Starting My Tomato Seeds (Second Year Gardening)

Today, I finally got my tomato seeds started. I probably should have done this mid Feb, but just like every other aspect of my life… I’m running behind! At least I did better than last year, it was already April before I started my seeds then!

I did things a little differently this year. Last year was a total disaster! I started my seeds in potting mix, over watered, left them without light for too long, and eventually they all died. Not a single seedling survived what they endured at my hand.

My mother-in-law actually brought me some tomato plants, out of sheer pity I think. They did pretty good, until all of the tomatoes got Blossom End Rot! I didn’t go completely without tomatoes though.

I was totally shocked to find a couple of beautiful tomato plants randomly growing in the goat’s pen! I couldn’t believe the goats turned out to be better gardeners than I was! At least now I know that goat poop is great for tomato plants!! That’s good to know this time around.

So, here’s what I did this year:

starting tomato seeds 002 (Medium)

I had these cute little terracotta pots, so I decided to use them for some of my seeds. I’ve also saved little yogurt cups to start more seeds in. You can start seeds in just about anything that will hold water.

Seeds grow best in a soilless medium. One highly recommended mixture that you can put together yourself is made up of equal parts of fine vermiculite and milled peat moss. Since my husband could not find any vermiculite at the store, we opted to buy a $4 bag of Miracle Grow seed starter mix, which is made up of peat moss and perlite.

starting tomato seeds 001 (Medium)

Once the pots were full, I watered them a bit to make sure they were thoroughly damp. Using a pencil, I made 2-3 holes in the “dirt” of each pot, about 1/4″ deep. Then I dropped 2-3 seeds into each little hole, and covered them back over.

I put the pots in a plastic container that I’d saved from some baby spinach we’d purchased. What’s cool is that the container has a lid that snaps on, creating a perfect little greenhouse.

Remember, when you are starting seeds you need to cover the pots (or flats) with plastic (or zipped in a ziploc bag) and keep them out of sunlight for the first few days while they germinate. They need to be in a warm place; I like to set them on top of my fridge.

In a couple of days the seedlings should emerge. Then I will move them into the light. Watch them daily, these little guys come up quick and if you leave them too long without sunlight they will grow tall and leggy, and will be weak.

If you’ve been following me you know I tend to do some experimenting. Last year my seedlings did not grow well in the window sill. There just wasn’t enough light getting to them. This year I’m going to put one group of seedlings under the grow light on my AeroGarden, in their own container.

I’m thinking that should work well. I’m also going to set some seedlings out in the new cold frame my husband just built for me. Hopefully the fragile plants will get enough light this time around, and get off to a good start!

I’m trying Brandywine Heirloom tomatoes again. I’m also going to seed some Amish Paste tomatoes.

*Crossing my fingers that they grow better this year!*

14 thoughts on “Starting My Tomato Seeds (Second Year Gardening)”

  1. Depending on the seeds I usually start them in the house. Other seeds like cucumbers and squash I start in my greenhouse ( cold frame ) The ones in the house get started in the greenhouse window my amazing hubby put in for me above my sink. Once they are ready to go out into the greenhouse I make sure I have heat mats under them. It isn’t hot per say but keeps the soil at a lukewarm tempurature protecting them during the cool nights of early spring. I find I start my geranium seeds and other flower seeds early Feb and my tomato seeds late Feb. Seems to work well.

    I just found your site tonight and find it very interesting. Thanks for the work you put in here.


  2. Hello, I am just reading this website via my iphone4 and it looks somewhat odd. Thought you may want to know. It’s a good article in any case.

  3. I don’t grow tomatoes from seed – in fact, I don’t grow tomatoes – my husband does (yes this is different because he “farms” them) If you lived closer I would love to share some of our leftovers that he isn’t going to plant (we have about 300 plants ready to go in the ground). He is saving room for the other varities that he will plant later (in all I think he plants 8-10 thousand plants). I am learning to love tomatoes but only if they are the ones he grows ;). Just wanted to wish you luck!


  4. I just repotted my Amish Paste tomatoes and started some Brandywines too. If you don’t have room for all of them under your Aerogarden, you can make a seed starting light from an old fishtank aquarium light. Good luck with your tomatoes!

  5. I just started my tomato seeds too! I got one of the jiffy starter ‘greenhouse’ kit things. I was lazy this year. Last year I saved toilet paper rolls and used them with seed starting mix. But, we have cut down on out TP use, so we have less rolls hanging around.

