You can harvest all the tomato seeds in the world, but it won't do you a lick of good unless you plant them. Fortunately, the process is fun and educational for kids and adults alike! Planting tomato seeds requires more than just a trowel and a patch of dirt. In fact, you must first grow seedlings indoors before you can even think of taking those potentially fruit-bearing beauties outside.
Step 1: Potting Time
Plant your seeds about six to eight weeks before you expect the last frost of the season. Using a light soil mix, plant the seeds in pots or biodegradable containers to be kept inside. Add plant food and water whenever the soil starts to look dry. It's also crucial that tomato seeds be exposed to a ton of light. Too little sunshine will result in tall, skinny and probably less successful plants. Unless your home is blessed with a huge amount of natural light, you will probably have to supplement the sun with artificial light.
Step 2: Elemental Exposure
Once plants have appeared in the pot, take each outside for a couple of hours every day. This will slowly help them acclimate to the harsher conditions they will face outside once planted permanently. Don't forget to bring them back inside! One ill-timed freeze is all it takes to kill a fledgling plant and dash your homegrown tomato hopes.
Step 3: Plant Away!
Once the threat of freeze has passed, it's time to take your plants to their permanent home. The best transplants will be around 6 to 10 inches in height. Tomatoes may be relatively easy to grow, but they do have their own preferences. Sunny, warm climates with plenty of -- but not too much -- water are ideal. They should be planted fairly deeply, so that only a few rows of leaves are visible aboveground. Space them between 18 and 36 inches apart, although 2 feet of space is ideal if you plan to stake them. Each plant should receive about a pint of starter solution (a combination of water and fertilizer), followed by frequent watering. The amount you water your plants will vary depending on the season and your location, but generally, once every two or three days is enough to ensure proper growth. Depending on where you live, weather conditions and the type of tomatoes planted, it takes between 55 and 105 days for transplants to reach maturity.
Once your seeds have transformed into full-grown plants sporting bright, red, succulent fruits, all that's left to do is pick them and enjoy!
- International Seed Saving Institute. "Beginner." 2011. (Oct. 31, 2011) http://www.seedsave.org/issi/904/beginner.html#anchor005
- Mississippi State University. "Staking and Training Tomatoes." Oct. 14, 2010. (Nov. 1, 2011) http://msucares.com/lawn/garden/vegetables/tomatoes/index.html
- University of Arizona, the. "Vegetable Garden: Selected Vegetable Crops." 1998. (Oct. 31, 2011) http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/mg/vegetable/tomatoes.html