Tomatoes can be the ultimate joy and/or the devastating despair for any vegetable gardener. My Dad and his group of friends always had a race to see who could grow the first tomato of the season. I, unfortunately, inherited the tomato growing gene. Last year, like all tomato growers, I had more despair than joy but I’m determined this year will be better. I choose to grow my tomatoes from seed because of the wide diversity available. Both seeds and transplants will yield a good batch of tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes tend to have better old fashioned tomato taste although they are sometimes a little more difficult to grow. If you are into saving your seeds for the next year, you need to buy heirloom tomatoes.
Starting tomatoes from seed is surprisingly easy. The biggest problem is starting the seeds too late. Tomato seeds should be started in mid January through mid February. You can start them indoors or outdoors depending on the weather. Tomatoes will freeze so they need to be protected from the cold. I have had success starting the seeds outdoors with an Insulate cover tent. I plant my tomato seeds in individual pots. Use a sterile germinating mix such as Ladybug Germinator to give your seeds a good healthy start. Using some sort of stick ( I use a pencil ) poke a hole in the soil 1/4 inch deep. I put three holes in each 4″ pot and place a seed into each hole. This gives you 3 chances for success with each pot. Cover the seeds with dirt and use a mister to water your seeds. I put a little Healthy Harvest Ladybug fertilizer in each pot. This fertilizer contains Actinovate to help prevent the fungus that causes damping off or rotting of your seedlings. Put the seedling pots in a warm place with a strong light source. A sunny window is great. Sometimes our weather is so warm, even in January, you can successfully start seeds outside in the bright sun. Try making an instant greenhouse using clear cherry tomato or strawberry containers, from the grocery store, to start seeds in. Plant the container as described above and put them, with the lid closed, in direct sun. This will heat up the soil in the container and keep it warm at night. Of course, if it gets cold, you will need to bring your little greenhouses in. Keep your seeds moist to help germination. After my seeds germinate I take them outside unless it is freezing. The sun provides for much healthier seedlings. Transplant your tomato seedlings in your garden after the chance of frost has passed. Lots of gardeners take a gamble at this point. If you do plant too early protect your seedlings with Insulate cloth.