Archive for the ‘Garden Articles’ Category

How To Grow Tomatoes from Seed

Growing tomatoes, let me count the ways…

There are vast many ways and styles for growing tomatoes. Tomatoes can be grown in thebiggest gardens or on the tinyiest patios. In greenhouses in colder climates to warm ones. The only thing that goes beyond the many ways to grow your tomatoes is the ways to prepare them. We’ll cover that later. This topic is vast and wide, so we’ll break up the topic into some nice bite-size pieces for you to digest.

First, lets cover what is logically the first step. Germinating the tomato from seeds to seedlings.

The “freshness” of seeds is very important . The shelf life of a tomato seed is generally about 4 years, anything older you will not have much luck germinating unless it has been stored properly. Proper storage of seeds would be in cool, dry conditions.

The soil choice for starting your seedlings is important as well. Soil from your garden is not recommended as it may contain organisms that could be detrimental to your new seedlings. A safe logical choice would be a commercially available seed-starting mix from your local nursery. These mixes are prepared specifically with the seedlings best interest at heart. It is not necessary to choose one boosted with fertilizer, as they may do more harm than good.

Prepare your mix by taking enough to fill your pots and putting it in a clean vessel. It would be wise to let your mix sit overnight so it can settle & soak up all of the moisture before using it!

Your container selection for germinating your tomato seeds can be a varied as you like. You can use anything you like from plastic drinking cups to professional style “flats”. Make sure that whatever you use, there are holes on the bottom for drainage of excess water & you have cleaned them with a weak bleach solution, then rinse well.

Since seedlings can be ready to transplant in as little to 6-8 weeks, we want to be ready.

To start planting seeds, first take some of your prepared potting mix and fill your clean flat or cups. We then want to take a seed and place it in the center of the container. We place it in the center, because we do not want the roots to hit the sides of the container while growing. Press the seed gently down into the soil about 1/8 of an inch & cover with a pinch of potting mix. Pack the soil firmly enough to ensure the newly planted seed is secure & in contact with the soil. We need this contact to help transfer moisture from the soil to the tomato seed.
At this time you may want to consider some kind of cover for the germinating seeds. Remember to keep the soil moist as no seed will germinate in dry soil!

So.. now we have tomato seeds planted in the proper soil, in the proper containers, at the proper time. Now what?

well… Place your future tomato plants in a warm area this can be anywhere, just make sure it’s warm (70 – 80 degrees F) . Light is not needed at this stage as the seeds are below ground and no photosynthesis is taking place. Under the right conditions, the new tomato plants will start poking out of the soil in about 6-10 days. Once the seedlings pop out of the soil, they will need light, and tons of it.

The new seedlings will need to have lots of light to get a fighting chance at growing properly. To little light an the tomato seedlings stems will grow long and stringy, we definitely do not want this!
If you find your seedlings shooting up right after germination, growing long, looking stringy and weak, they have not received enough light. You should consider discarding these plants and trying again because the likely hood of these plants producing is virtually nil.
I use a grow light purchased from my local hardware store. It’s basically a florescent shop light with grow bulbs in them. Using a light is really the best way to get your seedlings going because the need 16 to 18 hours of light per day! So i would recommend purchasing grow lights, if not, try to buy lights that mimic natural light.

When you set up your light, set it up just above the tops of your seedlings and turn it on. Make sure your set-up allows for the lights to be raised as the tomato plants grow. so we have our little seedlings growing along, good soil, nice moisture, lots of light…

You will notice the first two leaves that develop are elliptical in shape, these leaves are called “cotyledons”.

The description for cotyledons: ” is a significant part of the embryo within the seed of a plant. Upon germination, the cotyledon becomes the embryonic first leaves of a seedling…The cotyledons contain the stored food reserves of the seed. As these reserves are used up, the cotyledons may turn green and begin photosynthesis, or may wither as the first true leaves take over food production for the seedling.”

So those first two leaves are extremely important as they contain & produce the plants food until the first true leaves can emerge. Take care not to disturb the plants during this stage, if you lose a cotyledon, you may lose your plant!

When you notice new leaves emerging from the stem, in between the cotyledons, rejoice! These are your tomato plant’s first true leaves, a sign that you plants are on their way! Now when you tomato seedlings’ has a few true leaves growing, it’s time to transplant to a larger container. Remember not to count the cotyledons in this! Check out the graphic which outlines 3 stages of the tomato germinating stages. The middle plant is ready to go to a bigger container so the roots can develop properly and grow strong.

