Get Fresh

Follow these simple steps now, courtesy of Mahoney’s Garden Center manager Mark Cutler, for juicy homegrown tomatoes come August.

homegrown tomatoes

Illustrations by Liz Noftle

1. Pick a Winner: Cutler recommends planting Brandywine heirloom or Sungold cherry tomatoes for maximum flavor.

homegrown tomatoes

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.

homegrown tomatoes

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.

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4. Heat Things Up: Seedlings need sun to grow, so if you don’t get much, invest in a grow light.

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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.

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6. Divide and Conquer: Start separating plants once the adult leaves (the ones with serrated edges) begin to form.

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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.

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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.