Tomatoes are often the first edible crop new gardeners grow. Prolific producers, tomatoes crave heat and sunshine to grow healthy and strong. Starting seeds indoors and moving them out into the garden once the weather warms is the best way to ensure the plant gets the long growing season it requires. There are tall and shorter varieties and an endless variety of fruit sizes, colors and flavors.
Start tomatoes seeds indoors 10 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Verify the recommended starting window for the variety of seeds you choose.
Fill your starter container with a soilless seed-starting mixture, available at garden centers. Start seeds in plastic pots, growing trays or other starter pots that have plenty of drainage holes.
Wet the seed-starting mixture thoroughly. Water the container until the mixture begins to float then press down on it with your fingers to completely submerge it in the water. This ensures the mixture is evenly moist throughout.
Make a ¼-inch deep hole in the center of each pot or 3 inches apart in growing trays. Place two seeds in each hole and cover with growing mixture. Place plastic wrap over the planted pots or trays.
Put seed containers in a warm place to germinate. Place on top of heat mats to maintain a temperature of at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit if necessary. Tomatoes germinate within 3 to 30 days depending on variety and germinating conditions.
Remove plastic wrap once the seedling appears. Place under growing lamps or in a window that receives full sun. Keep soil moist at all times.
Transplant to individual 8 ounce containers once the first set of true leaves appears—usually the second set of leaves the seedling produces. Fill container with compost and wet down. Poke a hole in the center of the compost then scoop out the seedling with a large spoon without disturbing the root. Place in hole and fill in with compost.
Fertilize the tomatoes five days after transplanting with a dilute mixture of vegetable garden or tomato fertilizer.
Transplant to the garden after all danger of frost in your area has passed.