Should I be starting tomato plants at home? I was told that starting tomato plants can be difficult and I want to make a good choice for everything that I will need.
What are the steps to ensure success?
First and foremost you should purchase quality tomato seeds from a business that has a good reputation and guarantees their sprouting percentage. If a tomato seed was not prepared and stored properly, the older the seed the less success. If you have excess seeds, you want to store them properly in a cool dry area of your home, garage or garden shed.
When starting tomato plants at home at home you want a good starting soil mix.
- You can purchase a good commercial seed starting soil at your local nursery or big box home improvement store.
- Ask, Ask, Ask questions from the people who are helping you. Make sure what you are purchasing will promote growth, and not burn your plants with too much nitrogen in the mix. I usually make my own, so I cannot recommend any commercial brands at this time. That is why I say ASK!
You want to prepare your starting soil overnight, with a good amount of GOOD quality water to the point that it is damp, not soaked. My business partner David Jeters, got a new plant, but the water at his house has a very high chlorine level in it. Chlorine is a disinfectant, it will dissipate in an open container, but for new plants, it will adversely affect growth, and maybe even kill younger plants depending upon the concentration. The water at his house, out of the tap would pass the pool chlorine level test. No wonder his baby plant was not thriving.
• Choose the right Start Date for your region.
- Many novices fail at starting tomatoes simply because they start too early.
- Given the proper care, full-sized tomato transplants can be grown in 6 to 8 weeks.
- Before planting seeds, you must determine when your plants can be safely placed into the garden.
- Planting outdoors is best done about 1 or 2 weeks after the average last frost date for your area.
- Ask friends or use web resources to find your average last frost date, then do the math to calculate your seed starting date.
Plant Your Seeds
- Plant your seeds in the soil mix that you either made or purchased.
- Place them about 1/8 of an inch deep, place another ¼ inch on top and
- lightly pat it down then water well.
- Not sopping wet, more like a sponge that you squeezed out.
- You can cover your container with a clear covering it you do not think that you will be away from them for a while.
- Do not let the soil dry out.
- Do not make it airtight, you want to allow some airflow, but again, keeping the soil moist.
- Place the container inside, but out of the sun until the seeds have germinated.
- About one week. Do not let the temperature get cold, but a good temperature would be in a warm spot in your house, but not too hot.
- Move the container to direct sunlight as soon as you see them pop up out of the soil.
- We place out starts under a grow light in the bathroom.
- They need a good strong light so that they do not grow into leggy starts.
- Leggy or spindly starts usual indicates being either too hot, or not enough light.
Continue to Nurture and Maintain the Growth.
Keep the plants watered, but do not drown them. As soon as they grow real leaves, transplant them into bigger individual containers. Feed them also, but do not burn them with too much compost or fertilizer, Organic only of course.
Harden your plants to the outdoors.
Take about two weeks to accomplish this. Start with taking them outside for about 15 minutes and then bring them back in. No direct light the first couple of times then after a couple more days, place them in light for a short period then move them to the shade.
If really cold weather is forecast, it is best to bring the plants back inside. Freezing temperatures will destroy your plants (and it happens fast). Once they are used to being outside and are “hardened” you can transplant them to their final growing place.
Now that your plants are thriving outside, keep them healthy and happy. You have successfully mastered starting tomatoes plants at home!
We would love to hear your comments and your successes on starting tomato plants at home, as well as answer any questions that you may have. I would love to see your pictures of your plants!
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Turning Dreams into the life of Your Dreams
Chris Downs— The Caretaker