Intro: Starting Tomatoes From Seed
Growing your own tomatoes can be very rewarding making your own sauces, dried tomatoes, or just eating as many as you can fresh. If you plan on preserving some then you will want to have more than just one or two plants, buying large quantities of plants can get expensive but they are fairly easy to start from seed. So let's get brave and grow some tomato plants from seed.
Step 1: Good Potting Soil
Is spring fever getting to you, are you ready to plant your garden but it is way to early and there is still snow on the ground. The beginning to the middle of March is a good time to start your tomatoes seeds so that when the weather does warm up they will be ready to plant. You can save a lot of money by starting your own plants from seed. Tomato plants need to be started at least six to ten weeks before your last frost date. The ground temperatures to plant them outdoors need to be warmed up to at least 50 at night for them to grow, otherwise they will just sit in the ground until the temperatures do get above 50 at night.
You might think the initial cost of the seed and all the pots to start you plants in is expensive but if you do the math you can start a whole lot more plants and they can will acclimated to your region temperatures by the time they go into the ground. There are several ways to start seed, indoors is one, in a cold frame, greenhouse or a hotbed germination bed, all of these methods can work well if you follow a few simple rules.
Step 2: Pots and Potting Soil
Plant in good potting soil, either a mix you make up or a good growing medium you can purchase. A good mixture will cost you under $10.00 you should get about 30-40 4-6 inch pots out of a 16 quart bag which brings the potting soil to cost to .53 cents per plant.
Step 3: Obtain Your Planting Pots
Obtain some planting pots. You can use or reuse different types of containers so that you don't have to buy commercial pots if don't you want too, yogurt cups, milk cartons the half pints work great, or any other thing that you might buy something in that will hold potting soils. You will need to put holes in the bottom of these recycled containers so that they drain which is pretty simple with a 16 penny nail from the inside. I do not recommend Styrofoam cups for a couple of reasons, one it is very environmentally toxic and two it holds the heat out of the soil, you really have to crank the heat up under the plants for them to develop a good root system. They are designed to keep the cold or hot in not let it in from the outside. If you buy commercial pots I recommend biodegradable ones, you can simply plant your plants straight in the ground or if you choose you can take the plant out and reuse the pots usually once more. Even if you buy the blown plastic pots remember you can use them year after year, usually for about 5-8 years is what I find how long they hold up. The cost on these are about 12 cents to 25 cents a piece depending on how well you bargain shop. Another good way to get some free planting pots is to ask your neighbors and friends to save them for you when they plant plants they get from a nursery, it is quite simple to clean them so they are sterile just a little hot soapy water with bleach and you are good to go.
Step 4: Good Plants Start With Good Seeds
Buy good quality seed, the seed quality you buy will greatly affect the outcome of your success. Tomato seeds are generally $1.95 (7 cents a seed) to $3.89 (12 cents a seed) for 25-30 seeds depending on the company you choose and what kind you want to grow you can pay more for some special varieties and it is fun to grow different type. You can bargain basement shop but beware your seed may be old and not germinate as well.
Step 5: Fertilizer
Decide what you are going to fertilize with either compost tea, manure tea, or commercial fertilizer. If you are not going to make your own then I recommend a good liquid fish fertilizer for starting plant, it is easy to mix and a little bit goes a long ways. You will get much better plants using something that is balanced rather than just the cheapest you can find.
Step 6: Plant Your Seeds
Ready to plant some seeds let's get going on that. It is pretty simple to put the potting soil in the pots as your first task, then read the seed planting instructions that should come with your seed as to how deep to plant I like 1/2 to 1 inch for tomato seeds that puts them down in the soil so they grow roots better. You can use your finger to put a hole in the middle of the pot or use a stick or anything that will simply make an impression in the soil. Second put one to two seeds in the center of the hole then cover with the outer soil pretty simple right. A southern exposure window will work really well indoors for growing your starts
Step 7: They Have Germinated
Now in about 7-14 days you should see the seeds sprout up through the soil, depending on how warm the temperatures are 70 degrees is optimum but lower temps at night will not harm them as long as they stay above freezing, 50 degrees at night inside is perfectly fine.
Step 8: Time to Feed the Starts
Now your tomato seeds have sprouted how exciting, as soon as they have fully developed the first leaf it is time to give them some food, mix the plant food according to the instructions and water them with it twice a week. If you are using manure or compost tea twice to three times a week is a fine schedule also. The seed itself has enough nutrient to grow the plant for about a week then it needs to be fed, in order to grow strong healthy roots.
Step 9: So Simple Now Get Planting
So that is so simple you have to be ready to get growing in the garden, I hope so because home grown food is so healthy and get the children involved in where food comes from and how to grow it, the lessons they learn in the garden will stick with them for a lifetime and carry over into areas of their life that you would not even expect.