Starting Tomato Seeds

Starting Tomato Seeds

What a treat to be planting tomato seeds…finally! Nothing says “Spring IS around the corner!” quite like seed starting. And speaking of corners, I want to give you a little tip that might help when you plant small seeds.

When starting our tomato seeds I get the potting mix wet first. This is important because most mixes are high in peat which repels the water if you fill your containers with dry potting soil. I just slit the bag and stick a hose into the bag itself, stirring with my hands to break the surface tension and get the mix evenly moist. In a home, where you can’t make as much of a mess as I can in our greenhouses, you could pour the seed starting mix into a plastic tub, bin or extra-large bowl.

The six packs are filled with moist potting mix before the seeds are put into each cell.

After the potting mix is wet I fill the trays we use to start the seeds. Once these plants are about three to four inches high we transplant them into large pots so that they’ll put on some good growth before May planting time. The first step is to plant the seeds, however, and the ideal is to only place one seed per cell. Why only one? Because young plants that have more root-room grow faster than those that have to compete for space and moisture. But tomato seeds are small and sometimes it’s hard to get just one per cell. That’s where the corner comes in. I discovered that if I get the corner of a seed packet slightly damp that a seed will stick when the corner touches the seed. So I dump the seeds in one hand and use the seed packet to transfer the seeds one by one into separate cells. You could also use a damp bamboo skewer or other small stick.

After planting these seeds I covered the trays with a clear plastic. Tomato seeds take from 7 to 10 days to germinate, and half the fun is peaking at them occasionally to see what’s come up! Here are the varieties that I started this year and that we’ll offer for sale in 6″ pots later in May.

Big Raspberry
This is an heirloom variety that we haven’t grown before but we wanted to try it because it’s said to have great flavored fruit on vigorous plants. If you try one this year, let us know what you think! Indeterminate.

Black Cherry
Last season we didn’t grow Black Cherry and our customers let us know that they want this tomato in their gardens! So it will be back on our tomato benches this season. This is a chocolate-brown to black cherry variety that tastes good too! (There are tomatoes that are darker but frankly, they are just not that flavorful.) Indeterminate.

This wonderful variety was a favorite with all who tried it last year. It produces pepper-like shaped fruit, that is meaty and flavorful. We also found that it was early to set fruit – one of the first in our employees’ gardens! Tomatoes can grow up to 1 pound, with ranges from 10 to 18 ozs. Indeterminate.

Marianna’s Peace
This is another new variety for us, so let us know if you like it! It’s supposed to be a very productive, potato-leaved variety with large pink-red “beefsteak” fruit. We always choose varieties that are known for good, balanced flavor and we look forward to tasting this one. Indeterminate

Mountain Magic
For five years this has been a favorite on Cape Cod because it is so resistant to Early Blight. The tomatoes aren’t large, but they are flavorful and consistently productive. In my garden Mountain Magic is still producting fruit in October! Indeterminate.

Mountain Merit
This variety is said to be as disease resistant as Mountain Magic with larger fruit. Try it and let us know what you think of this ALL AMERICA SELECTIONS WINNER. It is a Determinate variety, which means that it’s likely to be shorter and not bear fruit into the fall as Mountain Magic does, but all that remains to be seen as this is the first season we’ve grown it.

Sun Gold
Once you grow Sun Gold you’ll always have to have it. The sweet, fruity tomatoes leave other cherry tomato varieties in the dust! The only problem with Sun Gold is that most of them never make it to the kitchen…you’ll pop them in your mouth as soon as they’re picked!  Indeterminate.

Virginia Sweets
Many heirlooms are more disease prone and don’t produce much fruit, but this variety is delicious, productive and long-bearing. The fruit is a bi-color gold and red, so it’s beautiful as well. Virginia Sweets can be eaten raw, or used to make golden tomato sauces or a golden gazpacho. Once you grow Virginia Sweets you won’t want to go a summer without it. Indeterminate.

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  1. Nancy Magee on March 19, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I did not know that heirloom tomatoes are more disease prone and don’t produce much fruit. This was good info since I planted them last year and had those same results and wondered why.

  2. Ken Molloy on March 20, 2015 at 9:40 am

    A must for me is Juliet tomato. Large clusters of plum shape fruit,very prolific and enduring into the fall. Although they are plum shaped, they are not your Roma type sauce tomato but great for popping into your mouth or slicing for salads.

    • CLFornari on March 20, 2015 at 10:14 am

      Good to know, Ken! We’ll put that variety on our “check it out” list!

  3. Dan Kennedy on February 4, 2016 at 9:14 am

    I planted Amish Pride heirloom tomatoes last summer. They grew all summer until late Sept. They are a little bigger than plum tomatoes but are the best tasting tomatoes I have had in 30 yrs. Johnny Seed Co has the seeds and also Sturbridge Village. Thank you for your tips. I usually plant outside a week after Memorial Day because the Cape Soil is still cool.

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