What is a tomato? Is it a fruit, or a vegetable? Most people nowadays realize that the tomato is a fruit.
What kind of fruit? It’s a giant berry. This includes most solanum in our gardens, including peppers, ground cherries, tomatoes, eggplants and tomatillos. Potatoes are also related, but we eat tubers from them, even though they do produce the same type of berry.
Sow seeds indoors into sterile seedling mix 6-8 weeks before your last spring frost. Plant, water lightly, and cover with plastic or a dome to keep the seeds from drying out. When the first set of true leaves has emerged, up-pot into 3-4 inch pots and place in an area with full light and cooler temperatures (60-70°F). This will help prevent legginess.
(NOTE: This is the standard recommendation for growing heirloom tomatoes, given by everyone from the First Lady down to the hobo on the park bench down the street, including many professional growers, biologists and prize winners. We have no quarrel with these methods. They have worked well for a long time for a lot of people.
BUT: we have a relative who used to be a produce farmer in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas during the Depression. He once told me “It’s a seed, fer cryin’ out loud. Plant it in the ground where you want it to grow.” This is the planting method we use here for every seed. All of our tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and every other variety began life in our gardens as a seed in the dirt, right where it spends its entire life growing up.
We feel that this results in more naturally vigorous seeds that thrive under difficult conditions and fight to stay alive. Your mileage may vary. Use whichever method suits you best. All we are saying is don’t be afraid to explore other methods, and see what results you get. That, too is part of gardening, as in so much of life.)
Water carefully, allowing the soil to dry on the surface between watering, but don’t let the plants wilt. Fertilize with fish emulsion or equivalent nutrient-rich feed every 10-14 days.
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Tomato Seeds at Painted Desert Seed Company