Monday, August 27, 2012

How To Grow Tomatoes from Seed

Read the history of Tomatoes
First, lets cover what is logically the first step. Germinating the tomato from seeds to seedlings.

The "freshness" of seeds is very important . The shelf life of a tomato seed is generally about 4 years, anything older you will not have much luck germinating unless it has been stored properly. Proper storage of seeds would be in cool, dry conditions. (Read
How To Double Your Tomato Harvest)

The soil choice for starting your seedlings is important as well. Soil from your garden is not recommended as it may contain organisms that could be detrimental to your new seedlings. A safe logical choice would be a commercially available seed-starting mix from your local nursery. These mixes are prepared specifically with the seedlings best interest at heart. It is not necessary to choose one boosted with fertilizer, as they may do more harm than good.
 Prepare your mix by taking enough to fill your pots and putting it in a clean vessel. It would be wise to let your mix sit overnight so it can settle & soak up all of the moisture before using it!

Your container selection for germinating your tomato seeds can be a varied as you like. You can use anything you like from plastic drinking cups to professional style "flats". Make sure that whatever you use, there are holes on the bottom for drainage of excess water & you have cleaned them with a weak bleach solution, then rinse well. (Read tomato definition)

Since seedlings can be ready to transplant in as little to 6-8 weeks, we want to be ready.

To start planting seeds, first take some of your prepared potting mix and fill your clean flat or cups. We then want to take a seed and place it in the center of the container. We place it in the center, because we do not want the roots to hit the sides of the container while growing. Press the seed gently down into the soil about 1/8 of an inch & cover with a pinch of potting mix. Pack the soil firmly enough to ensure the newly planted seed is secure & in contact with the soil. We need this contact to help transfer moisture from the soil to the tomato seed.
At this time you may want to consider some kind of cover for the germinating seeds. Remember to keep the soil moist as no seed will germinate in dry soil!

So.. now we have tomato seeds planted in the proper soil, in the proper containers, at the proper time. Now what?

well... Place your future tomato plants in a warm area this can be anywhere, just make sure it's warm (70 - 80 degrees F) . Light is not needed at this stage as the seeds are below ground and no photosynthesis is taking place. Under the right conditions, the new tomato plants will start poking out of the soil in about 6-10 days. Once the seedlings pop out of the soil, they will need light, and tons of it.

The new seedlings will need to have lots of light to get a fighting chance at growing properly. To little light an the tomato seedlings stems will grow long and stringy, we definitely do not want this!
If you find your seedlings shooting up right after germination, growing long, looking stringy and weak, they have not received enough light. You should consider discarding these plants and trying again because the likely hood of these plants producing is virtually nil.
I use a grow light purchased from my local hardware store. It's basically a florescent shop light with grow bulbs in them. Using a light is really the best way to get your seedlings going because the need 16 to 18 hours of light per day! So i would recommend purchasing grow lights, if not, try to buy lights that mimic
natural light.(Read How To Double Your Tomato Harvest)
 When you set up your light, set it up just above the tops of your seedlings and turn it on. Make sure your set-up allows for the lights to be raised as the tomato plants grow. so we have our little seedlings growing along, good soil, nice moisture, lots of light...

You will notice the first two leaves that develop are elliptical in shape, these leaves are called "cotyledons".

The description for cotyledons: " is a significant part of the embryo within the seed of a plant. Upon germination, the cotyledon becomes the embryonic first leaves of a seedling...The cotyledons contain the stored food reserves of the seed. As these reserves are used up, the cotyledons may turn green and begin photosynthesis, or may wither as the first true leaves take over food production for the seedling."

So those first two leaves are extremely important as they contain & produce the plants food until the first true leaves can emerge. Take care not to disturb the plants during this stage, if you lose a cotyledon, you may lose your plant!

When you notice new leaves emerging from the stem, in between the cotyledons, rejoice! These are your tomato plant's first true leaves, a sign that you plants are on their way! Now when you tomato seedlings' has a few true leaves growing, it's time to transplant to a larger container. Remember not to count the cotyledons in this! Check out the graphic which outlines 3 stages of the tomato germinating stages. The middle plant is ready to go to a bigger container so the roots can develop properly and grow strong.

Then gently take your seedling, ease them out of their old container and place them in the middle of their new, larger container. Take more potting soil and fill in around the tomato seedling, building the soil up the stem of the tomato plant, just below where the cotyledons are. You may think that you have planted the tomato seedling too deep, but no worries, you haven't!

Transplanting you tomato seedlings in this manner is beneficial for the plant, as it will develop new roots out of the tiny hairs on the side of the stem. So in essence, you helping the tomato become stronger & more resilient by providing more surface area for the root system. Keep on keeping on with you watering & lighting schedule. And keep an eye on the weather outside as well.

After a while if you want to fertilize your plants, this is an acceptable stage to do so. Fertilize sparingly though! A weak fertilizer is the best for plants in this stage of development

Depending on what containers you started with, and what you transplanted to, you may need to transplant a second or third time to make sure your tomato plants do not become root-bound. Root-bound is a condition where the plants roots have covered every possible area inside the container and is now growing into itself , in a tangled mass, like a bowl full of spaghetti. A root-bound plant which is transplanted into the garden without having its roots untangled will not overcome the problem themselves. This is one reason why we want to transplant the tomato seedlings to bigger & bigger containers as they grow inside. If your intention is to grow them on the patio, keep transplanting them until you eventually finally transplant them into the final container.

Be sure to check out more tips on growing tomatoes at, Articlebase,
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