Tomatoes are one of the summer vegetables that can be started from seed in the weeks before spring. I love tomatoes. I mean, I really really love tomatoes. Not the ones from the market, especially in winter. Not those tasteless mealy things. (I swear Brett thinks he doesn’t like tomatoes because he never had them fresh from the garden until I came along).
I plant ten or eleven tomato plants in my garden. This year there will be 8 different varieties. I like a mix of reliable slicers and sweet cherry tomatoes. There are some varieties that show up again and again, year-after-year — for me that would be Arkansas Traveler, Black Krim and Sun Gold (cherry tomato). Sun Gold tomatoes are the ones that convinced Brett that tomatoes are actually pretty dang good. Very few of the Sun Golds make it into the kitchen, I snack on them while I’m working in the garden. They are a bright orange color and incredibly sweet. I’m trying four new varieties this year. Two of them looked too interesting to pass up.
I lugged my propagation stuff from the tool shed shelf into the greenhouse and got it all set up. I unrolled my heat mats, and my thermostat, and dug out my block making tool. I am kind of over-the-top when it comes to seed starting. You don’t need all the paraphernalia that I have, but it does ensure a high percentage of germination. I make my own seed starting mix (peat, vermiculite, sifted compost, fertilizer and a touch of lime), get it wet, and form it into blocks. I plant one or two seeds in each block. I planted eight blocks of each tomato variety. The extras will be donated to the Master Gardener spring plant sale that is the main fund raiser for our demonstration gardens.
Once the seedlings are big enough that I can see their roots on the side of the block, I transplant the whole block into a 4” pot. This way I can start a lot of seeds in a relatively small space and I don’t have to worry about traumatizing them when I move them to a larger pot. It works well for me.
So, now I sit and wait. I will mist the soil daily and keep the domes on the flats until the seedlings are up. In a few weeks, I’ll be starting more seeds. Whee!
If you want to give seed starting a go without all the fuss of doing it this way, check out this article I wrote for a local publication on how easy it is to do. Honest.