Home & Garden Gardening

Tomato Care From Seed To Planting: An Easy Step-By-Step Guide

Growing tomatoes from seed is fascinating as you follow their growth from germination to the stage where the young plants are ready to grow outdoors.

Unless you live in a frost free area you will need to start the plants indoors. You can plant the seeds indoors four to six weeks before the last frost is expected.

A loose mix that will allow the roots to develop well is best. Commercial seed-raising mix is readily available but I prefer to use coir and potting mix in about a 2:1 ratio. Another recommended mix is 1/3 peat, 1/3 compost and 1/3 coarse vermiculite.The soil needs to stay moist but not soggy and be loose enough to let air through.

Fill your container (e.g. yoghurt pot with drainage holes added), with moist potting mix, press it down lightly and spread your seeds so that they are 1 cm (0.5 in) apart. Press them gently so that they make contact with the soil and cover with 5mm (0.2 in) of mix. Label the seeds.

Place the container in a warm place (an airing cupboard is good). A piece of bubble wrap cut to size and placed over the top of the container helps to retain moisture or you can place the container in a plastic bag. After a few days check for germination and ensure that the moisture is adequate. DonâEUR(TM)t overwater. Tomato seed germination usually takes 5 âEUR" 10 days.

Once several seeds have germinated, remove the container to a warm place in bright light but not direct sun. Continue to check water requirements. Once the seedlings have true leaves, start feeding them. Any good liquid fertilizer can be used once a week. Liquid blood and bone, seaweed or fish manure are organic choices. Dilute it to half the dose recommended label.

When the seedlings are about 5 cm (2 in) tall it is time to move them to larger containers. Pots that are 7 cm âEUR" 10 cm (3 âEUR" 4 in) across the top are a good choice. Plant each seedling a little deeper than it was previously. If it is tall and straggly it can be planted deeply, up to the first leaves. Firm the soil gently around the seedling and water in with a small amount of water.

When the weather is warm enough you can put the pots outside in a sheltered place during the day, taking them indoors again by late afternoon. Once the risk of frost is over, leave the seedlings outside day and night. Make sure they get enough water.

The plants will be ready for planting outdoors a week or two after the frosts stop.

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