Follow these simple steps now, courtesy of Mahoney’s Garden Center manager Mark Cutler, for juicy homegrown tomatoes come August.
Illustrations by Liz Noftle
1. Pick a Winner: Cutler recommends planting Brandywine heirloom or Sungold cherry tomatoes for maximum flavor.
2. Find a Home: Use a seed-starter kit with small fiber pots or egg-carton-like trays. The NK Lawn & Garden Mini-Greenhouse ($8), for example, has a plastic top to keep moisture in.
3. Hit the Dirt: Avoid using ordinary potting soil, which is too dense for seedlings and may cause root rot. Instead, fill your trays with a lightweight seed-starting mix.
4. Heat Things Up: Seedlings need sun to grow, so if you don’t get much, invest in a grow light.
5. Protect and Serve: Place the trays in a warm, humid area, or cover them with a glass bell to simulate a greenhouse environment. Mist regularly.
6. Divide and Conquer: Start separating plants once the adult leaves (the ones with serrated edges) begin to form.
7. Trade Up: When at least three sets of adult leaves appear, move the seedling to a 4-inch pot and fill with soilless potting mix. Continue to provide ample heat and light.
8. Head Outside: The plants are ready for open air once the temperature stays above 50 degrees. Start them in partial shade, then transfer to 14-inch pots and move to full sunlight.