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How to Grow Early Tomatoes

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How to Grow Early Tomatoes

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Overview

Instead of impatiently waiting for the first ripe tomato in late summer, plan to grow early tomatoes. While certain varieties such as Early Boy produce fruit sooner in the season, you can speed up regular and early varieties by starting your seeds indoors in spring prior to the normal planting date. Not only are your tomatoes ready to pick and eat sooner, the plants go into the garden stronger and healthier, which makes them less prone to disease and insect degradation.

Step 1

Plant tomato seeds ½ inch deep in individual seed pots. Sow the seeds approximately six to eight weeks before the last expected spring frost.

Step 2

Water the soil in the pots until it is evenly moist, then cover with a plastic bag. Place in a warm room, 70 to 75 F, to germinate.

Step 3

Remove the bag once seeds sprout, approximately seven days after sowing. Move the seedlings to a warm, sunny windowsill and water as needed to maintain soil moisture.

Step 4

Turn the pots each day so all sides of the tomato plants receive equal sunlight, which encourages them to grow straight and strong. Fertilize weekly with a dilute soluble fertilizer, following package instructions.

Step 5

Prepare the garden bed after the last spring frost. Loosen the soil with a hoe or power tiller, then work in 6 pts. of 8-8-8 analysis fertilizer and 6 pts. agricultural lime per every 100-foot row. Till the fertilizers into the top 6 inches of soil.

Step 6

Plant the tomato seedlings 2 to 3 inches deeper in the ground than they were in the seedling pots. Firm the soil around each plant with your hands, then water thoroughly. Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart in rows that are 3 feet apart.

Step 7

Water tomatoes once a week, providing 1 to 2 inches of water at each irrigation. Mulch around the plants with plastic or organic mulch to preserve soil moisture and prevent weeds. Tomatoes may require additional watering during drought periods.

Step 8

Install a 6-foot stake behind each plant. Tie the main tomato stem to the stake every 6 to 8 inches as it grows to provide support to the ripening fruit.

Tips and Warnings

  • To avoid shock to the tomato plants, set the pots outside during the day for the week prior to planting in the garden. Bring them in at night or during bad weather.

Things You'll Need

  • Pots
  • Potting mix
  • Plastic bag
  • Soluble fertilizer
  • Fertilizer
  • Lime
  • Hoe
  • Stake
  • Mulch

References

  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension: Early Tomatoes
  • University of Missouri Extension: Starting Plants Indoors From Seed
Keywords: early tomatoes, planting tomato seeds, vegetable gardening

About this Author

Jenny Harrington is a freelance writer of more than five years' experience. Her work has appeared in "Dollar Stretcher" and various blogs. Previously, she owned her own business for four years, selling handmade items online, wholesale and via the crafts fair circuit. Her specialties are small business, crafting, decorating and gardening.