Tomato Matters

Navigation Menu if ( function_exists( 'soliloquy_slider' ) ) soliloquy_slider( '1219' );

My method for growing tomatoes from seed

Posted by on Feb 4, 2016 in gardening, tomatoes galore | 0 comments

Even after all these years in the garden I am awestruck that a tiny seed, not even ¼ inch long, can not only grow into an eight foot tall plant, but also provide us with something so incredibly delicious and healthy to eat!

Growing anything from seed is a magical experience. Growing tomatoes from seed provides the magic and allows you to grow some special varieties that you won’t find at most nurseries or seedling sales (there’s no way they can have them all)!

To start tomatoes from seed you need to have seeds, growing medium, light, a warm place for the seeds to grow, water and some plastic bags.

The growing medium for seed should not be garden soil or potting soil. Don’t use anything that has fertilizer in it. I use a mixture of equal parts peat, perlite and vermiculite. These ingredients are all easily found at the local nursery.

The growing medium needs to be kept consistently warm, about 85 degrees. It needs to remain moist but not soggy. Once I plant the seeds ¼ inch into the medium I cover the seedling trays loosely with plastic but do not tie or close the bags. They should not be airtight.

When the seedlings emerge I introduce light. Keep the light about 4 inches from the tiny leaves. Fertilizing begins when the second set of leaves, called true leaves appear. In about 30 days the seedlings will be ready to moved to larger containers.

Before planting outdoors you want to harden off the seedlings, exposing them to increasing amounts of sun and wind.

Seedlings can be transplanted into the ground once the soil temperature is consistently about 55 degrees and daytime air temperatures remain between 70 – 75 degrees.

Read More

Growing Tomatoes From Seeds

Posted by on Feb 12, 2013 in gardening, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Start your tomato seeds now – It’s almost time to start planting!

And, so,  it begins…

Typically in the San Fernando Valley we will plant tomatoes outside around the end of March or beginning of April. Counting back 6 – 8 weeks from that target date is, well, now! That means it’s time to start tomato seeds and nurture them  indoors until nighttime temperatures are consistently in the mid-fifties and the seedlings  are strong enough to be planted in the ground.


Tomato seeds

Last weekend I started 18 varieties of tomatoes from seed.  That’s just the beginning.  I’ll start more seed but I also will allow plenty of room in the garden for tomatoes that I buy at seedling sales.  Going to the sales and searching for new varieties that I haven’t yet tried is one of my greatest pleasures and I’ll never stop doing that!

We had a lovely afternoon on Sunday and I took full advantage by doing my seed work out in the garden.  Frankly, the mess is easier to clean there so, if you can be outside or in a greenhouse to get your seed started, all the better.

I began with a huge plastic tub full of the ingredients that go in my seed starting medium.  I like the plastic tub because it’s easy to move, easy to add water to and the high sides contain my potential spills.   If you’re really doing a lot, you might find mixing the medium in a wheelbarrow very convenient.

Seed mix

Into the tub went equal parts organic peat moss, organic vermiculite and organic perlite.  When mixed together the combination will provide a light medium that will retain enough moisture to encourage germination  without drowning or rotting the tiny seeds.

Guacamole and Seed Starting 014

Using my hands,  I lightly lifted and tossed the ingredients to combine.


Then,  I gently added water and mixed again. You want the medium to be moist when you add the seed.

Adding water to seed mix

Next,  I took my containers  (I like little pulp pots) and scooped some of the growing medium into them.. I gently pat it down without compacting and then added more to fill each cell to the top.

Guacamole and Seed Starting 017

Using the end of a pencil, I made three holes in each cell.  The holes were about 1/4 inch deep.  I dropped one seed into each hole and then carefully covered them up with the potting mixture that was displaced when I made the holes.

Planting tomato seeds

I immediately added markers to each tray of seeds so I would know what I was growing.  Seems like a no-brainer,  but even though I do this right away I  somehow always end up with one mystery plant! I included the name of the tomato and my start date on the marker.

