Garden Chat - Seed Starting
Greetings from the Giving Garden. Spring is almost here and that means seed starting time is upon us! For March, we have some quick and easy seed starting tips to share along with tomato tips.
Generally, the time to start your seeds is about 6- 8 weeks before the last expected spring frost date which in our area is around April 15. You will be planting the seedlings outdoors about 2 weeks after that date. Tomatoes emerge fast and show vigorous growth under warm, bright conditions, so there is little point in starting seeds very early. Tomatoes are long-season, heat-loving plants that won't tolerate frost, so it's best to set them into the garden as transplants (young plants) after the weather has warmed up in spring. We plant them after Mother’s Day to be safe.
When choosing tomato seeds, consider the following:
- Decide on the type of tomatoes you want; for example, cherry tomatoes, slicers, or tomatoes for making sauce or paste.
- Consider the size of the mature plants. Determinate tomatoes grow to about 3 feet tall and are the best choice for containers. Indeterminate tomatoes get very large, up to 6 feet tall. All tomatoes benefit from supports, such as Tomato Cages or Tomato Ladders.
- Look for disease-resistant seeds appropriate for your area’s needs. Tomatoes are susceptible to several diseases in the Nashville area so to be on the safe side grow at least one variety with resistance to verticillium and fusarium (designated by a V or F after the variety name).
Step-By-Step Seed Starting
- Thoroughly moisten the seed-starting mix and fill the containers to within 1/2" of the top. Firm the mix but don't compact it.
- Place two or three seeds into each small container or cell of a seed starter. Cover the seed with about 1/4" of soil and gently firm it over the seeds.
- Gently moisten the top layer of soil with a plant mister or just dribble a stream of water over the top.
- Place the pots in a warm spot or on top of a heat mat. At this point, the seeds don't need light.
- Keep the mix moist but not soaking wet. If your seed-starting system has a greenhouse top, use it to help hold moisture. Alternatively, lay some plastic kitchen wrap over the tops of the pots.
- Check pots daily. As soon as you see sprouts, remove the covering, and place the pots in a sunny window or under grow lights, keeping the lights just an inch or two above the tops of the plants.