|Tomato seedlings. Interesting note: the seedling in the 2nd column from left, 2nd row from bottom has 3 seed leaves.|
Today (2/17) the seedlings are each about 2 inches or 5 cm tall. Growing tomatoes from seed is easy as long as certain conditions are met. Here is the step-by-step process I am taking:
1. Plant the seeds in a plastic tray using peat pots and a seed starter mix (available at any decent nursery any time of the year or most hardware stores during the growing season). Place 2 seeds in each compartment.
2. Water carefully, then place a cover over the tray in order to retain 100% humidity during the germination process.
3. Place the seed tray on a heat mat or some source of bottom heat in order to keep the seeds at a constant temperature of around 75 F/24 C. If you don't want to go buy a heat mat, a couple strands of Christmas lights will do the trick.
Day 5: (approximately)
4. Once the seedlings are about an inch tall, pluck out the weakest ones leaving one healthy seedling per pot. If two look equally healthy, pluck out whichever one is closest to the edge of the pot leaving the one nearest the center.
5. Give them very bright, indirect light. This is important because there is not enough natural light in winter to make tomatoes grow. I use a florescent light fixture that gives off 12,000 lumens of light, placed about two feet above the tomato seedlings. It is set to be on 14 hours a day. Although the seedlings no longer need bottom heat at this point, they should be kept between 55 F/15 C and 75 F/24 C.
Day 30: (approximately)
6. After the first set of true leaves have appeared, I plan to transfer the seedlings into 6" pots and give them a healthy dose of fish fertilizer.
For about $10 in materials, or the cost of buying four or five tomato seedlings in the spring, I will end up with 30 tomato plants. Stay tuned to see their progress as they grow!