May it be for passion or hobby or cost-cutting or health reasons, growing vegetables especially tomatoes in your garden is fun. Tomatoes is one of the favorite vegetables which is used almost in all types of cuisines and can be termed as an essential ingredient of food and is only next to onions. A vine-ripened tomato has its own fragrance and taste which is unique from commercially grown tomatoes. No one will ever want to taste again commercially grown tomatoes once they taste the garden grown ones. Besides the taste, organically grown garden tomatoes are safe for your family and prevent direct exposure to harmful pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Fortunately, tomatoes are easy to grow and are extraordinarily productive.
Now let us see the steps involved in growing tomatoes. Tomato plants are heat-loving plants but cannot tolerate frost. Hence it is ideal to transplant them to the soil in the garden once they are young plants. These young plants can be purchased from plant nurseries in the early spring to plant in your garden. However, growing your own young plants from seeds is much more fun than buying. With seeds, you can grow the variety which you choose and like the best but when it comes to buying you can buy the variety only which is available for sale. Tomato seeds germinate easily from seeds and can be quickly done indoors and do not need much space. It is ideal to sow seeds at least six weeks before early spring sets in.
The seeds can be grown by sowing them into the ordinary potting soil or in the special organic seed mix available on the market. Here are things that you need to start growing tomato plants indoors.
- Tomato seeds
- Potting soil or ready to use the soil mix
- Small pots
- A place in the room where there are enough warmness and natural light
- Organic fertilizer
How to Choose seeds?
With hundreds of tomato seeds available in the market choosing the best one for your garden can be a daunting task. The job can become easy if you consider a few things which include,
- Type of tomato depending on the use such as cherry tomato or tomatoes for making sauce/gravy/salsa.
- Size of the mature plant you want to grow depending on where you are planting them. If you are planting them in beds , ideal height would be 3 feet, or if you are planning to plant them as fencing them, you can go for 6ft ones but will need cages and support stems.
- Depending on your location go for seeds that grow disease resistant in the climate of your area.
Soil and Temperature
Generally, the potted soil is good enough for sowing seeds. However, you can use ready soilless seed starter mediums from the market. But make sure not to use garden soil directly for sowing seeds as it may drain poorly and gives rise to disease-causing organisms. You can use small trays with holes at the bottom for seed starting. Bio-degradable pots are an eco-friendly way of sowing seeds.
Room temperature of 70-75F is ideal for seeds to germinate or the temperature can be attained with the help of room heaters. Once the seeds germinate the temperature should be brought down to 60-65F for fast growth. Best place in the house to keep the seed trays is window sill. A damp place without enough light will result in weak seedlings.
Moisten the potting soil before filling it in the pots. Fill half of the container with the potting soil or seeding mix and tap but make sure you do not fix the soil too tightly in the pot as it prevents roots from spreading and results in poor water draining. Now place two or three seeds in the pot, and if it is a tray, then you can sow up to 8-10 seeds depending on the size of the tray. Cover the seeds with a layer of soil but do not fill it up to the brim of the pot.
Gently sprinkle enough water on the top of the pot so that the soil is moist enough. Spraying water on the top layer is helpful and will prevent excess moisture in the soil. Place the pots in the window sill or warm place where there is enough natural light and warmth. The pots can be covered with cling film wrap to retain moisture. Keep checking the pots for sprouts. Once you see sprouts remove the film wrap and maintain right temperature either with natural light or use of lamps.
Keep spraying water on a regular basis by checking the dryness of the soil. Do not spray excess water as it may prevent water from draining quickly and give rise to disease-causing organisms. Good air circulation is another essential feature that is required healthy seed germination. Rotating plants regularly towards the light source can help the plants grow in an upright position.
Thinning contributes a lot to growing healthy plants. Thinning is nothing but removing excess seedlings on the pot to help the remaining to grow healthy. Most gardeners will be reluctant to carry out this task, but it is crucial to growing healthy tomato plants. However, you can transplant few seedlings carefully into other seedbeds depending on your garden accommodation capacity. The strongest seedling can be retained, and the rest can be removed using garden scissors.
The seedling sprouts and then two leaves appear initially on the plant which is called seed leaves. Then a few days later second set of leaves appear which are called as true leaves. Once these leaves appear the plants need to be fertilized using organic water-soluble fertilizers at least twice a week.
Transplanting to Garden or re-potting
Once the plants outgrow the seeding pot, they need to be shifted to bigger pots or can be planted into the garden depending on the climate. Potting the plants in small pots restrict the growth and spread of the roots which will result in weak growth and hence it is advisable to transplant the plants into sizeable wide bottom pots. You can also plant tomato plants into the garden but only in the early spring when there is no frost.
If everything goes well with the tomato plants and proper care is taken, then good-sized grown ripe tomatoes will be ready in eight weeks or less.