We have a solution if you are tired of buying unripe and flavorless tomatoes. Tomatoes are one of the most in-demand vegetables consumed by Americans and around the world. We are, of course, talking about growing your own tomatoes at home.
The best way to grow tomatoes at home is to grow them from seed, and this is what this article discusses. So, let’s get to it.
How to Grow Tomatoes From Seeds: Step by Step
The first thing is to choose the type of tomato you want to grow. Unfortunately, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of varieties. Therefore, we recommend doing a bit of research on this front.
One of the main things to consider is how large the mature tomato plant will be. Determinate tomato plants will grow to about 3 feet tall and may need some support.
Indeterminate tomato plants can get up to six feet or taller. These will undoubtedly need support for the vines.
Choose tomatoes that are disease resistant. Beefsteak and cherry tomatoes are two of the most popular, although the choice is yours.
1. Starting the Seeds Indoors
With your seeds chosen, it’s time to get them started indoors. Tomatoes take some time to grow, so starting them indoors will give you a head start. Remember, you can’t plant tomatoes outdoors until well after the last frost date.
You will need seed trays to start your tomato seeds indoors. You can go for either professional seed trays or just make your own. These seed trays need good drainage; you cannot let the seeds or the young tomato plants get too wet.
Seed-starting soil will work just fine. However, other types of medium, such as peat moss, will also work. As long as it’s designed for seeds, it will work.
Get your seed-starting mix nice and moist and fill up your seed containers t within about 1/2 an inch from the top.
Then, take two or three seeds, place them in the medium, and cover with about 1/4 inch soil. Gently but firmly pack down the soil. Moisten the soil’s top layer, but don’t soak it.
The seeds do not need light, but they must be kept warm. Therefore, you can put a heating mat under the seedling trays.
2. Caring for Seedlings
You will need to care for the seedlings indoors until they can be planted outdoors. This means providing them with around 8 hours of light per day. This can be sunlight, although a medium-strength grow light is recommended. Keep the grow light at least a few inches from the plants, so they do not burn.
Moreover, you should provide your tomato seedlings with enough water; keep your seedling mix fairly moist but not overly wet.
As long as your containers have decent drainage, you should be fine. However, if you placed more than one seed per pot, at some point, you will need to thin them out; kill off the weakest plants, and only keep the most robust.
Once the tomato seedlings develop their first set of true leaves, fertilize them twice per week. Use a well-balanced liquid fertilizer and mix it in with your water. Only use about half as much as is recommended, as the seedlings are still young and fragile.
3. Getting Them Ready for Outdoors
You will need to harden your tomato seedlings to prepare them for outdoor life. You can’t just transfer seedlings from indoors to outdoors in a single day; you need to slowly introduce them to the outdoors.
Ten days before putting them outdoors, begin this hardening process. Put them outside for about half an hour on the first day, and place them in an area where they don’t have direct sunlight and are protected from the wind.
Over 10 days, increase the amount of time they spend outside. They should spend at least four or five hours outdoors on the last day before you plant them outside. After that, just make sure to take your plants indoors if the temperature is below 50° Fahrenheit.
4. Preparing the Planting Area
Before you transplant your tomato plants, prepare the planting area. Choose a good spot in your garden that will get a lot of sunlight. Tomatoes like a good amount of sunlight.
Till the soil and mix in a good, high-quality potting soil; you can also mix fertilizer in the soil. There are many tomato-specific fertilizers, and we recommend using these as they contain the proper NPK nutrient ratio for tomatoes.
5. When and How to Transplant Outdoors
Once the last frost day of the year has passed by about two weeks, you can plant your tomato seedlings outdoors. First, dig a hole between 6 and 12 inches deep, depending on the current size of your tomato plants.
Ensure the soil reaches just under the first leaves that grew. Also, space your tomatoes from 18 to 24 inches apart. Then, with the tomato plant in the ground, pack the soil down fairly tightly.
Adding about half an inch of mulch to the soil’s surface will prevent moisture from evaporating. Just keep the mulch about 6 inches from your tomato plants. The mulch will also help with weed control.
6. Caring for Tomato Plants
Once the tomato vines start to grow, support them using a trellis, reinforced wire cage, or a tomato cage.
Use soft garden ties and very gently tie the vines to the trellis. Depending on the tomato type, they may even grow up the trellis or frame on their own.
Depending on the type, tomatoes will need one to two inches of water per week. Make sure to water your tomatoes early in the morning or late in the evening. You don’t want water to evaporate too quickly because the sunlight is beating down on the soil. In addition, you don’t want to get water on the leaves; this can lead to fungus and pests. Add tomato-specific fertilizer to the water about every 10 days.
7. Harvesting Your Tomatoes
Once your tomatoes are big and plump, they should be ready to harvest. They should be slightly soft and have rich colors. Hold the tomato with one hand, hold the vine with the other, and gently twist and pull.
You have everything you need to know about growing tomatoes from seeds in your garden. As you can see, it’s really not a complicated process.