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Last Call for Starting Tomato Plants

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cherry tomatoes and basil leaves

There’s still time to start your warm weather vegetables for this season: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil–they all need a head start before planting out in the garden. Seeds need to be planted in the next few days/week to be strong/big enough to set out in the garden by the mid/end of May. For detailed instructions, see: Starting Plants from Seed for the Home Gardener.

red solo cup

An easy way to get started is to use plastic cups (16 oz work well) with drainage holes cut in the bottom with a knife or scissors. Almost any small clean container can be used, as long as it has a drainage hole for excess water. For more info, see: Containers and Growing Media (Soil) for Indoor Seed Starting.

Start by saturating your growing medium (potting soil or seed germination mix).
Fill the cups with the saturated medium.
Place the filled cups on a tray to keep water contained.
Plant 2-3 seeds per cup (follow directions on the packet for seed depth).
Place the cups in a sunny window and keep moist.
Thin to one seedling per cup (after they get their true leaves) and keep them growing inside until danger of frost has passed, about May 15 in the northwest suburbs.

tomato seedlings

The tomato seedlings in the photo were planted on April 1, 2020.
They are just starting to germinate and do not yet have their true leaves, only their cotyledons.

For more information, please log in to the Web Resources page (MPPL card number and PIN required) and access Article Finder. There, you can search for current how-to gardening articles (try using the terms: “seed starting,” “sowing” or “vegetable gardening”).

If you need assistance with access or other questions, please use our Live Chat service or email:

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