Thursday, September 10, 2009

Starting Tomato Seeds

When it comes to growing plants from seed, tomatoes are among the most rewarding. For one thing, I still find it hard to fathom that the tiny seedling of September will grow into the huge vine of January. Seeds in general are tiny miracles, but tomato seeds have at least one special attribute: they often germinate very quickly (sometimes as quickly as 4 days). This is good for impatient people like me.

I started my seeds on September 6, a little less than a week ago, in a custom-blended soilless seedling mix. You can certainly buy your own seedling media, but I make my own because it's cheaper. With the exception of the bat guano, you can find all of the ingredients listed below in almost any garden center. My seedling mix this year was comprised of:
  • 2 parts sphagnum peat moss
  • 1 part perlite
  • dolomite lime
  • bat guano
The lime raises the pH as well as supplies calcium and magnesium—both of which are important for tomatoes (much more on that later). The bat guano is an organic, low-strength fertilizer that supplies nutrients to the developing seedling, which strengthens the plant. Don't worry, though. You don't need guano to start seeds. In fact, you should be careful of any fertilizer in a seedling mix--too much fertilizer results in "hot" soil that can easily kill young seedlings.

Once my mix was complete, I filled a tray full of 2" Jiffy pots and sowed the tomato seeds about 1/4-inch deep. My first really successful year, I started out with cherry, plum, and Big Boy tomatoes. I'd highly recommend these varieties--they are heavy producers and generally forgiving. This year, however, I'm going a little exotic and planting four varieties that I ordered from the Tomato Growers Supply Company:

  • Azoychka, a yellow, early season tomato with citrus notes
  • Homestead 24, a red tomato bred especially for hot climates like South Florida
  • Marvel Stripe, a large heirloom tomato with striped yellow and red fruit
  • Giant Belgium, a ginormous red beefsteak tomato with fruit that weighs 2 lbs.
In all, I spent about $13 on seeds and probably a few bucks on soil and Jiffy pots. So far, I'm still well within budget ...

Up tomorrow: the first seedlings emerge.

1 comment:

  1. Is it possible to get good results starting seeds right in the garden?