Posted on 12 April 2008 by

Guide to Starting Tomatoes from Seed – Part 2

How to Choose Good Tomato Plants for Transplanting by Flirting - TomatoCasual.comPart 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.

Up next, part three: A Working Person’s Guide to Hardening Off.

3 Responses to “Guide to Starting Tomatoes from Seed – Part 2”

  1. Rodger Says:

    Hi fellow enthusiast!

    Having grown tomatoes for many years I agree with you, seeing your own babies grow and later tasting the fruit that is so much better than you can buy in the supermarket. Just one thing to add, while the tomato plants are small it is kinder to use tepid water rather than cold water straight out of the tap.

    All the best


  2. Rene' Says:

    I am turning to this site more and more as I try to start tomato plants for the first time. I live in Houston – I think that is zone 9. I’ve tried twice so far to start tomato plants from seed and I’m failing and running out of time.

    The first time I did not understand about the need for such bright long light and the stems of the plants just dried up and they died. So I tried again putting them under those fluorescent lightbulbs – I used lots of books to raise them to just a few inches below the light under the lampshade.

    The thing is, it’s been over two weeks now and they are barely growing their first set of true leaves – they certainly aren’t ready for transplanting. I put them in the sun a little yesterday, but forgot them and today my Black Krim baby is wilted and the seed leaves look parched. Is it salvageable or do I scrap it and try again?

    So once the seeds sprout I should have good growth after 2 weeks?


  3. reggieCasual Says:

    Hey Rene – Glad we can be of help here at Tomato Casual. It takes a little while for tomato seedlings to develop their true leaves. It usually takes about 6-8 weeks for a seed to germinate and be ready for transplanting outside. The most important elements are warmth and light. While the black krim plants that are wilted may not be salvageable (though they might be with their new growth leaves), you might try making sure they are getting enough water and that the new leaves aren’t exposed to so much intense sunlight and warmth that can be overpowering. Hope this helps. Continued good luck to you!

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