How to Germinate Tomato Plants


At one time, tomatoes were called "love apples," according to the University of Illinois Extension. They are easy to grow and even easier to eat. One of the keys to successfully germinating tomato plants is to start with fresh seed. Buy your seed from a reputable source and make sure that it is no older than four years. Next, determine the last frost date for your area. The best time to transplant into the garden is two weeks after the last frost date. Start the tomato seeds indoors 10 weeks prior to this date to give them a good head start on the growing season.

Step 1

Pour the seed starting mix into a bucket or other container and pour warm water over it. Mix it well to ensure that it is completely moist. Add more water, as necessary.

Step 2

Place the seed starting mix into a seeding flat and water it again. Allow the flat to drain overnight.

Step 3

Scatter the seeds over the surface of the soil in the flat. You will be transplanting them shortly after germination so don't be concerned that they may be planted too close together. Sprinkle 1/8 inch of moist starting mix over the seeds.

Step 4

Cover the seeding flat loosely with plastic wrap. Leave one corner slightly open for ventilation. Place the flat in a warm area (70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit), out of direct sunlight. Expect the seeds to germinate within five to 10 days.

Step 5

Remove the plastic wrap and move the flat into the sunlight as soon as the seeds begin to sprout. If you are using grow-lights, place the flat to within 6 inches of the light source and allow the light to remain on for 16 to 18 hours per day.

Step 6

Water the soil in the flat when it is nearly dry. Allow the water to warm to at least 64 degrees F prior to irrigating the seedlings. Soak the soil and allow it to become nearly dry again before watering.

Step 7

Transplant the tomato plant seedlings into individual pots when they have their second set of leaves.

Things You'll Need

  • Seed starting planting mix
  • Gardening flat
  • Plastic wrap


  • University of Illinois Extension: Tomato
  • Arizona State University: Growing Tomatoes Hydroponically
  • "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible"; Edward C. Smith; 2009
Keywords: germinate tomato plants, germinate tomato seeds, start tomato seeds

About this Author

Victoria Hunter, a former broadcaster and real estate agent, has provided audio and written services to both small businesses and large corporations, worldwide. Hunter is a freelance writer specializing in the real estate industry. She devotes her spare time to her other passions: gardening and cooking. Hunter holds a Bachelor of Arts in English/creative writing.