Tomato is a favorite vegetable for many. However, not all of you know the best way to plant tomatoes. Probably this article will be of help to you. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more evident that store-bought tomatoes don’t taste half as good as homegrown tomatoes. Therefore, planting tomatoes in my own vegetable garden is a logical choice for me. Every year I choose the seeds of about 10 different varieties of tomatoes and embark on an adventure.
When to Sow Tomatoes Indoors
For me, growing tomatoes starts in the first weeks of March, when indoor sowing begins. Those who want to avoid sowing can buy ready-made seedlings in agriculture, nurseries, on the market, and even in supermarkets exceptionally cheaply and plant them directly in the garden.
Why Sow Tomatoes From Seeds
The main reason for growing tomatoes from seed is because of the variety. The types of tomato seeds available for purchase are much more numerous than the types of seedlings. You will also save money because the price of seeds is much lower than that of seedlings.
If you decide to sow directly from seed, keep in mind that you will need a closed space with a lot of light. Sow them in plant pots that you can place on a south-facing windowsill or under LED grow lights.
Germination of Tomato Seeds
Tomatoes need a temperature of at least 9°C for germination. Be patient because germination and sprouting occur very slowly at that temperature.
The optimal temperature for tomato germination is between 22°C and 25°C when the seeds will sprout in 5 to 6 days. Germination can be accelerated by soaking the seeds in chamomile for at least half an hour before sowing. You won’t go wrong if you leave the seeds in the chamomile overnight.
You are considering that the seed will take at least 6 to 8 weeks to develop into a seedling ready for planting outdoors, calculate when to start sowing indoors. Namely, if you sow the seeds too early, you will not be able to transplant the seedling into the garden in time, so the roots will get tangled, which will cause the plant to remain small and not produce normal fruits.
How to Sow Tomatoes
To sow tomatoes, you will need the following:
Tomato seeds (at least 10 seeds of the same variety because not all will germinate)
- Seedling soil or quality compost
- Containers for sowing
- Black foil (optional)
- Rubber band (optional)
Get quality soil for seedlings so the plant gets enough nutrients for growth and development right from the start. Buy a ready-made substrate for seedlings or make it yourself from compost or earthworms.
You can buy containers intended just for sowing or recycled containers of yogurt, ice cream, paper rolls, etc. It is essential to clean them well and make a hole at the bottom so the water can drain away, preventing the seeds from rotting. Fill the containers up to 2/3 with the substrate, water them well, and wait for the water to drain. Only then you can start sowing.
Make holes about half a centimeter deep in the substrate and put the seeds in them. Suppose it is a container with a smaller diameter, like a yogurt glass, 2 to 4 seeds spaced at least 1 cm apart. If you have chosen a larger container, make furrows at least 2 centimeters apart and place the seeds in them at a distance of 1-1.5 cm.
Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil and water regularly. It would be best with a water sprayer, not a direct stream, so the seeds do not come to the surface. Provide them with a temperature of at least 22°C so that the seeds germinate as soon as possible.
You can also close the containers with a lid or a dark nylon film that you will secure with a rubber band. In this case, additional watering will probably not be necessary, but check the substrate daily so that it does not dry out and, if necessary, water it with a sprinkler. If it is too wet, dry it in a warm place.
Once you see green shoots on the surface, remove the dark foil and allow the plants as much light as possible. If the light source comes from a window, be sure to regularly turn the container with the plants so that they do not grow sideways. The optimal temperature for the growth and development of tomatoes is between 18°C and 22°C.
Planting Tomatoes in Individual Pots
When the plants develop their first real leaves, it is time to transplant. True leaves are actually another group of leaves that appear about 30 days after germination. If you sowed tomatoes in glasses or similar narrow containers, and several plants have sprouted, now is the time to leave only one, the strongest plant, and remove the others. You may be sorry to pull out healthy plants so that you can transplant them, but be sure to leave only one plant per cup so that it can develop undisturbed.
If you sow tomatoes in larger pots, now is the time to transplant them into separate containers. For this process, you will need a pencil or a fork and pots at least 10 cm high filled with good-quality soil. Those with a volume of 400-500 ml are ideal.
In the middle of the glass filled with soil, make a hole at least 5 cm deep where you will place the seedling. Use a fork to lift the seedling with its roots and soil. On the other hand, grasp the plant by the leaves, never by the stem, so as not to break or crush it, and transfer it to the container with soil. The stem can be covered with soil up to the leaves.
The roots of plants that grew close to each other may get tangled, so separate the plants by gently pulling them by the leaves.
Care of Tomato Seedlings Before Planting Outdoors
In the next month, continue taking care of the seedlings, feeding them, and regularly watering them. You can feed them once a week with liquid fertilizer for tomatoes, but be sure to dilute it with water in a ratio of 1:4. You can also spray them once every 10 days as a preventive measure against fungal diseases with baking soda solution. This solution does not harm the plant but changes its pH from 7 to 8 and thus creates unfavorable conditions for the development of fungi.
When to Plant Tomatoes Outdoors
You can transplant them outdoors when your seedlings reach a minimum height of 15 cm and the night temperature stabilizes at around 10°C. This is also the time when you can plant purchased seedlings in the garden.
One week before transplanting, you must start taking the seedlings out for acclimatization to the open air. Water them before putting them out. Do not put them in direct sunlight on the first day, and ensure no strong wind. Increase the amount of time they spend each day outdoors.
Planting Tomatoes Outdoors
It is best to plant tomatoes during cloudy weather—otherwise, plant in the evening so the young seedlings are not exposed to direct sunlight. Before removing them from the containers, water them well.
The distance between the tomatoes must be at least 25-60 cm, and plant them in rows 80-100 cm apart. I plant tomatoes at least 50 cm apart so that there is better airflow between them, which reduces the possibility of diseases such as blight.
Add to the dug hole:
- spoon of NPK fertilizer,
- compost or manure,
- garden soil,
- baking soda (optional),
Only then put the seedling in the hole so that most of the stem is covered with soil. Cover the plant with the remaining soil that you removed from the hole and press it down well with your hands or feet so that the roots of the plant have the best possible contact with the soil. If necessary, water additionally.
As soon as you have planted them, add support to the tomatoes so that you do not disturb their roots later. Stick the support into the ground on the east side of the plant itself. For successful tomato cultivation, it is important to:
- water regularly,
- remove commas,
- tie it to support its growth,
- timely treatment against pests either with ecological or chemical means.
Sweeten the Tomatoes With Baking Soda
I stated that you should add baking soda to the hole when planting. This step is not necessary but optional. This is done to make the tomatoes sweeter. You can sprinkle soda around the tomatoes several times during the growing season, making the fruits sweeter and preventing the development of fungal diseases in the soil.
Planting tomatoes certainly requires a lot of work, but no purchased tomato can compare to the one we grew ourselves. I wish you a handful of delicious tomatoes from your own garden.