A Beginners Guide
Growing tomatoes from seed is the perfect way to create a bountiful garden. There are so many varieties of tomatoes, from small cherries to large beefsteak tomatoes – you can find the perfect type to fit your needs.
Heirloom seeds are often the best choice to ensure quality, open-pollinated fruit. As you select your tomato seeds, take into consideration size, shape, flavor and climate requirements for optimal results once they mature.
Preparing your tomato plants for planting requires specific conditions such as warmth and adequate light in order for them to thrive.
Planting tomato seeds indoors or using other methods of temperature control can help ensure successful growth and maximum harvest yields without having to rely on unpredictable outdoor weather patterns.
The transplanting process needs special attention too; using regular garden soil is recommended as it helps keep soil moisture levels in check and provides the necessary nutrients for healthy plants.
Take care when handling the delicate stems of young seedlings and make sure there is enough space between each plant so that sunlight and air circulation isn’t compromised.
Pruning lower branches with gentle force can also aid in bigger harvests come the end of season! With proper care and attention, you’ll soon enjoy delicious homegrown tomatoes all year round!
A Brief History of Tomatoes
Tomatoes have been an essential part of human diets for centuries. The plant is native to the Americas and has been cultivated in Mexico as early as 700 BC.
It slowly made its way across the continent and was being grown in Peru by 500 BC. Tomato plants are a member of the nightshade family, belonging to the genus Solanum lycopersicum (lycopersicon esculentum) and produce both determinate and indeterminate types of fruit.
In the 16th century, tomatoes began to appear in Italian cuisine and soon after that reached other European countries as well as England. The English used tomato sauce but did not consume whole fruits out of fear of toxicity due to their botanical relationship with belladonna or deadly nightshade.
It was not until 1720 when tomatoes were finally introduced into American culture when German immigrants arrived with seeds from Bavaria.
Tomatoes were soon widely grown in home gardens on both sides of the Atlantic, while professional nurseries continued to improve upon varieties already available such as Large Red or Early White.
In the 19th century several heirloom varieties appeared including Black Cherry, Cherokee Purple and Brandywine, which are still popular today thanks to their unique colors and flavors.
Selecting Tomato Seed
The first step in growing tomatoes is to select your seed. With so many varieties of tomato seeds available, it can be a daunting task to choose the one that best suits your needs.
Tomato seeds come in two forms: hybrid (store-bought) and open-pollinated (non-hybrid). Hybrid seeds are bred for their disease resistance, while open pollinated tomato seeds will produce plants that look like the parent plant. When selecting tomato seeds, you should consider factors such as size, shape, color, flavor and disease resistance.
Additionally, you should decide whether you want determinate or indeterminate varieties. Determinate tomatoes are bushier and more compact while indeterminate tomatoes can grow up to 10 feet tall or more! These plants continue to produce fruit throughout the growing season and can be harvested multiple times.
It’s important to research the different types of tomatoes before making a decision on which variety is best for your garden.
Open-Pollinated Heirloom and Heritage Varieties Have more Complex Flavors than Hybrid types.
Heirloom varieties of tomatoes provide a unique opportunity for planting and growing. Gardeners in search of delightfully complex flavors may be drawn to planting these specific types of tomato seeds.
When it comes to selecting the right heirloom variety, there are several factors to consider such as size, shape, color, flavor and disease resistance. One way to find the perfect match is by looking through seed packets or ordering them online.
If a gardener wants to replicate heirloom vegetables each year, they need only harvest seeds, by saving some of the planting tomato seeds that were gathered earlier in the season and use them for their garden next year.
In order to preserve the heirloom genetics from cross-pollination with hybrid plants, it’s essential to designate a specific location within the garden for them. Additionally, double-check your soil for nutrient levels and acidity before planting as optimal growing conditions will ensure a healthy crop.
It is essential to safeguard heirloom varieties, as many of them are facing the real possibility of extinction.
These types of tomatoes bring with them unique flavors and traits and a history that cannot be found in hybrid varieties, making their loss a blow to both consumers and the industry alike.
With the rise of modern farming, hundreds of different tomato varieties have been lost due to cross-breeding and genetic modification. By growing heirloom tomatoes, not only can you enjoy their exquisite flavor, but you can also help keep these rare delicacies alive for generations to come.
Heirloom varieties promote biodiversity and provide valuable genetic diversity, as well as a connection to our ancestors’ knowledge about gardening and preserving family recipes. Planting heirloom varieties allows us to impart this knowledge by introducing unique flavors into our gardens each season!
Here is a list of some popular heirloom tomato varieties:
Blondkopfchen tomatoes are an heirloom variety of tomato that originated in Germany and were brought to the United States in the late 19th century. The plants are determinate and produce small yellow fruits with a sweet flavor.
