Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last spring frost. Sow seeds 1/4" deep into individual containers filled with seed starting formula, 1-2 seeds per cell. Keep moist and under good quality light. Place containers in a south facing window or under grow lights until seedlings emerge. Warm climate gardeners may direct-sow tomato seeds outdoors if they have 120-150 days of frost-free weather. Sow seeds 30 to 48 inches apart in a row with the rows spaced 48 inches apart. Seedlings emerge in 7-10 days at 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Grow Tomatoes
Transplant to individual containers when seedlings have at least 2 pairs of leaves. Before transfer to garden, accustom seedlings to outdoor conditions by moving to a sheltered place outside for a week. Set plants 1 1/2-2 1/2 apart if staked or caged, 3-4 if unstaked, in a sunny area with average soil after all danger of frost. Growing your tomatoes too close together in your home vegetable garden will only increase the chance of disease. Tomatoes are vines and can be planted deep, all the way up to the 2 top-most sets of leaves. Tomato plants need even watering to prevent blossom end rot. Water thoroughly but not too often (twice per week should suffice at first) and try to water early in the day so that plants will dry off before evening. This helps to reduce disease problems. Using drip or soaker hose irrigation is the best idea. Water is used more efficiently this way and the leaves don't get wet. Mulching can help to insure an even supply of moisture is available to the tomato plant. Try putting down a layer of newspaper 5 to 10 sheets thick between the rows (soak the papers in water first, so they won't blow away) and then cover the newspapers with dry grass clippings, bark mulch, etc. Something new in mulches is Burpee's Red Mulch. It's a reflective material that works like black plastic to warm the soil early in the season, and it increases production of top quality early tomatoes. Fertilize when planting and again when first fruits form. If you are training the plants to trellises or stakes, prune the developing plants to keep one or two strong stems. Every week, remove the side shoots that develop from where each leaf meets the main stem. In general, tomatoes will stop producing fruit when temperatures drop below 50°F or rise above 90°F. Tomatoes may be scalded by the sun in too-hot temperatures, when the fruit is not shaded from the direct sun. The fruit needs warmth--not light--to ripen, so you can cover the developing tomatoes with the leaves to shield them. In hot, dry weather, plants may drop their flowers or fruit, but when conditions improve, they generally recover fully.
Determinate tomato plants ripen a heavy crop over a few weeks. Indeterminate varieties bear fruit continuously till frost. Remember that the days to harvest refers to the time from setting out transplants in the garden. Pick tomatoes when they are as ripe as possible--they should be fully colored and firm and pick regularly to avoid overloading plants. When you know there will be a frost, pick all the almost-ripe tomatoes you can, and ripen them in brown bags or spread on newspapers at room temperature. Many cultivars will store for months. Store only sound fruit, at 50-60°F. The foliage of tomatoes is toxic and should not be eaten. Tomato fruits are enjoyed in many cooked dishes as a flavoring. Use them to make soups, sauces, stews, ketchup, paste, juice, quiche, and pies. Add them to curries, casseroles, and chutney. Tomato & vegetable blossom set spray speeds harvest and increases yields. All-natural, ready to use spray-on has Biological Grow Power to promote blossom set and fruit development. Nearly every blossom will produce faster, larger, meatier fruit - ripening up to 3 weeks earlier!