Using a spray bottle filled with room temperature water,  I moistened the growing mixture, taking care to spray each cell.  The growing medium should be  moist but not wet.  To help retain moisture,  I then put the trays into ziploc bags.  The bags are left open so air can circulate.  Guacamole and Seed Starting 022

My grow lights are set up (but not turned on until the little plants begin to appear) and heat mats are turned on.  I’ve put the bags with the seedling trays on top of the mats as seeds need heat to germinate. Now,  I’ll give a light spray of water each day and watch and wait.

See how easy it is?  Now, go get set up to start your seeds. And, check back often.  I’ll keep you updated on the progress of my seeds and the next steps of this seedling adventure.

Tomato seedlings

Read More

The Seed Catalog Conundrum

Posted by on Jan 14, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

 Choosing the right seed catalogs and seeds to fit your garden and lifestyle needs.

Choosing seeds to grow for your garden can be an overwhelming task. There are so many seed catalogs to choose from, each with pages of vegetables that all sound fabulous.  I’m going to share with you how I approach the task  and make it less daunting, keeping the fun in the process.

seed catalogsIn anticipation of buying seed or putting in a garden you need to give it some careful thought and really consider your needs, space and desires. A little advance planning will help keep your thoughts clear and will be more useful than you can imagine.

Even before you select the seed, I suggest you weed out some of the seed catalogs.  They may all be pretty but that doesn’t mean they’re all the same.  This is the perfect time to remember not to judge a book by its cover!

As soon as the calendar turns to January, my mailbox fills up with seed catalogs, booklets and pamphlets and I’m sure yours does, too.  I’ve decided that if I use a simple system I can make selecting seed almost as enjoyable as planting and growing the crops themselves.

So, here’s my plan and I think it will work for you, too.

Some seed companies are easier to work with than others. There are those that I’ve worked with in the past and had a good experience.  I know they have a quality product that meets or exceeds my personal standards. So, I begin with the ones I know and trust.  I also know that if I have questions, they will gladly and within a reasonable amount of time answer them – even if I call multiple times.  When considering seed catalogs, I urge you to invest a few minutes and see who gives the customer service you may need.  Call up and ask a question or send an email to see how long it takes for a reply.

Do you have some idea of what you want to grow? Knowing what you want to grow might help narrow down which seed catalogs have what you are looking for.  Some catalogs are all about one vegetable while others will offer seed for a cornucopia of crops. Start with the definite’s and then later you can look at the others. Obviously, I’m rather tomato obsessive. The seed catalogs that feature mostly tomatoes are very appealing to me.  I know that whoever assembled the publication and all that it offers “gets” me.

I try to flip through each catalog as soon as it arrives.  A pile of them on the counter will frustrate me and I would probably just throw them all away.  Handling them when they arrive eliminates the mess.  So, as I’m flipping through I’m looking at pictures. I want to see beautiful photographs of every single thing they offer. This is not a time when I want to use my imagination.  Photos need to be in color! Black and white means nothing to me in terms of tomatoes or any other vegetables.catalog page

I like seed catalogs that offer several varieties of each vegetable. I want choices.  No matter which one I’m looking at, the descriptive paragraph needs to be concise and full of details.  I want to know some basic information about each variety like whether it’s a hybrid or an heirloom, the approximate days to maturity, and anything they can tell me about growing habits. In the case of tomatoes it will also indicate whether the plant is Indeterminate” or “Determinate”, referring  to the plant’s pattern of growth and setting fruit. I also want to know something about the plant that reflects the writer’s personal experience. With so many varieties sounding so fabulous, something about flavor, shape or how the vegetable is used can be very helpful.

Lastly, I want to look at the catalogs from the brand new companies. These are probably somewhat limited but companies that are young are usually really on top of what’s new.  They’re enthusiastic and eager to share all that they know and do.

Once you’ve narrowed down which catalogs to devote your time to you’re ready to use page markers, sticky arrows or post its to keep track of what interests you most.

I’m going to give you a day or two to get to this point.  In my next post, we’ll explore how to narrow it down to which seeds you want to order and grow. I suspect that you’re probably already on overload so let’s break this down into small steps.  You’ve got a little bit of time.

To be continued…..


Read More