Lets face it, there is nothing like the taste of homegrown tomatoes. Possibly more than most other vegetables, store bought tomatoes just do not cut it. Tomatoes ripened on the vine are full of flavor and vitamin C that lasts long after harvesting. There are many different varieties of tomatoes and choosing a variety suitable to your growing conditions and location is important. A visit to your local nursery will quickly give you a list of those varieties which are suitable to your local.
Seed catalogues are also a great source of information just be sure to read carefully and choose seed varieties that grow under the basic climate conditions for which you garden in. Better yet, seed from a friendly neighbor works great. Consider also the space you have for growing. Some varieties grow large and need serious garden space and staking while others can actually grow perfectly well in a large container. Do your homework and choose the seed varieties that best suit your situation.
Tomato seeds are best started indoors. Not everyone has a full seed growing set up so we can improvise. Use your sunniest window or purchase a low cost single grow light bulb and place it in a lamp socket. If your seedlings are lacking light they will grow long and spindly, which is not a good start for the plant.
Start your seeds about 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date. You can use soil blocks, small peat cubes or sterilized soil in small seedling start trays. All of these are easily found at home & garden stores. Actually you can use any container that will hold soil and water, plastic trays from deli food work well. Plant your seeds about 1/4 inch deep. Keep the soil damp with a water mister and do not allow to dry out. Cover with a plastic dome or plastic wrap to keep the soil mix damp. When seedlings emerge, remove the plastic covering. When your seedlings are about 2 inches tall, transplant them into individual 4 inch pots. Continue to water as needed. You want your seedlings to be short and bushy with nice dark green foliage.
When danger of frost has passed you can transfer your seedlings out into the garden soil. Do not transplant out too early, tomatoes can suffer from transplant shock fairly easily. It is not a bad idea to harden them off first. For a couple of weeks before planting set them outdoors in a protected sunny spot for the day time hours and bring them back in at night. This way they will gradually adjust to their new more stressful outdoor environment. Plant in a sunny spot, tomatoes are not for the shade.
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