Blondkopfchen tomatoes have been popular among home gardeners for their easy-to-grow habit and because of their high yields. In addition, they are prized for their sweet yet subtle taste which makes them perfect for salads, canning and sauces, as well as snacking on fresh off the vine.
The name “Blondkopfchen” translates to “little blonde head” in German, referring to the golden color of the ripe fruit.
Black Cherry Tomato
Black Cherry Tomatoes are an heirloom variety of tomato that have been grown in the United States since the early 19th century.
Initially discovered growing wild in the southern US by Dr. F.D. Huntington, these indeterminate plants produce small red fruits with a distinct and rich flavor. When ripe, their intense sweetness and juicy texture has made them increasingly popular among home gardeners and chefs alike. Used in salads, salsas, soups, sauces and more due to their unique deep flavor and dark color, Black Cherry Tomatoes are sure to satisfy every taste.
Flamme tomatoes are an heirloom variety of tomato that has been grown in Europe since the 18th century. The plants are indeterminate, and produce small round red fruits with yellow streaks when ripe. Flamme tomatoes have a sweet flavor, with notes of honey, making them perfect for salads and side dishes.
They were first discovered by Humphrey Burcher, an English horticulturalist who was sent to France to grow vegetables for the Royal family. Once he had established the variety, it soon gained popularity in Europe due to its unusual color and flavor. In modern times, Flamme tomatoes are still popular among home gardeners and chefs alike, thanks to their easy growth habits and sweet taste.
Bonny Best Tomato
Bonny Best tomatoes are a classic heirloom variety that has been part of the culinary landscape for centuries.
Originating in Scotland during the early 19th century, Bonny Best tomatoes were in danger of being lost forever until German seedsman Louis Jerger noticed some plants growing in Belgium in the early 20th century. He took cuttings from those plants, and brought them back to Germany, which helped to save this strain from extinction and allowed it to be passed on to other parts of Europe and eventually the United States.
Bonny Best tomatoes boast a plump and round shape with bright red skin offset by green shoulders – setting it apart from other varieties. With an intense yet sweet flavor, Bonny Best tomatoes are popular among home cooks because they can be used for canning or sauces, as well as sliced up for salads or sandwiches.
They are also renowned for their productive nature and large yields even in cooler climates! For added flavor, enjoy them while humming the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond.
Cherokee Purple Tomato
Cherokee Purple tomatoes are an old-fashioned heirloom variety of tomato that originated in Tennessee. This variety is named after the Cherokee people, and has been grown and enjoyed by them for centuries.
With their unique reddish-purple hue and marbled texture, Cherokee Purple tomatoes are a beautiful addition to any garden or plate. The color can range from light brown to dark purple, giving it a unique look that stands out from the more common red varieties. Not only does it have a stunning appearance, but it also has a sweet yet slightly acidic flavor that makes it perfect for salads or sandwiches.
Its meaty texture makes it ideal for sauces as well as canning, drying, or freezing. Growing these tomatoes is not only rewarding due to their delicious flavor, but also because they are part of a long history of being cultivated by the Cherokee people.
Brandywine tomatoes are a beloved heirloom variety that have been grown by home gardeners since the 1880s. Grown in southeastern Pennsylvania, Brandywine tomatoes are distinguished by their distinctive pinkish-red color and sweet flavor.
Not only do they look unique – with a slightly flattened shape and weight of up to one pound each – but their softer texture makes them perfect for sauces or canning. Though less productive than other varieties, this variety is particularly well suited to warmer climates as well as shorter growing seasons!
With their unique flavor, Brandywine tomatoes make for an ideal fresh eating or preserving experience through canning.
Box Car Willie Tomato
Box Car Willie tomatoes are a beloved heirloom variety of tomato, named after the famous country musician, and thought to have originated in Louisiana. Since its introduction in the mid-1800s, this unique variety has become popular among home gardeners who appreciate heritage produce.
The bright red tomatoes boast a mild yet slightly sweet flavor, with a firm texture that is ideal for salads, salsas, sandwiches or simply eating fresh. Box Car Willie tomatoes not only provide high yields but they are also highly resistant to common tomato diseases – making them perfect for gardeners in colder climates who want a reliable harvest each year.
With their long shelf life and resistance to cracking when ripe, these tomatoes are excellent for late harvesting.
New Big Dwarf Tomato
The New Big Dwarf Tomato is an iconic heirloom variety that has been around since the early 1900s. Bred by S.M. Isbell & Co of Jackson, Michigan in 1909, this unique variety is a cross between Ponderosa and Dwarf Champion tomatoes and produces large, deep pink tomatoes that weigh up to one pound each, with most weighing 8-12 ounces.
The plants have a compact size and peak at only 2 feet tall, making them ideal for patio gardening in pots. With its meaty flavor and a delicate balance of sweet and acidity, these tomatoes are a favorite among gardeners – perfect for salads or just eating fresh.
