Getting your tomato garden started every season begins with the choice of how to grow your plants—from seeds or seedlings? Buying seedlings at your local nursery is quicker and easier, but your choices are limited to what they carry, and the cost of seedlings will likely exceed the cost of starting from seeds. If you’re growing heirloom tomatoes from seeds that you already have, then the choice is already made for you! Or perhaps you’re trying a mix of seeds and seedlings.
Seed Planting Process
When growing from seeds, you’ll need the right tools and a disciplined process for getting from seeds to plants that will produce a good harvest for you.
Besides your seeds, tools might include:
- starting soil
- widger (a spatula-like tool for lifting seedlings without damaging them)
- germination station
- grow lights
- heat mats
Depending on your set-up situation, you might not need all of these items—or you might be able to do-it-yourself (DIY) on some things. If you choose to grow your tomatoes from seeds, take advantage of all the options to select the varieties that you really want.
Plant your seeds in seed-starting trays under grow lights, and on top of heat mats, watering from the bottom. Keep the seeds covered with a plastic top until the seeds germinate and grow to about an inch long, then remove the cover and watch them grow until they’re ready to transplant. Plant them about 2 feet apart in your garden because they need room to breathe as they grow.
Growing From Cuttings
Cut off a 6 to 8-inch long sucker (a small shoot or leaves that pop up along the stem). Remove the lower leaves if there are any, and immerse the bottom in water in a glass jar. Keep it in a warm, sunny spot. Then, once it develops roots, you can transplant it to the garden or soil. Just treat it like a seedling and give it time to harden off and adjust.
Growing From Seedlings
Growing tomatoes from seedlings is perhaps the easiest way to grow tomatoes. Whether you grow your own indoors during the winter, or you buy them at your local garden center, you’ll have good luck planting seedlings that have already proven to be healthy and growing. Plant them 2 feet apart in your garden.
Have you tried growing tomatoes from seeds, seedlings, or both? Which method do you prefer—and why? Please tell us how you get your tomato garden started every year.