  6. You definitely always want to start your seeds in seed starting mix. The mix is sterilized before purchase so it cuts down on fungus and disease.

    What we started doing was making our own peat pots out of newspaper. We saw a little garden tool in a seed catalog and my hubby made one. So now, we can make as many as we need for a very minimal cost. Then, when it is time to plant, we’ll just place the whole newspaper pot in the ground. I like these pots better than fiberouse peat pots also, since those seem to wick moisture away from the soil. I’ll try to blog with pictures our new system.

    Regarding your tomatoes, try calling your local 4-H/Master Gardener extension office. They should have a list of vegetable types that grow well in your area, as well as types that do not grow well.

  7. The light from the areogarden works great for the tiny plants. my tomatoes are 6 inches high so far. Transplanted them to bigger pots today.
    I have also had good luck with the areogarden growing the herbs that came with it. Basil is 10 inches high. Parsley and chives are looking good too. I took the basil and planted the whole thing with the foam in a pot of dirt. I waited until the roots were 3 inches longer than the foam. Worked good. I did give it alot of water the first week after moving to the dirt.I know that you had some problems with yours. Maybe try again. I am using town water, not well water. Barbara

  8. Hi Kendra – Here is what I do…..This is my third year growing geraniums from seed, as well as Heirloom tomato plants. One thing I have learned over the years is that having a grow light really helps. I purchased my first one last year, and an additional one this year – these measure about 24 x 19″. Always start with a seed starter mix for planting seeds indoors. I find that peat pots work well also, as the roots can grow through them. Actually the container you have your pots in would be a good greenhouse cover until the seeds germinate. Once seeds germinate, remove the cover (even saran wrap would work)and put them under a grow light. Adjustable lights can be lowered to 2-3″ above the seedlings, and raised as the plants grow. You can also use a flourescent fixture or lamp, and get grow bulbs at a hardware store. I lived in Vermont a few years back and the house had a sun room. I tried growing tomato plants hoping that the heat and sunshine coming in through the glass would have a greenhouse effect….it didn’t, they were leggy and I had to toss them. I currently have geraniums, onions, tomato plants and basil growing up in my loft …. can’t wait til Spring! Best of luck to you!

  9. Can I add a suggestion? Before using yogurt cups as little pots, grease the inside of them with something before throwing in your dirt. I used them (Tillamook yogurt cups, and Darigold and Western Family sour cream/cottage cheese cups to be specific) to start seeds my first [frugal] year, and when transplanting them to individual pots? Lost half the roots. Because the roots stuck to the rough-ish interior of the yogurt cups all super glue like. It was not all that exciting, trust me.

    I get regular [commercial] 4″ pots from a local nursery gal – she can’t reuse them for anything she sells, but keeps the used ones on hand for her own use, or for goofy people like me that go poking around for free used but perfectly good stuff. The pots are flexible enough that the soil and roots *all* come out rather than sticking, which rocks my little world. 😀

  10. I love gardening and every year it seems my husband makes our garden bigger and bigger! More produce to can over the winter though which is always wonderful.

    Manure does wonders with tomatoes. Before we plant our tomato plants, I take a a 5 gallon bucket out into the pasture and pick up “cow pies”. Then I dig a hole for the tomato plant about 4 inches deeper than I normally would, drop in a portion of the cow pie, put a couple inches of dirt over it and than put the tomato plant into the hole as normal.

    Last year, our tomato plants were so big, they broke the cages and I ended up having to lay cages between the rows and lay the tomato plants over the cages. Beautiful tomatoes also.

    Last summer was my first year trying this, my dad has done it for several years. I did half with manure and half without manure to run a test and wouldn’t you know, the plants without the manure were pathetic compared to the plants with the manure!


  11. Careful! Terracotta tends to dry the soil very fast. Also, have you read Steve Solomon’s Gardening When it Counts? Highly highly recommended.

  12. It’s been a while since I started seeds, but as best I can recall, my husband set up a shop light in the basement. He screwed two hooks into one of the beams, hung the light with chains and plugged it in a nearby receptical. the reason we used chain is that the light could be raised as the plants grew. We put an old table underneath with plants started in yogurt cups and other recycled plastic containers.

    I seem to remember something about using a “warm” light and a “cool” light, something to give a full spectrum. Sorry…it’s been years and I just can’t recall–I’ll ask my husband in the morning


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