How to Grow Tomato Plants From Seed

Overview

Few vegetables are easier to grow, or more delicious, than tomatoes. Actually, the tomato is classified as a fruit, although we use it and think of it more as a vegetable. When you start tomatoes from seed, you have more choice of varieties than if you buy starter plants at your nursery; so, check around the Internet for seed suppliers and have fun deciding which varieties look good. From cherry tomatoes to enormous beefsteaks, all tomato seeds have the same instructions. Plan ahead and start your seeds indoors up to 2 months before your final frost.

Getting Started Growing Tomatoes

Step 1

Fill small nursery pots or a flat to within 3/4 inch of the top with a good potting soil, and then drop your seeds on top of the soil about 1/2 inch apart.

Step 2

Cover seeds with about 1/4 inch of potting soil, and then sprinkle with water gently and thoroughly. Place your pots or flat in a sunny, warm spot---tomato seeds require a temperature of at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit in order to germinate.

Step 3

Keep your pot(s) moist, and when germination begins in 5 to 7 days provide a light source by way of fluorescent light or by placing your baby tomatoes where they will get direct sunlight.

Step 4

Transplant baby plants into 3- to 4-inch pots when they are about 2 inches tall. Use the same potting soil you used before. Water these new pots well and keep them in a warm, sunny location.

Step 5

Harden off your young plants before you plant them in the garden. To do this, place them outdoors in the sun for increasing amounts of time for 1 week. The first day, leave them outdoors for 2 to 3 hours, and then increase this time until they are in full sun all day by the end of the week.

Step 6

Plant your tomatoes in the garden when they are 4 to 6 inches tall and nighttime temperatures don't dip below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Dig one shovelful of compost into your planting hole and mix it with the garden soil. Gently place your tomato into the hole, cover it with soil up to the lower branches, and then water thoroughly. Later, you can provide stakes or tomato cages to help support the forming fruit.

Tips and Warnings

  • Watch for tomato hornworms which can decimate the forming fruit. Hand pick them or spray with Bt, bacillus thuringiensis, a natural soil bacterium that is sold at nurseries.

Things You'll Need

  • Tomato seeds
  • Pots or flats
  • Potting soil
  • Water
  • Shovel
  • Compost

References

  • Renee's Garden
Keywords: tomatoes growing, gardening seeds, tomato planting

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.