Costoluto Roma Tomato
Costoluto Roma tomatoes are an old Italian heirloom variety of tomato that dates back to the 19th century. They originated in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region and were brought to the United States by Italian immigrants in the early 20th century.
The Costoluto Roma tomato is distinguished by its distinctive ridges and contours, which lend it a unique shape that is perfect for slicing on sandwiches or salads. These tomatoes are bright red when ripe and have a mild yet tart flavor. They also produce high yields and are highly resistant to common diseases, making them ideal for cooler climates.
What makes Costoluto Roma tomatoes so special, however, is their prolonged shelf life – they stay fresh longer than many other varieties, making them perfect for late harvesting as well as storage.
Polish Linguisa Tomato
The Polish Linguisa tomato is believed to be of Yugoslavian or Bulgarian origin, and is widely considered to be a flavorful, low-acid tomato. It has been a part of the culinary culture in Poland for centuries, with records showing its presence as far back as the late 1600s.
This heirloom tomato variety is renowned for its somewhat oblong shape, bright red hue and mild sweetness, which makes it perfect for using in salads and sauces. Rich in flavor and nutrients, it can be enjoyed fresh or preserved in jars. The Polish Linguisa tomato is an exceptional addition to any garden or kitchen!
How to Germinate Tomato Seeds – Growing Tomatoes From Seed
Now that you’ve identified a couple tomato varieties you want to grow, let’s get into the details on starting tomato seeds. Before starting tomato plants, you’ll need to check when your region’s last frost date is.
Depending on where you live, this could be anywhere from late February to late May. It is important to germinate seeds indoors, about 6-8 weeks before the average last frost date in your region. Most seed packets contain pertinent information on growing tomatoes from seed for your particular variety.
Seeds germinate best when placed in a warm and moist environment. When seed starting older tomato seeds, you may have to be a bit more proactive. Sometimes it is best to soak them overnight before planting. Occasionally, germinating seeds from old seed won’t produce seed growing tomatoes, as the germination rate decreases.
Starting Tomato Seed Indoors
Start tomato seeds indoors. Scrounge up some containers, or gathering egg cartons, some potting soil and a grow light. To start, fill a planting tray or pot with a seed starting mix, and wet the mix until it is evenly moist but not soggy.
Sow seeds thinly, placing two to three seeds into the potting soil and press them lightly into the surface of the seed starting mix. Gently cover them with another layer of potting mix (about ¼ inch thick). Water lightly until moist but not soggy. Planting tomato seed indoors will foster tomato success.
Tomato seeds generally take about 7 to 10 days to germinate
To grow tomatoes from seed, keep your seed starting mix moist but not soggy for best results – tomato seeds need consistent moisture in order for the tomato seeds to germinate faster and develop strong, healthy roots.
Some varieties of tomato seed may take up to two weeks or longer. Once your tomato plants have sprouted, remove the plastic coverings from the container and place them in a sunny window or under grow lights and wait for the last frost.
Tomato seeds germinate faster when you cover your containers or egg cartons with plastic wrap. This will help keep in moisture while they are germinating. Place egg cartons in a location with a warm room temperature and keep moist for about 7-10 days until the seeds are sprouted. Water as needed with a spray bottle.
Tomato seedlings grow faster and with greater success when situated on top of a heat source. Using a Heat mat is an ideal choice for tomato seedlings since they provide constant warmth, helping to maintain the optimal soil temperature range of 80-85°F which is necessary for optimal seed germination.
A heat mat offers several advantages; one of their key benefits being that they create a consistently comfortable environment for the tomato plants, helping them to quickly establish their root systems and successfully grow.
For healthy seedlings, make sure they get at least 16-18 hours of sunlight or artificial light each day. Be sure to rotate your tomato seedling every few days so that each tomato plant receives light evenly. You will also want to consider purchasing a grow light if you do not have access to a sunny window in your home.
Once your baby plants are about four inches tall and have two or three sets of leaves, it’s time to transplant them into larger containers. Grow tomatoes in this way to ensure a stronger, healthier root system, critical for a healthy tomato plant.
Pinching Out Tomato Seedlings
Pinching out tomato seedlings is an important gardening technique that helps the plants to produce thicker stems and bushier foliage. The procedure should be performed when the plant has at least three sets of leaves, as removing all but the main stem encourages the plant to focus energy on producing more foliage.
Not only does pinching out help to create a stronger stem, it can also help prevent spindly or leggy plants which can be caused by insufficient air circulation.
To do this correctly, utmost care must be taken while handling the delicate stems of young seedlings – too much force can damage them and cause shock to the plant. Regular pinching out throughout their growing period will ensure robust and fruitful tomatoes come harvest time!
