Quick Start Tomato Guide
Growing your own tomatoes from seeds can be such a rewarding experience. It’s hard to match the taste of a freshly picked rare heirloom tomato right from your backyard. When you grow your own tomatoes from seeds you’re not limited to the small selection of seedlings at your local nursery, the whole world of unique seed varieties is open for you to explore.
The journey of growing your own food from seeds can also have it’s challenges. That’s why we at Sweet Yards want to help you succeed by providing any and all support you need along the way. Explore our growing guides and feel free to contact us with any questions.
Starting Seeds Indoors
Though it is possible to directly sow your tomato seeds in the soil outdoors, we recommend starting seeds indoors to ensure an early and successful start. Your indoor seed starting setup can be a professional store bought kit or just be made up of things you have lying around the house. It’s best to stick to a few guidelines though.
- Choose a container that’s large enough and drains well. You can use clay pots, peat pots, wood flats or even old yogurt containers. Just make sure the container is deep enough (at least 2 inches), has drainage holes at the bottom, and is properly cleaned.
- Choose a clean seed starting mix. The one thing you don’t want to use is regular garden soil from your backyard, it’s often too dense, doesn’t drain well, and contains bugs, pathogens and weeds. It’s best to purchase a sterilized and fertilized seed starting mix that will provide everything your seedlings need.
- Choose a proper seed starting location that provides sufficient light and warmth. Though tomato seeds will germinate in temperatures as low as 50º, soil temperatures of 65-85º will lead to quicker and healthier germination. Choose a warm spot such as on top of refrigerators or other warm running appliances. The seeds don’t need light to germinate, but once they do begin to sprout from the soil they’ll require at least 4 hours of light a day. A south facing windowsill is a great location.
Sowing the Seeds
Watching your seeds slowly poke through the soil surface and reaching upwards is quite the satisfying experience. Following a few guidelines will ensure your success in this step.
- Fill your containers with your seed starting mix to the top. Make a small hole in the soil about ⅛ to ¼ inch deep and place at least two seeds inside. This easily doubles your chances of successful germination, and if both seeds sprout you can easily pluck out the weaker looking one. Gently compress the soil on top of the seed to create good seed to soil contact.
- Water your containers so they are moist all the way through. It’s important to keep the soil consistently moist while the seeds are germinating. Any dry period at this time will likely end the germination process.
- To help out with keeping the soil moist as well as raising the soil temperature cover your containers with a light cotton cloth or even place them in a loosely closed plastic bag. This creates a little greenhouse for your seed! If you use a plastic bag it’s important to remove it once the seeds begin to sprout.
Caring for Seedlings
Once your seeds have germinated you can breathe a sigh of relief, the hard part is over.
- Your new seedlings will want a lot of water as they grow, but they will also want some air in their soil. Allow the soil to dry out just a little in between waterings. Too much water for young seedlings can lead to “damping off,” causing the young seedlings to droop over and wither away from overly moist conditions.
- As your seedlings grow larger they’ll most likely need to be potted up into larger containers. If you notice the containers drying out quickly or the roots sticking out of the container's bottom then choose a slightly large container to encourage the young plant to grow larger.
- Continue to care for your young plants until the outside temperatures have warmed and the danger of frost has passed. Young plants can handle cold night temperatures, but anything close to 32º will quickly kill them, and temperatures above 55º are best.