Ideally heirloom tomato seeds should be planted several weeks before the last frost, with some gardeners starting plants in January. Depending on the growing conditions where you live, there may still be time to get them in and receive a bumper crop of juicy fresh tomatoes. Transplanting seedlings into containers that can be moved indoors once frost threatens will help prolong their season. Even the Brandywine at 90 days can still be started, and is something to crow about. When planting organic heirloom tomato seeds late in the spring, be sure to choose varieties that feature short growing seasons if you live in areas with an early fall frost.
• Begin seeds by placing them in a well-drained, clean tray with moist soil.
• Sprinkle tomato seeds onto the soil, and lightly cover with ¼ inch of soil. Lightly tamp it down without compacting the growing medium. They can be planted fairly heavily and thinned after emergence if desired.
• Place the entire container into a large plastic bag to maintain moisture levels and place it in a warm area, approximately 65 degrees. Choose a spot that maintains a moderate temperature, at this point a windowsill may become too hot during the day and too cool at night, which can disrupt germination.
• Open the bag and check the seeds and soil daily. The soil should be moist but not soaking wet. Once the seedlings have begun to sprout, the plastic will need to be lifted so it doesn’t come into contact with the plants or they will rot.
• Clear plastic can be held up off the plants using stakes, and the tray can now be placed under grow lights or in a window. They shouldn’t be exposed to light 24 hours a day, 16 is considered ideal. Keep them close to the light source and turn regularly to create strong plants.
• If the seedlings were initially planted in an open tray, they can be transplanted to individual containers once the second set of leaves emerges. They will generally be 3-4 inches in height and transplanting them at this point provides them the opportunity to develop strong roots before placing them into the ground. Pinch off the bottom set of leaves before transplanting organic seed tomatoes and set them in the dirt past where the leaves were, leaving the upper leaves uncovered.
• Once they are 6-10 inches in height, the plants can be transplanted to the garden. Pick off the bottom leaves again, and plant in the same manner.
Popular organic heirloom tomato seeds to plant for a late start include the following varieties. Plant more than one variety of seed for the most versatility. Whether you prefer popping sweet cherry tomatoes on top of salads or slicing large meaty tomatoes for meals, it is not too late to start seeds for a bumper crop.
• Cherry tomato seeds are a popular choice for container planting. There are many varieties available, including the new blue tomato seed choices, such as Organic Dancing with Smurfs that are ready to enjoy in as little as 78 days. They can be brought indoors to prolong the season, and with a color and name like that are sure to be a hit with kids.
• Organic Riesentraube tomato seeds grow tiny morsels of flavor in 78 days and are perfect for planting in hanging baskets.
• Alaska Fancy Tomato seeds are naturals for a short season, with their 55 day harvest. They are approximately 2 inches across and provide continuous production.
• Ace 55 is ready to harvest in 75 days and is an excellent producer with 7 ounce fruit.
• Aussie Tomato seeds grow one of the earliest beefsteaks, at approximately 85 days.
If you haven’t already ordered and started organic heirloom tomato seeds for the garden, don’t panic. Just sort through the varieties and find those that feature the shortest growing times. Some beefsteak tomato seeds can grow produce that is ready in as little as 62 days. While people traditionally place them outdoors close to the last frost of the season, the cool nights and cooler days can impede their growth. You may find that plants started later in the season from tomato seeds can catch up quicker than expected.