The Goodness of the Garden . . . All the Year Round

April 16, 2024

It’s Tomato Time

One thing that gets me through the transition from late winter to early spring is visions of shiny, plump, red tomatoes. I get those beauties started with planting the seeds.

It’s rejuvenating to put hope into a tiny seed and watch for it to break through the surface of the damp soil to show off its little bit of green. No matter how the cold soil on my fingers, the work promises to pay off in delicious sauces, sandwiches and soups.

Through the years I’ve tried various containers and light sources for raising these babies. Here’s what works best for me.

  • During the pandemic when I ordered more takeout meals from restaurants than I ever had before, I discovered that the plastic take away containers make a perfect, little greenhouse. They come with a clear top to snap in place and create an ideal environment for sprouting the seeds. Two years ago, I started using seed starting soil in those containers. It drains well so it coaxes the seeds to sprout, as long as I keep the soil damp. I put the closed, watered containers under a grow light then let the seeds do their thing.
  • Once the sprout starts to get its second set of leaves, I transplant. I wash out plastic containers (that other plants came in the previous year) with water and white vinegar to get rid of bacteria and mold. After they are dry, they get new potting soil.
  • Craft sticks are a good tool for dislodging the roots from the surrounding soil as well as labeling the plants. There have been plenty of times when I put the plants in a tray and thought I would remember which type I had. That resulted in mystery tomato varieties. This year, I’ve labeled them all!
  • The newly potted sprouts go back under the grow light until it’s nice enough outside to put them in the natural sunlight.
  • When the plants are large enough for the garden or a container, I gently push them out of the pot, preferably with at least some of the soil intact. To strengthen the stem, you can plant two-thirds of the stem in a horizontal trench, which will strengthen the root system.


It will be another month or so until the seedling will be large enough to put in the ground. Until then, I greet them every morning as I turn on their light and thank them for reminding me it’s time to grow again.

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