When Should I Start Tomato Seeds?

This is one of my favorites! Pink flesh with hardly any seeds in it, low acidity, and huge! To order on Amazon, click the pic.

When DOES one start tomato seeds?

That’s a good question!  I have had many people ask me about this, especially momma friends who would like to do this as a project with their kids.

Roma Tomatoes are a great for making sauces, and canning because they produce a ton of fruit and the fruit is very meaty, resulting in thick delicious sauces. Click the pic to order from Amazon.
When should I buy tomato seeds?

Usually, the best time to buy them is in January of the year that you plant to grow the tomatoes.  That’s when the seed catalogs start rolling out, and garden centers start putting out the seed racks.  I would recommend taking your kids to the garden center to help you select seeds they think would be fun to try!  But if you would rather just order on line, I have provided a few links for you.

This is the Hillbilly Potato Leaf Heirloom Tomato. It has beautiful flamey striations in the fruit and is a delicious blend of flavor between a zesty red and a milder yellow tomato. Click the pick to order seed from Amazon.
How long does it take to grow a tomato plant from seed?

To get a tomato plant that is big enough to grow outside, similar in size to a plant that might come in a 4pack at the garden center…..8-12 weeks

Growing Time Depends on what variety of Tomato You Grow,

so look at the back of the tomato seed packet, and the directions will tell you how many weeks to start indoors before you plan to plant the tomatoes outside.

When Should I plant my Tomato Seeds?

This answer depends on where you live.

  1. Look at the  back of the seed packet
  2. find out how many weeks your tomato seeds take to grow 
  3. Find out when the FROST FREE DATE is in your area
  4. pick a date that you plan to plant your tomatoes outside (WHEN THERE IS NO MORE DANGER OF FROST)
  5. Count backwards from your outdoor planting date, the number of weeks it says on the packet.
  6. VOILA! That’s when you should plant the tomato seeds!

If you live where I do, in Iowa, the date you start your seeds will be later than someone who wants to start seeds down in Kansas City.  The reasoning is because of FROST!

Tomatoes are weenies when it comes to frost!  Nothing is worse than to nurture a crop of baby plants for weeks and then to set them out too early only to be destroyed by a late frost!  It’s devastating!  Be wary of planting your baby plants out on the first nice day we get in the spring.  They need to be acclimated, or hardened off to their new outdoor environment.

In horticulture, we use a term called THE FROST FREE DATE:  the date after which your area should no longer have chances of frost that could kill all of your seedlings.

Frost Free Date for the Quad Cities:  May 10th ish:  It’s always iffy, I usually wait until around the 15th or 20th just to be safe, unless if I have a plan to cover my seedlings in the event that we do get a late frost.


I buy a packet of seed that says to start seeds indoors 8 weeks before the frost free date in my area.  My frost free date is May 10th.  So I count backwards 8 weeks from May 10th and I get March 10th.  I should start my seeds on or around March 10th.  If I would like to have a larger tomato plant when it comes time to plant outside, then I would want to start my seeds a few weeks earlier.

What kind of pot do I need to start tomato seeds in?

I have tried lots of things, and failed at lots of things in this department.  I have had the most success with peat pellets by Jiffy.  They are compressed discs of peat moss with a little hole in the center where you can just drop the seed in!  Then you put them in a saucer, or an old clear salad box that you get from the grocery store, you know, the ones with the lid on them, and the whole box is clear?  They make a perfect miniature greenhouse for your tomato plants.

1.You set the discs in the salad box,

2.pour about an inch or 2 of water in the bottom,

3.and they will expand to about 4 times their size.

4.Then you can drop your seeds in the hole in the center of the disc,

5.close the lid to the box, and you have your very own growing chamber!

These are what the Jiffy peat pellets look like before they get wet. Click the pick if you want to order online.

Just One Bite?

Stop to find the forgotten few

beneath the weeds like hidden jewels.

Red, rose, yellow and green

The most luscious fruits I’ve ever seen.

They look glorious and plump from above.

Fresh tomatoes I do so love.

Stop to gather all the loot

bend down and look to find the shoot

From which to gently pry away

My delectable prize for the day.

Getting closer, drawing near

Whiteflies fluttering around my ears.

I’m so close, I can nearly taste it

That beautiful tomato must not be wasted.

