Starting Tomatoes from Seed


When most people think of heirloom vegetables, the tomato comes to mind. Here in Maryland, we love our tomatoes, and no vegetable garden is complete without an heirloom tomato plant. Many common tomato plants can be found for purchase in early May, but availability and variety are limited.

Growing tomatoes from seed allows gardeners to experiment with an endless variety of heirlooms. Whether growing paste tomatoes for canning, or showy fruits in hues of purple or gold, starting tomatoes from seed is the surest way to grow tomatoes that suit your taste and needs.

Starting Tomatoes from Seed

Photos By Rebecca Anne Cole

When to Start Tomato Seeds

Most planting guides suggest starting tomatoes indoors according to the last frost date for the planting zone. Since tomatoes are warm weather annuals that are susceptible to cold snaps, I like to start my seeds six to eight weeks before transplanting to the garden. Once temperatures are consistently above 65-70 degrees F, the seedlings are ready to go out. I look to transplant my tomato plants in mid to late May.

Planting Instructions

Plant seeds in moist starter soil, about 1/8” deep in a warm location. Light will help the germination process, which usually takes a few days. I set my tomato seed trays on a table in front of a large window.

When sprouts start to emerge, move the plants under grow lights for 8-10 hours a day, watering regularly. If I have more tomato trays than lights available, I rotate the trays; one day shift, one night shift. The plants will adjust to natural daylight times when transplanted to the garden.

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