Part Two: Sowing the Seeds of Love (See Part One)
By Kira Hamman
Now that you’ve ordered your seeds, it’s time to get ready to plant.
First, assemble the things you’ll need:
– A flat of teeny pots for starting the seeds. Get one that comes with a tray to sit in that will catch drips.
– Larger (2”) pots for transplanting.
– If you live in a cold region, even larger (4”) pots for transplanting again (if you ever have snow in April, then you live in a cold region).
– Sterile seed-starting mix.
– Good-quality potting soil.
– A spray bottle for water.
– A supplementary light source — this does not have to be an official grow light, but has to be adjustable so you can keep it about 4 — 5 inches above the seedlings as they grow.
Once the seeds actually arrive, fill the flat with seed-starting mix, drop two little seeds in each pot, and gently tamp down the soil over them. Figure out how many plants you want to end up with, and sow two or three times that many pots. That way, if a few don’t make it you’ll still have tomatoes, and if they all make it you’ll have Mother’s Day gifts.
Next fill the tray about halfway with water and then set the flat into it (you might want to do this over a sink, just in case). Check the flat several times over the next hour or so — if the water is gone but the tops of the pots are still dry, add more water. If the tops of the pots are damp but the water is not gone, dump out the excess. Your goal is moist, but not soggy, soil.
Set the flats under the light source in a warm room. Tomatoes need warm soil to germinate, and your light will only be able to heat it up if the air is not cooling it back off again just as quickly. The light should be about 4 or 5 inches above the soil, and should be on for 12 — 14 hours per day.
Several times per day, check the top of the soil for moisture and mist it with the spray bottle if it’s not damp. Once the seeds sprout, you can start giving them more water, but be very gentle, and don’t let the soil get too dry or too soggy. Think of a wrung-out sponge.
Soon you will have baby tomato plants! Aren’t you proud? In about two weeks, they will be big enough to transplant to the 2” pots. Use the potting soil for this. About three or four weeks after that, if you’re not yet able to get them outside, transplant them into the 4” pots.