August is Tomato sowing season in my veggie patch. I am growing a mixture of cherry, heirloom, beef, and dwarf varieties of all sorts of sizes, colours and shapes this year. The plan is to grow 20 seedlings big enough to transplant into the garden in 8 to 10 weeks. If I want to eat the first ones in December, I need to sow them now.
This is the process:
Preparation: I have don't have a green house to grow my seedlings in so I improvise. Last year I bought the biggest plastic storage tub I could get hold of, turned it upside down in a sunny spot, drilled a couple of holes in it for ventilation and bingo, a mini green house for germinating my Tomato seedlings! It worked very well so I will use it again. First thing I do is to clean some 10 square pots well then fill them with a good quality seedling raising mix. Tomato seedlings all look very similar, so I insert a label into every post so I don't to mix them up.
Sowing: In the centre of each pot I make a small hole 10mm deep with a stick. Into the hole drop 3 to 4 seeds and lightly cover with soil. The pots then go into the mini greenhouse and then they are watered well with a fine spray. Be careful not to wash the soil and tomato seeds away.
Germination and growing: In 10 - 14 days you should see the first little seedlings emerge from the soil and quickly stretch towards the sun. It will form two leaves that will soon turn from light green to a deeper shade of green. Within a week you should be seeing the third and possibly the fourth leaf develop and you are well under way to having a young seedling you can plant into the veggie patch. Keep the seedlings moist, but not too wet.
Feeding: if you are using a good quality soil mix, it will have a plenty of nutrients which will enable the tomatoes to grow well. Regardless, I start to feed the seedlings for the first time 2 weeks after they emerge from the soil so that they keep growing lushly at an even rate. I use a liquid tomato food but I make a mixture that is only 20% of the strength that they recommend on the label, I prefer to feed them these small amounts each week. If I think the colour is a healthy dark green, I may skip a week.
After 6 to 7 weeks I move the seedlings out of the mini greenhouse and place them in a sunny but protected spot in the garden. I do this so they toughen up a bit before they are transplanted into the garden bed and grow into the lush plant I need them to be. By week 10, I am ready to plant.
I have grown them this way for a couple of seasons now and it has worked well each time. it's a cheap way of getting the varieties I want to try at a fraction of the cost of bought plants. If you have never grown Tomato seedlings before, it's worth a try.]]>