Trying to start tomato seedlings is not as easy as you think. In actual fact, it is due to it being so difficult that so many people will seek to use actual seedlings that have already been started for them as it removes the possibility of you being unable to get the original seeds to germinate in the first place.
You see, the problem is that we are talking about some very specific conditions that will allow the seeds to burst into life. Any change to those specific conditions will then be the cause of the seeds being stopped in their path and the result is that you will be rather disappointed with the outcome.
So, keeping that point in mind, the following steps will certainly make life so much easier for you.
Step 1: Knowing when to Start.
When it comes to you getting started with planting tomato seeds then it is important that you choose the correct time of year. Now, we have been talking about growing them indoors so the best part is that you are able to play around with the dates to a certain extent as the risk of frost is going to be less important. However, if you are planning on eventually putting the plants outdoors then this is the way in which you should calculate when to sow the seeds.
It is generally accepted that you should look at where you stay in the world and determine the date where you are likely to get the last frost of the year. Once you have this date, you should then look at counting back a minimum of six weeks (although some say you should count back eight weeks) and that is going to be the date where you should sow the seeds.
The reason as to why you should do this is because it provides time for the seeds to germinate and for those young plants to become established and large enough to then go ahead and put them outside when the temperatures are warm enough for the plant to then thrive.
So, we are looking at you sowing the seeds around the start of springtime no matter where you are located in the world.
Step 2: Choosing the Container.
So, you are now aware of when to start growing your tomato seeds from scratch and the next thing to consider is the container, but here is something that is important to be aware of. There is no need for you to go and get a special container for this part.
In actual fact, some people have been known to use old yogurt pots as all you need is something that holds enough soil for the seed to be sown and to then give some space for those initial roots to grow. You can then easily move the plant into a larger and more permanent pot once it has grown and has become stronger and more established.
The most important thing is that you should not go for a pot that is too small or else you will have to transplant them too quickly so it is a fine line between the two. Also, you need to make sure that there is ample drainage in the pot so if you buy a container or seed tray then there should be no problem as they should already be in there. However, if you are recycling a pot at home then you must pierce the bottom as this will allow any excess water to flow out.
Step 3: Getting the Correct Potting Mix.
The next thing after choosing the container that you are going to use is making sure that you have the correct potting mix at hand. Now, we would certainly not recommend that you go ahead and use normal garden soil because what you are looking for is a potting mix that has the correct nutrients to really encourage those seeds to start to germinate. Also, you need to be aware of how well the soil is going to hold onto moisture so that you do not saturate the seeds just because you believe that the soil is going to be dry.
For tomato seeds it is strongly recommended that you consider using a potting mix that is quite lightweight and does not contain too much fertilizer. The seeds and young plants are able to get a considerable amount of their nutrients from the seed during that initial growing period so if you throw in more fertilizer then you can overfeed them and that is going to be a problem.
You can purchase a potting mix or you are able to make your own. If you choose the latter option then the main things to keep in mind is that the mix should consist of vermiculite, peat, moss, and perlite. This will make the potting mix light enough and able to drain water without causing too many problems. Furthermore, it will also have just enough nutrients to make a difference without overloading them. Finally, make sure that the soil is sterile and that is why you should not use normal garden soil.
Step 4: Sowing the Seeds Correctly.
So, you have the container ready and it is full of the correct potting mix and clearly the next step is to go ahead and sow the seeds. Now, if you thought that it was just a case of getting the seeds and throwing them into the soil then think again. Instead, you need to be careful with how you do things or else you are just going to make the entire process that bit more difficult when it really does not have to be that way.
To sow the seeds correctly, think about the following key points.
1. Fill the container with your potting mix and then moisten it.
2. Tap down the soil slightly as this is going to remove some of the air pockets in the soil.
3. In the soil, you have to make some small holes and you can use a pencil to do this. Make them around ¼ of an inch deep.
4. Take the seeds either between your fingers or use tweezers and drop a single seed into the hole.
5. Cover the holes with some soil and do not tap it down this time.
6. Lightly water the soil by misting it.
7. Make a note of the variety that has been planted and the date.
In other words, sowing seeds is very easy to do and it just involves some simple steps. You should not include too many seeds in the one single container (although the number will depend on how big the container is that you are using) and ideally there should be approximately two to three inches between seeds. This will provide them with enough space to grow and it will also be easier to then transplant them into larger containers once they are more established.
Step 5: Dealing with Heat.
In order to get the seeds to really start to germinate it is important that they are kept at the appropriate temperature. With tomato seedlings, you are looking at a temperature of approximately 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit if you are wanting to get the best possible results. That is not to say that a colder temperature is not going to be effective as the seeds will still germinate. However, they are going to take longer and your success rate will also be reduced.
At this point, the average room temperature is going to be enough but if you are concerned about it or if the temperature outside is colder then you should look at providing some heat either via grow lights or by moving them to a warmer room.
Step 6: Dealing with Water.
This is an important step for you to be able to cope with simply because there is a fine balance between giving the seeds enough water to help encourage them to germinate and soaking them so that they can actually rot in the compost and you will see no sign of life at any point.
What most growers will tell you is that you should never give the seedlings too much water at any given time. The water should not be so heavy that it literally pours out of the bottom of the container. Instead, you just have to moisten the very top of the soil as the seeds are planted quite near the top and that small amount of moisture is going to permeate down and be enough to just encourage life.
One final piece of advice when it comes to the watering of the plants is that you should avoid using a watering can as that is going to result in a deluge and this is something that has to be avoided. Instead, use a misting spray so you can really regulate the amount of water that is put on the soil and you can then increase the amount of water later on when the plants have germinated and are looking considerably stronger.
Step 7: Checking the Seeds.
So you have sown the seeds correctly and have moistened the soil. The only other thing that you need to do is to check the container daily until you start to see signs of life. The most important things to check on at this point includes how moist the soil is and also the temperature that they are sitting in.
You will find that the seeds are going to take anywhere from four days to ten days before they start to show any signs of life although it has been known for them to take longer on occasions. The most important thing is to be patient because as long as you have been able to plant them correctly and provided the correct amount of heat and water then there is no reason why you cannot achieve the average 75% success rate.
Checking the seeds is just to make sure that you are not missing those early signs of life because as soon as you see that young seedling coming through the soil it is then best to start to think about the role of light in the growing process.
Step 8: Being Aware of Light.
When you just have the seeds and they are covered with soil then clearly there is going to be no need for you to worry too much about the light. However, as soon as you see those first signs of life coming through the soil then you need to start to take more notice of it all because the light is going to make a huge difference to the way in which the plant is then going to grow.
Generally, you have two options available to you when it comes to the light as you can either place the container at a sunny window or else you are able to use grow lights. If the temperature is still quite low or if there is too much of a draught coming from the window then grow lights would certainly be the best option.
These young plants need a substantial amount of light on a constant basis in order to really encourage them to grow. Considering you are planting them in the spring and doing so indoors then it stands to reason that they may not get enough light to really kick-start this part of the process.
LED grow lights will be able to provide the young plants with the full spectrum of light and to do so with the correct intensity that will result in those young plants growing in a healthy fashion and increase the chances of you eventually having a healthy crop of tomatoes in a couple of months time.
So, if you are serious about growing tomato plants from seed then those are the key things to keep in mind if you are to improve the chances of you being successful. This is something that does require you to be patient and to make sure that you have those correct temperatures, water levels, and light and if you can get that balance correct then you can look forward to being able to cultivate a number of strong tomato plants that will hopefully provide you with a healthy harvest of amazing tomatoes.