A couple of months before the plants will go into the garden, Sylvia plants a couple of seeds in each 2-inch-square cell of a self-watering flat. The cells are filled with a starting mix that is about 50 percent compost and the rest peat, with some vermiculite, some perlite, and some fertilizer.
After the seedlings have two “true leaves” (as distinct from “seed leaves,” which are the first ones to appear and don’t look like the later-appearing leaves), it is time to transplant. We go right from the 2-inch cell to a 4-inch pot. Here’s a trick to get your tomato plants off to an especially good start: Plant the tomato seedling deeper than it was growing before. The part of the stem that is buried will grow roots! And a good root system is the key to a healthy and productive plant later on in the growing season.
Learn even more about growing tomatoes in The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible.
Edward C. Smith is the best-selling author of The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, and Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Containers. He tends a garden of over 1,500 square feet filled with raspberries, blueberries, flowers, herbs, and nearly 100 varieties of vegetables, including some heirlooms, in his home state of Vermont. Photo by Sylvia Ferry Smith.