Then gently take your seedling, ease them out of their old container and place them in the middle of their new, larger container. Take more potting soil and fill in around the tomato seedling, building the soil up the stem of the tomato plant, just below where the cotyledons are. You may think that you have planted the tomato seedling too deep, but no worries, you haven’t!

Transplanting you tomato seedlings in this manner is beneficial for the plant, as it will develop new roots out of the tiny hairs on the side of the stem. So in essence, you helping the tomato become stronger & more resilient by providing more surface area for the root system. Keep on keeping on with you watering & lighting schedule. And keep an eye on the weather outside as well.

After a while if you want to fertilize your plants, this is an acceptable stage to do so. Fertilize sparingly though! A weak fertilizer is the best for plants in this stage of development

Depending on what containers you started with, and what you transplanted to, you may need to transplant a second or third time to make sure your tomato plants do not become root-bound. Root-bound is a condition where the plants roots have covered every possible area inside the container and is now growing into itself , in a tangled mass, like a bowl full of spaghetti. A root-bound plant which is transplanted into the garden without having its roots untangled will not overcome the problem themselves. This is one reason why we want to transplant the tomato seedlings to bigger & bigger containers as they grow inside. If your intention is to grow them on the patio, keep transplanting them until you eventually finally transplant them into the final container.

Be sure to check out more tips on growing tomatoes at

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How to Grow Vegetables with (and for) Your Kids!

The best way to ensure that your children eat healthy is to grow your own vegetables! And the trick to getting your children interested in healthy, organic vegetables is helping them grow their own.

You and your children can grow your own vegetables even if you don’t have masses of space to grow vegetables in your garden or a specified vegetable plot, since there are more and more possibilities for growing vegetables in containers.

Here’s how you do it:

1. Set aside a couple of containers or a small area of your garden and designate it the “children’s garden”. Obviously, you as a parent will be doing most of planting, tending for vegetable plants, weeding and watering, but let your child take pride in selecting (from the list of easy to grow vegetables) which vegetables to grow and how the plants will be positioned. If you don’t have a garden, there are many vegetables that can be grown in containers!

2. Choose vegetables that produce something to eat quickly, such as radish, spring onion, baby carrot and baby salad leaf. Quick growing vegetables are the best way to insure your child remains interested in vegetables and gardening! Tomatoes are another obvious choice, especially cherry types, as children can pick and eat them straight off the plant. Cucumbers are great candidate also. The traditional type is too large, but looks for varieties which are ready when they’re just 10cm long.

3. Encourage your child and to keep up the enthusiasm, by letting your child choose some of easy to grow vegetables, and you will both be delighted with the results. Find out what vegetables grow in your area, and what time of year each vegetable should be planted. (Check the library for magazines and books on vegetable gardening, look it up on the internet in gardening related sites and forums, or ask a gardener or farmer in your neighborhood).

4. Remember, make growing your own vegetables a FUN activity! Your child will love digging up the potatoes and carrots – make it a game, like digging for buried treasure! And watching seeds grow from tiny seedlings into grown, mature plants, tending for them and keeping an eye on their progress every day, protecting them from invaders (slugs and insects), really is quite an adventure even for us adults, let alone for the children.

Additional benefit from home growing vegetables with your kids is that it will encourage your kids to eat more vegetables – especially the fussy eaters! Let them choose the vegetable seeds or plants, help them plant and tend for vegetables together, and finally harvest the fresh vegetables. Home grown vegetables taste SO much better when they are fresh and not mass produced or bought at the supermarket. Tasting the difference between home grown vegetables and the supermarket kind is like eating a completely different vegetable. And your kids will notice the difference!

Another benefit that comes from growing your own vegetables with the help of your children is that children actually learn what vegetables look like, where vegetables come from and how vegetables grow. Furthermore, use this opportunity to teach them how to prepare vegetables for eating. Given that more and more children seem to have difficulty recognizing basic vegetables and knowing what to do with them, learning how to grow vegetables in your home garden or in containers will provide your children with a valuable education and a useful life skill– while at the same time they have fun and plenty of fresh air!

Jane Thomas is experienced and respected vegetable grower, hobbyist gardener with more than 15 years of experience in organic vegetables gardening. Among other projects, she is co-owner of Laminated Garden Guides, your one-stop resource to learn how to start a vegetable garden , with subjects like: Home Vegetable Gardens, Container and Raised Beds Gardening, Growing Tomatoes, Herb Gardening and many more.

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