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How to Grow Tomatoes from Seed

There is truly nothing better than a homegrown tomato! And with the right care, you can have bountiful harvests in your own backyard! So continue reading to learn how to grow tomatoes by seed!

Tomato seedlings growing in plastic seed starting pots

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Tomatoes are one of my absolute favorites in the garden! A fresh tomato off the vine is so much better than from the store. In fact, I can hardly even believe how much better they taste which is why I will rarely purchase store-bought tomatoes unless absolutely necessary.

So no matter how big or little of a space you have, make room for at least one tomato plant… They are worth it!

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Tips for Growing Tomatoes from Seed

If you’re wondering why you should start your tomatoes from seed versus buying an already started plant, the truth is, you can do either.

But I prefer starting my tomatoes from seed because a packet of seeds is cheaper and you have the option of so many more tomato varieties.

Your local garden center will have some of the most popular varieties but when you buy your own seeds you have the option to get tomatoes of all different shapes, colors, sizes, and qualities.

A variety of heirloom tomatoes

Starting your own tomato seedlings also means that you can be sure that your young tomato plants get the proper attention and care.

Many store-bought vegetable plants are not properly cared for and so you may end up buying plants that are stressed, or worst-case scenario, already have a disease or pest problem.

So before jumping into exactly how to start your seeds, I will cover the three most important tips when it comes to growing your tomatoes from seed.

1.) Plant High-Quality Seeds

The first step to healthy plants and better germination rates is starting with high-quality seeds within their viable age range. For tomatoes that is 4-6 years as long as they are stored properly in a cool, dry, and dark space.

If you’re looking for a great way to keep track of your seed inventory and how old they are, be sure to check out my Gardening Planner HERE.

Whether you save your own tomato seeds or buy from a seed supplier, there are a few things to keep in mind.

If you save your own seeds make sure you only save seeds from heirloom tomatoes. If you save seeds from hybrid varieties they will not be true to their variety.

Then make sure you properly dry and store the seeds.

If you choose to buy your seeds, I recommend buying from a reputable seed supplier that offers the varieties you are searching for.

I really like and have had great success with True Leaf Market and Botanical Interests. They both offer a variety of heirloom, hybrid, organic, and open-pollinated seeds and so I am usually able to order everything I want in one order.

A pile of tomato seeds

2.) Use a Good Seed Starting Mix

A common seed starting issue is that people use potting soil versus seed starting mix. Even though seeds will likely still germinate in other grow mediums, using a seed starting mix will give you the best results.

Seed starting mix is sterile which means it has fewer pathogens in it preventing the likelihood of any diseases early on.

Seed starting mixes are soil-less with a variety of ingredients such as peat moss, coconut coir, and vermiculture that all serve specific purposes in the seed germination phase such as moisture retention, drainage, and aeration for healthy root and seedling growth.

So if you’re going back and forth on what mix to use, I definitely recommend a seed starting mix. An exact brand is not necessarily important but a couple of ones that I’ve used and had success with include,

3.) Provide Extra Care and Attention

Just as it is with anything, the more care and attention you give it the better off it will be. This is especially true with seedlings.

Once you plant your seeds in individual pots, seed trays, etc. there are 3 things that are most important for your tomato seedlings to grow successfully which include,

  1. Water
  2. Temperature
  3. Light

Head to my Seedling Care Guide for more information on seedling care as well as common problems and solutions.

Tomato seedlings that germinated in a seed starting tray

Seed Starting Supplies & Materials Needed

If you don’t have all of the supplies you need, one of my favorite online stores that carries a great selection of good-quality gardening supplies is Hoss Tools.

You can get any of the items you need individually or you can get their Premium Seed Starting Kit which includes all of the essentials in just one kit!

How to Grow Tomatoes From Seed

  1. Determine your last frost date and start your seedlings 6-8 weeks prior.
  2. Fill each seed starting cell or container of choice, with seed starting mix. Then wet the seed starting mix thoroughly until the entire cell is damp.
  3. Make a small hole about 1/8″ – 1/4″ deep in the center of each cell.
  4. Put 2 tomato seeds in each hole and then cover with seeds with seed starting mix or perlite and compress with your fingers. See notes below about the benefits of covering your seeds with perlite versus seed starting mix.
  5. Gently water again, being careful that you don’t spray the seeds out of place.
  6. Cover the seed trays with a humidity dome, place them in a greenhouse, or keep them indoors, possibly on a heat mat if needed, until germiantion occurs.
  7. You can expect tomato seeds to germinate in 5-10 days but I’ve had some seeds take up to 2 weeks.
  8. After the seeds emerge remove the humidy dome. If you’re starting your tomatoes indoors place them under a grow light.
How to Easily Grow Tomatoes from Seed
Tomato seedlings growing in individual plastic pots

Seed Starting Notes & Tips

The benefit of covering your seeds with perlite versus seeds starting mix is that it prevents algae growth on top of the seed starting mix. It also helps reduce fungus gnats which can harm seedlings and may even prevent the gnats altogether. The last benefit is that it prevents the seeds from getting overly wet during germination.

I recycle all of the pots and seed starting trays that plants come in from the nursery and then use them to start my seeds in. But before using any used container you need to sterilize it in a light bleach solution.

The container size I prefer is about 3″ x 3″ which gives the young plants plenty of space to keep growing before you have to transplant them.

If you use the really small seed starting cells that measure around an inch wide, you’ll end up having to move the plants to a larger pot too soon.

Although, depending on how many plants you want to start, feel free to get creative with the pots you choose.

As long as there is a drain hole you can use containers such as plastic cups, styrofoam cups, and peat pots. But I have discovered that biodegradable pots do not break down quick enough and so they are not worth using.

I prefer to use plastic pots that you can recycle.

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When to Transplant Tomato Seedlings Outdoors

Once the tomato seedlings’ roots reach the bottom of whatever container you start them in you need to transplant them into larger pots or out into the garden, as long as you’ve reached your outdoor planting date.

If you happen to have more than one healthy tomato plant growing in a cell you can separate the tomato seedlings and plant each of them in their own separate pot or area in the garden.

Tomato plants getting transplanted into the garden

After transplanting, continue to care for your tomato plants. You should fertilize as needed and keep an eye out for spider mites on your tomato plants and other pests such as the tomato hornworm.

Then in about 80 days, you can start enjoying your harvest of fresh tomatoes! If you’re looking for a great tomato recipe this homemade salsa is the best!

Do you want to learn more about growing tomatoes?

I hope you have learned all that you needed about how to grow tomatoes by seed. So now if want to learn more about growing tomatoes head to any of the articles below!

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Tomato seedlings growing in a seed starting tray

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3 Comments

  1. My family and I just moved from California to a ranch in East Texas with a few acres. I used to grow a few tomatoes, peppers and squash and intend to do the same here but adding a few other veggies and on a bit of a larger scale, but not more than I can handle. LOL. I have been enjoying your articles and have found out many new tips and tricks I plan on using. Thanks for your help, Wish me luck!!

    1. You are blessed to get out of Ca and get to East Tx ! I’m shopping daily for property outside of Tyler. I wonder what or how you will protect your plants from pests? Every property i look at i look to see if a good clearing for my garden. Good luck on your Texas garden, I’ll be watching to see how your tomatoes are doing! Good luck

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