To prevent soil from drying out too quickly, use a layer of mulch such as straw, leaves or shredded bark on the surface. Not only does this help insulate and maintain moisture levels in the soil, but it also provides additional protection for tomato transplants once they become established. Established plants require more frequent watering and much more care than seedlings do.
Identifying tomato plants from seed to larger containers may seem like a hassle, but it is worth it for the healthier tomato plant. To keep your tomato garden organized and track which tomato plant varieties are where in your garden, consider investing in some natural-looking plant markers.
Plant markers can be made with anything from sticks to rocks or even colorful plastic tags. Whichever you choose, these markers will help you identify tomato varieties easily when it comes time to harvest, especially those heirloom tomatoes you want to easily identify.
Once your tomato seeds germinate, there’s no stopping it. Incorporate and using plant markers into your gardening routine, will make your growing season a lot easier.
Transplanting Tomato Seedlings After Last Frost
Once your young plants have become established, it’s time to transplant tomato seedlings into larger containers or into your garden bed, where they will continue to grow into strong tomato plants. Be sure to transplant after the last frost date. Start by preparing a pot with holes at the bottom that is filled with soil mix.
As a general rule, the last frost is typically around Mother’s Day, but is different depending upon what region you live. The Plant Hardiness Zone Map is a geographically-based guide that helps gardeners determine which plant varieties will do best in their area.
It divides North America into 11 main zones based on average annual extreme minimum temperatures, helping gardeners choose the right plants for their particular climate.
To ensure the successful transplanting of your young tomato plants, make sure to place them as deep as possible into the soil of a new pot or garden bed. Carefully spread out their roots for proper ventilation and cover with a light layer of soil.
When transplanting tomato seedlings, it’s important to be gentle and make sure they aren’t disturbed too much. It is crucial to give your young plants plenty of water to ensure healthy growth.
Growing tomatoes is an excellent way to add flavor and nutrition to your home garden. With a bit of understanding of how tomato stems generate their roots and proper transplanting techniques, you can have a successful transplant which will reward you with an abundance of delicious tomatoes.
When transplanting tomatoes, it is essential to understand that when the stem touches soil, it will generate a root system. To ensure successful transplants, take care to submerge the stem into nutrient-rich soil and leave enough space between each tomato plant.
The small hairs coming out of the tomato stem are future roots, so make sure to bury a significant part of the stem for an even stronger return in the long run.
Caring for Your Young Tomato Plants
Keeping your tomato plants properly hydrated and fed is essential for a successful harvest.
Vining tomatoes require more water than most other vegetables, so make sure to water the plants regularly–especially during the growing season–to keep the soil moist and your plants healthy.
Additionally, you can use stakes and trellises to provide support for taller varieties, or opt for plastic pots or raised beds for easy access to additional water and nutrients.
Fertilizing your tomato plants when they reach 6-10 inches in height with a slow-release fertilizer every two weeks until the end of the growing season will help ensure that your plants get all the nutrition they need to thrive.
Your seed packet should provide you with any additional information. With care from a green thumb, you’ll be rewarded with robust tomato plants that yield delicious beefsteak and baby tomatoes alike!
Pruning Tomato Plants
Pruning tomato plants is a great way to ensure bigger and tastier tomatoes come harvest time.
The process involves cutting off larger, more mature stems so as to allow more light and air to reach the leaves and actively encourage growth of new shoots. Pruning also encourages more lateral branches which allows for improved set of flowers and an abundance of healthy fruit.
This should be done when the plant reaches a height of around 12″ and any subsequent pruning should be done with care as it can adversely affect the shape and quality of the plant if done incorrectly.
To get maximum benefit from pruning, it’s important to identify and remove any weak or damaged stems, dead leaves or flower buds, as this will open up spaces for new shoots to grow leading to better yields at harvest time.
Cloning Tomato Plants
Why plant seeds, when you can clone? Cloning a tomato plant is a simple process that can be used to propagate additional plants from existing healthy tomatoes.
To begin, select a ripe tomato and cut the stem slightly below the fruit. Insert the stem into a container filled with moist soil.
Place the container in an area with ample light and wait for several days – roots should soon start appearing. Once grown, transplant the clone into its permanent home and enjoy watching your new plants grow.
Growing tomatoes from seed is a rewarding experience that can provide you with an abundance of fresh, organic produce. By following the steps outlined above and providing proper care, you can ensure healthy transplants that will become fruitful plants.
This article was written to provide general advice and information on planting tomato seeds and successfully transplanting them outdoors.
For more specific information about tomatoes, including planting and varieties, visit your local garden center, check out online resources, at your library or contact a horticulture professional for more detailed planting instructions.
With the right knowledge and preparation you can be sure to enjoy a delicious harvest of homegrown tomatoes this summer. Remember, your own tomatoes are best eaten fresh.
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Let me know what tomatoes you want to grow in the comments below. Check out my post how to grow vegetables in a small garden.
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