Connecticut Garden Journal: Starting Tomato Seeds | Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut Garden Journal: Starting Tomato Seeds

Mar 5, 2020

Tomatoes are the most popular home garden vegetable for good reason. They're easy to grow and there are tons of varieties. Tomato varieties range from tiny plants like 'Micro Tom' to monsters like 'Giant Belgium'. But if you want to experiment with growing novel tomato varieties you're probably going to have to grow them from seed. So here's a refresher on growing tomato seeds indoors.

Start with fresh seed and sow them about 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost date. That would be around the end of March or early April in most Connecticut gardens. Sow 2 seeds in a 2-inch diameter pot filled with seed starting potting soil. Seed starting mix is lighter than regular potting soil and easier for the seeds to germinate in. Use a heating pad under the pots to enhance the germination. Once germinated, place the seedlings under grow lights turned on 16 hours a day. Fluorescent T-5 or T-8 grow lights are best for energy efficiency, cost, and longevity. Keep the lights 4 inches from the top of the seedlings as they grow. 

Once the true leaves form, snip out the smaller of the two seedlings. To keep the seedlings stocky, brush them with your hand a few times a day. The movement creates a thicker, shorter stalk. When the seedlings' height is 3 times the diameter of the pot, transplant into a 4-inch diameter pot filled with organic potting soil. Continue growing the seedlings raising the lights to 6 inches above the plant tops. One week before transplanting outdoors, harden off the seedlings exposing them to outdoor conditions gradually each day.