How to Start Tomato Plants Indoors From Seeds


After a long, cold winter, you might be daydreaming about the fresh, delicious tomatoes and other vegetables you'll soon be growing in your summer garden. Get a jump on the season by starting tomato seeds indoors as much as two months before your final frost. The tiny plants will quickly grow into the succulent tomatoes you crave, with just a little bit of effort on your part. An added advantage to starting tomatoes from seed is that you can choose from hundreds of varieties of this fruit when you shop via seed catalogs.

Starting Tomato Plants Indoors From Seed

Step 1

Fill your pots or flats with potting soil and then water them well.

Step 2

Make ¼ inch deep furrows with a pencil or screwdriver and then drop your tomato seeds about ½ inch apart in the furrows.

Step 3

Cover the seeds in the furrows by pinching the soil on either side with your fingers. Water well and keep your container in a sunny spot that maintains a temperature of 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 4

Provide supplemental light in the form of grow lights or a simple hanging fluorescent shop light if your seedlings begin to get too tall and "leggy."

Step 5

Transplant seedlings to their own small pots (3 or 4 inches) after the first set of true leaves appears. The seedlings might be only 1 inch tall when this occurs, so handle them gently. Use the same type of potting soil you used for starting your seeds and continue to give your young plants plenty of light, water and warm temperature.

Step 6

Plant your tomato plants in the garden when they are about six inches tall and after your final spring frost. Wait for nighttime temperatures to reach at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to harden them off first by exposing them to direct sunlight for increasing amounts of time every day for one week. When you plant in the garden, dig in lots of compost and then dig holes for your tomatoes that are about three feet apart.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not smoke tobacco of any kind around tomato plants because this can cause the tobacco mosaic virus.

Things You'll Need

  • Tomato seeds
  • Small nursery pots or flats
  • Well-drained potting soil
  • Sunny indoor location
  • 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit


  • Renee's Garden
  • Tomato gardening tips

Who Can Help

  • Seed source
Keywords: tomatoes growing, vegetable gardening, seeds starting

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hiā€˜iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Barbara 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 She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.