Our good friends at Botanical Interests recently published this good primer on starting tomatoes from seed. Jeff Skillin, our plant grower, does not start Skillin's tomatos until April 15. They grow quickly and readily and stay nice and stout for you to plant in the garden.
Here is the article from Botanical Interests:
Tips for Tomatoes
Timing is Everything!
Tomatoes are the most popular members of the home vegetable garden. Most gardeners transplant a tomato seedling into their garden instead of directly sowing seeds because of the limitations presented by season length. Tomato transplants are simple to start indoors, and with a few tips, your tomatoes will get off to a good start .
Tomato transplants grow quickly, and have been known to grow out of the control for even the most experienced gardeners. This makes timing possibly the most crucial element when starting and growing your plants. Start 6-8 weeks before you wish to transplant outdoors. Sow seeds in high-quality seed starting mix, under closely placed lights, and hasten the germination process with some bottom heat at 75-80ºF.
When you see your plants start to emerge from the soil, the race is on! Tomatoes grow fast. However, a transplant that is too large may struggle to acclimate to the outdoors and delay production. The ideal early season tomato transplant is 4"-6" tall with 3-6 pairs of leaves. Under indoor conditions, this may be a challenge. So, here are some strategies to create a great transplant. Start your seeds in small containers. If they get too tall, you can transplant them deep into another container, leaving just one set of leaves above the soil and carefully removing the rest. The submerged stem will grow roots, contributing to a healthier plant. Also, if your plants are growing too quickly, the small container size will constrict growth and may help prevent overly tall transplants. Secondly, fertilize your seedlings sparingly, and do so with a low phosphorus food, like 15-5-15, 14-0-14, or 5-1-1. (I recommend a liquid feed of Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed Blend or Garden Tone by Espoma). Tomatoes don't require much food when they're young, and as long as they're a healthy green, they'll be fine until they get into your garden. The low phosphorus food will help prevent stem stretch. Lastly, supply vigorous air circulation, and brush against your plants regularly. Research shows that wind and frequent, gentle disruption of plants causes them to grow shorter with thicker stems.
When you use these suggestions together while growing your tomato transplants, the results will be short, stout, plants that, after gradual acclimation to the outdoors, will start healthy growth and production faster than their tall, spindly counterparts.
Thanks to our friends at Botanical Interests!
We have an outstanding variety of tomato seeds here at Skillin's and by mid May we will have a great selection of tomato seedlings!
April 13, 2011