

Planting in the Garden

Step 1

Dig the garden between late April and the middle of May, depending on how far north you live. Make sure that the ground is not too moist, and that it falls apart into crumbs instead of sticking together like wet clay. Dig your garden to a 12-inch depth, and mix in a 4-inch layer of compost for fertilizing the tomatoes.

Step 2

Plant your seedlings in your garden about 18 inches apart. Pinch off the bottom few sets of leaves on your plant stems and plant the seedling with the stem well-buried in the ground. The level of the soil should be right below where the new bottom leaves sprout. New roots will grow from the buried part of the stem.

Step 3

Push a tomato cage into the soil around each tomato plant. This will help to support the plant while it is growing and keep the tomatoes up out of the mud.

Step 4

Apply a 3-inch layer of dried leaves, dried grass or other organic mulch to help keep down any weeds that might sprout. Water your tomatoes regularly, giving them about an inch of water per week.

Step 5

Pick your tomatoes regularly when they are firm and bright red. You can pick them when still partially green if the season is ending. The green tomatoes will ripen off the vine in your house.

Things You'll Need

  • Peat pots
  • Potting soil
  • Tomato seeds
  • Tray
  • Shovel
  • Compost
  • Tomato cages
  • Dried leaves

References

  • National Gardening Association: Tomato Essentials
  • University of Illinois Extension: Tomatoes

Who Can Help

  • Farmers' Almanac frost date map
Keywords: Michigan tomato gardening, Michigan seed starting, grow Michigan tomatoes

About this Author

Anne Baley is a writer and photographer living in Southeast Michigan. She has written dozens of articles about places she has discovered while traveling throughout the United States. Baley's work has appeared in a variety of online outlets, including EndlessSunday, GardenGuides and Travels.