Planting tomato seeds indoors

Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum).

Tomato seeds were planted indoors on April 17 using the potting soil described in the post Planting pepper seeds indoors. Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog very specifically says to use a soilless mix, not potting soil, to start tomatoes. But I’ve always used potting soil without problems. So, until I have a problem, that’s what I’ll do.

The planted tomato seeds were placed on a heat pad under a plastic cover. They should not be placed under a grow light until they have germinated, so they were given a spot on the dining room table.

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Above is a photo of the tomatoes on April 25, plastic cover off, under the grow light, still on a heat pad. So, about a week to germinate. They look spindly, but all varieties have made an appearance. Keep grow light on approximately 14 hours per day. Water as necessary, but not too much.

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Here is a photo of the tomatoes on May 1. They’ve grown quite a bit in 6 days. Still under the grow light. The heat pad is on during the day but off at night.

I’ve been watching the Stanley cup playoffs in hockey. The NJ Devils didn’t make the playoffs this year. Drat. But they will next year. So, I’ve mostly been rooting for teams on which former Devils are playing. I mention this because it seems to me that the tomatoes are in a playoff too. I’ve been thinning them each morning, hoping to end up with from 2 to 4 good plants for each variety. So, the strongest, healthiest tomatoes keep going until the next round, while tomato plants with any sort of problem are relegated to the compost pail.

The analogy with the hockey playoffs doesn’t really work all that well. After all, the hockey teams that lose aren’t relegated to a compost pail, although they may feel that way. Anyway, enough of the hockey analogy.

The healthy plants are showing their true leaves now. I wish I could repot them, but I have limited space under the one grow light that I currently have, so that’s a problem. Next year, I hope to have a better indoor growing situation.

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This is an update–still May 1. I did more thinning this afternoon, topped off each pot with potting soil, and watered each one thoroughly. It may not seem so by looking at the photo above, but the tomato plants are quite healthy. The pot nearest front on left contains an eggplant, just as case you are wondering. Also, all the plants in the vertical row on left are peppers. Sorry about that. Start looking at tomatoes with the Matt’s wild cherry plants, which are small now but will be mighty before they are finished.

It would be nice to go ahead and repot the tomato plants into larger pots, but as long as they are on heat pads, I don’t have room to do that. Next week temps are predicted to reach into the 80s. Wow. If that’s the case, repotting may become more important than heat pads. It’s a bit of a trade-off. As I mentioned above, I am hoping to update my indoor growing situation next year. I’m already dreaming, and it’s not even January.

At one point in time, I was thinking of putting black plastic mulch over the beds allotted to tomatoes, but I’ve decided not to. Seems like more work than I want to take on. I’d rather spend the time weeding right now. There’s no end to that in sight.

So, repotting will be next on the tomato agenda. After that, planting out. Our frost date is around Mother’s Day–May 10 this year. That may be a little early. I have the option of planting the tomatoes out and putting them under bed covers for a week or two. Don’t want to stunt their growth by putting them out too early, yet the earlier they get settled in and start to grow, the sooner we will have tomatoes to eat.

I know a gardener out west who tries for ripe tomatoes to eat by the fourth of July. Sometimes he succeeds. Like Jefferson with the peas. That’s earlier than I can hope for. Whenever it happens, that first tomato sandwich will taste good.

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