The hunt is over,

I’m ready to strike.

Pruners at the ready,

Grocery bag at my side.

Stop for a moment.

Remember the story

of all it took

to go from seed, to sprout, to flower, to fruit.

So take one last look and remember the story

while you stare at this fruit in all it’s glory.

Mental picture taken.

Pride has been gathered.

There’s no mistakin’

This plant looks quite tattered.

But dammit, we started this thing from a seed

and we got it to make fruit and that fruit is for me!

Enough messing around,

Enough has been spoken,

Pick that mater before it gets broken!

Holy canoli,


Blood is rising

up into my face.

I cannot believe this big disgrace!

I pluck the fruit from the vine

only to feel as if I’ve been slimed.

My beauty,

my treasure,

my precious jewel,

Has been bitten, one bite

that could not be viewed.

But certainly felt

the juices running and streaming.

Face has gone red and now I am screaming

For the love of Pete! And a choice other few

Why is it that you have to do

this horrible, terrible, awful thing,

to my tomato

my pride,

my reason to sing?

For the love of Pete!  And a choice other few,

Just eat the whole thing,

Is that so hard to do?

If you’d have left no evidence

for me to find,

I would not feel the urge to shoot your behind!

So get that hiney back over here.

Finish your tomato, you stupid deer!

Or Raccoon,

Or squirrel

Whatever you are.

Finish your tomato

or I’ll hunt you with my car!

Now tossing tomatoes

up over the fence.

One, two, three……Ten

My pride has gone humble

my anger subsided.

If they think they have won,

they are misguided.

Critters score one.

But I will not crumble.

There will be a next time,

But I will not fumble.

I WILL get there first,

to the treasure site.

I WILL find the loot.

I WILL take the first bite.

And one other thing…..

I will actually finish my fruit.

Original Poetry by Marie Stephens  Copyright 2013

I Garden Because I Can….Pun Intended

This post is about gardening, and why I love it, why I hate it, and why gardening will always be a part of my life!

I garden because I can!

There’s no place I’d rather be.

In this place, treasures abound,

when searching around,

hunting on bended knee.


My arms are getting itchy,

The bugs are beginning to bite!

Yet still,

I feel,

A calm respite.


My buns are sweating, 

My back is breaking, 


I should be staking!

Muscles I never knew I had,

soon will be aching!


Weeds are tall,

My patience is shrinking!

My boobs are sweating!

My armpits are stinking!

And then I start thinking:


How I would love to fall into a pool

But then I look at my haul,

and I begin to drool!


My shirt is stained

My body is drained

My thirst needs quenched

My clothes are drenched




My mind is clear

My soul is cheered

My heart is full

along with my bucket!


My bucket is full

of gardeners’ loot.

I’ve hit the jackpot

in multiple pounds of delicious fruit!


My garden may not be perfect,

after all, it’s full of weeds,

but still it remains

an escape for me.


Not to be alone,

but to live in community

with birds and bees…….

and those stinking rabbits,

the snakes that give me the shivers,

the caterpillars,

other creepy critters

and let’s not forget the coons!

Yes they have a right to be here too,

so I guess I could spare them a tomato or two.

©Marie Stephens 2018

Are You Ready?

If after reading this poem, which is almost a disclaimer stating that gardening is not glam, you still want to give it a try this year, then I found a collection of seed at a decent price to get you started!  I read a little bit about the company, and it warmed my heart!  Take a peek and see for yourself when you click the pic!

The “I Garden Because I Can” Gift Collection, by Marie Stephens Art

Below, is a link to a small collection of “I Garden Because I Can” items that I created as gifts for gardeners and home grown food preservation fanatics!  They can all be personalized and shipped directly to you or to the person you’d like to send the gift to!

So far, I have designed a

  • kitchen floor mat with funny canning puns and phrases,
  • a tshirt that can be ordered in multiple styles and colors,
  • an apron,
  • a bandana to hold your hair back on canning day,
  • and a mason jar mug with the graphics I designed to make your fellow gardener/canner smile, especially if they hate bunnies…even though they really are so cute!

I hope you will get a chuckle, and if you do order something, thanks so very much!  I earn a royalty for the items purchased with my art on them!

Canning and Gardening