Tomato Seedling Care

I planted 20 tomato seedlings in my basement about 2 months ago. The seedlings germinated under my shop lights and are doing well. Sometime in July I’ll be making delicious tomato sandwiches but today I’d like to talk about a few important things when it comes to tomato seedling care.

cutting tomato seedlings
Sorry little guy but you didn’t make the cut

How to Thin Tomato Seedlings

When I plant tomato seeds, I usually put 3-5 seeds in each container. I like to do this in case there’s a few seeds that don’t sprout. Doing this improves the odds of having more tomato plants to put outside. Just double or triple up the seeds counts in each cup. Sometimes you have older seeds from years ago that saved or never got around to planting. Or if you buy from big box stores, who knows if those seeds where in a 100 degree truck going across a dessert or something. You never know if your seeds will germinate.

Even with my 3-5 seedlings per cup of soil, I still had 3 that didn’t sprout anything. Hey it happens. But still that’s a pretty good percentage.

So once the seedlings sprout and start to grow you’re going to want to murder some of them. Survival of the fittest is my motto for thinning tomato seedlings. Keep the healthiest looking plant, growing well, not too spindly, good leaves and then cut the rest with a scissor. You don’t want to pull out the seedlings because that will disturb the roots of the plant that you are keeping. Just cut the extras with a scissor as close as dirt level as you can get and that will do it. The plant is just a baby and doesn’t have the strength to recover from such a drastic pruning.

Its like the vegetable version of Survivor. The tomato plants that don’t make a name for themselves get voted off the island. And on Tomato Survivor the losers are actually killed. Yikes!

How to Fertilize Tomato Seedlings

Another thing that’s important to tomato seedling care is fertilization. When the tomato seedlings have their first true leaves (that’s the second set of leaves that you’ll see) they should be fed. A small dose of liquid fertilizer can be added to your watering can and that should do it.

How to Harden off tomato seedlings

And the last thing to consider with tomato seedling care is hardening off. If you’re growing your seedlings under florescent lights like I am it really isn’t bright enough for the plant to mature to the flowering stage. In fact it’s kind of not enough light. Now you don’t want to take these tiny little plants and plant them outside on a sunny day only to see them wilt and perish. When it’s warm enough to move them outside, you should do so but ease them into the full sun over a week’s worth of time. But them in a shady spot at first which is going to still give them more sun than under regular shop lights. Then move them to spots that get more sun. You should start with a spot that gets some morning sun and afternoon shade and ease them into it.

So these are tips for tomato seedling care. I’ve been starting tomato seedlings at my current house for 17 years this way. If you follow these instructions you should have some success too.