Starting seeds indoors is such a rewarding process. Not only do you get to say “Hey, I grew this from seed!” but you are also open to limitless varieties besides the run of the mill, stressed-out plants that you see in the store. I especially enjoy growing San Marzano tomatoes from seed because they make the BEST tomato sauce EVERRRR! I can it up into mason jars (yes, I love those things) to enjoy throughout the winter. I also grow peppers, herbs, and leeks indoors as well. Everything else gets directly sewn right into the garden soil come spring.
How to (easily) Grow Tomatoes From Seed:
To get started, all you need are seeds, popsicle sticks, a covered cell tray, grow lights, and seed starting soil. You can also use recycled plastic cups, peat cups, or even newspaper, but I like to keep things as simple as possible so I just grab a new seed tray every year. The reason? It’s sterile and I don’t have to wash it. If you were to use your recycled cups, be sure to sterilize them in 1 part bleach mixed with 9 parts water after washing them. I don’t recommend ever using egg cartons, they just aren’t deep enough.
Tomato seeds, for example, are started 6-8 weeks before the average date of the last frost for your area. They take at least 3 months to produce fruit so it’s a good idea to get started on them early.
After you’ve decided how many of each kind of plant you’re going to germinate, write the names of each one along with the planting date on a popsicle stick. I didn’t write the date because I already have it documented it in my plant journal. If you want to grow two different varieties in the same 6-pack, check to make sure they have similar germination periods.
I use whatever seed starting soil is the cheapest and I’ve never had a problem with any of them. Dump however much you’re going to need into a bucket and add just enough water so that it clumps together but is also nowhere near dripping wet.
If your cells are all one sheet, I’d highly suggest cutting them into individual 6-packs. This will allow you to remove them from the watering tray as necessary. This is especially important since some plants germinate weeks, if not months, before others.
See, easy enough.
Doing this will also allow you to pick one up and move it out of the way while you water your seedlings. If the cell packs are all connected – and you have plants growing – and THEN you decide you want to separate them, well, that will probably lead to broken plants and spilled soil.
Fill a 6 pack with the seed starting soil, lightly pressing down the first inch or so of soil to make sure it gets into the bottom crevices. This is how your plants will wick up their water. If there’s an air pocket, they won’t be able to drink from the bottom up, which is crucial. Top watering can potentially move your seeds around and also is a good way to spread fungus and disease.
Here’s a helpful tip. Read the seed packet and see how far down they need to be planted before tamping the soil down. If they need to be planted 1/4 of an inch, tamp the soil down so that it’s a quarter of an inch from the top.
This way, all you have to do is add the seeds and the soil to the top and they will be at the perfect depth. By the way, this isn’t rocket science, no need to pull out a ruler.
Pour out a few seeds onto your hand so that you can easily pick out the strongest/fattest/most plump looking ones.
Add a couple of seeds to each cell. I placed mine too close together so do as I say and not as I do and place yours a little farther apart. For peppers, I like to put 3 seeds per cell and for my leeks, well, I load it up because they are super easy to thin out later.
Side note/mini story time – I found a few mason jars (go figure) in my freezer that had some tomato seeds in it from 5 years ago. I wasn’t sure if they’d germinate so I just tossed a few into a cell to see what they’d do. Turns out they were the first to germinate! Moral of the story, if you have any leftover seeds, stick them in the freezer in a sealed mason jar to use next year!
Cover the little seeds with however much soil is stated on the back of the packet. For my tomatoes, it was 1/4 inch. I actually think it was the same for my jalapeno peppers, too.
Put the seedling tray onto a heating pad designed for seed flats or on top of the fridge, in the attic – anywhere that’s warm. They don’t need any light at all at this point. I only have them under lights because they are right beside my succulent cuttings which do need light. I use the heating pad to speed up the germinating process and it is 100% worth Every. Single. Penny. The seed packet says that they’ll take 1-2 weeks to germinate but mine usually take 3 days. The soil temp needs to be above 75F for the seeds to germinate.
See that mess? Yup, I was having one of those days. I was in the process of getting my lights situated and being lazy at the same time and knocked it over. THIS is the exact reason why I keep my Libman Precision Angle Broom handy. Seriously, I keep this thing right beside my growing area – I HAVE TO!
(Note to self: adjust grow lights with all plants out of the way!)
As soon as the little seedlings break the soil, remove the cover and drop your grow lights to within an inch or two of the top of the plants. (This is assuming your lights are cool to the touch fluorescents) You can see a few of these still are “wearing” their seed casings – sorta like a little top hat – and that’s okay. As the cotyledons (the first set of “leaves”) open up, they will take it off themselves. Leave the lights on for 14-16 hours and off for 8. A timer comes in really handy here!
If you noticed when you planted your seeds how black the soil was when wet, then you’ll easily be able to tell when it is dry because it will be much lighter in color. Remove one of the cells and give it a little drink. Water should never “pool” in the bottom of the tray so be careful not to add too much. You don’t want your soil sopping wet. If it is, your plants are much more susceptible to dampening off (ie they die).
Most of the people I know who enjoy working in the garden don’t mind a little dirt falling onto the floor (which is kinda inevitable) but they also want an easy way to get it up! With the Libman Precision Angle Broom, I can easily get into tight spaces and under my grow rack with no problems at all! As a double bonus, I’m able to use it indoors and out thanks to its guaranteed quality construction.
I picked mine up at Walmart but not before clipping my $3 off coupon!
One last thing, Libman is hosting the Spring Sweeps Pinterest Challenge where one winner will walk away with $500! Oh, and that’s not all, 5 runners up will receive an awesome prize pack that contains the Libman Wonder Mop, Precision Angle Broom with Dustpan, Big Job Kitchen Brush, Big Feather Duster, Designer Bowl Brush and Caddy, All-Purpose Sponge, and a bottle of their Multi-surface Everyday Floor Cleaner!
How to Enter: Starting March 1, follow The Libman Company on Pinterest and re-pin from their sweepstakes-specific board. Create a “Spring Cleaning Toolkit” using images of The Libman Company’s products and Spring cleaning tips from the pinboard, and then enter your information on The Libman Company’s Facebook page. Invite your friends to enter for extra entries!
What are waiting for GO ENTER THE LIBMAN SPRING SWEEPS PINTEREST CHALLENGE!
I’ll pick back up with another blog post in a few weeks to talk about when you should fertilize and how to harden off your plants to get them ready for the garden!
Be sure to pin this to your Spring Gardening board! →
Disclosure: How to Grow Tomatoes from Seeds is a sponsored post thanks to the generosity of Libman. However, all opinions expressed are my own, including thoughts in tweets. I received compensation, either monetarily, with a free product or both in exchange for this post. This disclosure is done in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 10 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.